• lenten journal: could we start again, please

    by  • March 23, 2008 • Uncategorized • 1 Comment

    Holy Week has had to jockey for space on the calendar this week like an NCAA basketball player working to get in position under the basket. Monday was Saint Patrick’s Day. Tuesday, Barack Obama made his amazing speech on race in America in which, as John Stewart said, “talked to us as if we were adults. Wednesday marked the fifth anniversary of the beginning of the war in Iraq even as we near the tragic milestone of the deaths of 4000 American service men and women there, not to mention the thousands of Iraqis who have perished.

    In my reading today (and I can’t remember where I first found the link), I learned about a benefit that was held this week in New York for Jack Agüeros, a Puerto Rican poet who is living with Alzheimer’s and who writes psalms like this one, so applicable this week after Obama’s speech:

    Psalm for Open Clouds and Windows

    Lord,
    reserve a place for me in heaven on a cloud
    with Indians, Blacks, Jews, Irish, Italians,
    Portuguese, and lots of Asians and Arabs, and Hispanics.
    Lord,
    I don’t mind if they play
    their music too loudly,
    or if they leave their windows open –
    I like the smell of ethnic foods.
    But Lord,
    if heaven isn’t integrated,
    and if any Angels are racists,
    I swear I’m going to be a no-show
    because, Lord,
    I have already seen hell.

    from “Lord, Is This a Psalm?”

    Today, according to The Writer’s Almanac, marks the birthdays of Stephen Sondheim, Billy Collins, and Andrew Lloyd Webber. I’ll admit I’m more a fan of the first two than the last, yet Webber’s show, Jesus Christ Superstar, holds a special significance to me. The first live rock event I ever attended was a concert version of the musical that came to the Tarrant County Convention Center when I was in high school. My dad took my brother and me. I was mesmerized from start to finish. I saw the show years later in full musical form and have watched the movie more than once or twice. I think what pulls me most is the way the disciples are presented as both flawed and well-intentioned: faithful failures, if you will – like you and me.

    As my personal calendar has run parallel to Holy Week, Good Friday and Holy Saturday have been unpacking and hanging picture days at our house. As the hours of the Crucifixion passed, I was driving nails into the walls to hold keepsakes to make our new house begin to feel like home – and I watched my fair share of basketball, a microcosm of my Lenten season as a whole: flawed and well-intentioned. In the midst of my tasks, I looked up tonight and it was dark outside, before I had a chance to mow the yard, and the metaphor was not lost on me. While I was busy doing what I was doing, Holy Week moved from the cross to the tomb and the darkest days of the year.

    Our observance of Jesus’ journey through death should probably carry a spoiler alert because we know the triumphant ending before he even dies. As Tony Campolo has often said, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming.” Those who were with him in real time didn’t have that assurance. In Superstar, those who were left behind sing, “Could We Start Again Please.”

    MARY MAGDALENE

    I’ve been living to see you.
    Dying to see you, but it shouldn’t be like this.
    This was unexpected,
    What do I do now?
    Could we start again please?
    I’ve been very hopeful, so far.
    Now for the first time, I think we’re going wrong.
    Hurry up and tell me,
    This is just a dream.
    Oh could we start again please?

    PETER

    I think you’ve made your point now.
    You’ve even gone a bit too far to get the message home.
    Before it gets too frightening,
    We ought to call a vote,
    So could we start again please?

    ALL

    I’ve been living to see you.
    Dying to see you, but it shouldn’t be like this.
    This was unexpected,
    What do I do now?
    Could we start again please?
    I think you’ve made your point now.
    You’ve even gone a bit too far to get the message home.
    Before it gets too frightening,
    We ought to call a vote,
    So could we start again please?
    Could we start again please? (Repeat 5 times)

    MARY MAGDALENE

    Could we start again?

    A significant source of the hope I find in the Resurrection is the stone rolls away to answer that question with a resounding, “YES.” As Kyle Matthews wrote,

    we fall down, we get up
    we fall down, we get up,
    we fall down, we get up
    and the saints are just the sinners
    who fall down and get up

    Today is also World Water Day. The event has gone largely unnoticed by the general public over the last several years, but the state of our world is such that, before long, we will begin speaking of water in much the same language we now speak of oil. Agüeros has a psalm that speaks to that as well:

    Psalm for Distribution

    Lord,
    on 8th Street
    between 6th Avenue and Broadway
    there are enough shoe stores
    with enough shoes
    to make me wonder
    why there are shoeless people
    on the earth.

    Lord,
    You have to fire the Angel
    in charge of distribution.

    –from “Lord, Is This a Psalm?” (Hanging Loose Press, 2002)

    As we prepare to start again come Sunday, let us pray for eyes to see that we are the angels of distribution, that we are the incarnation of God’s love in our world, that we are the conduits of God’s grace and not the arbiters of God’s judgment.

    Could we start again, please?

    Yes.

    Peace,
    Milton

    About

    Blogging since December 2005

    http://donteatalone.com

    One Response to lenten journal: could we start again, please

    1. March 24, 2008 at 4:07 am

      Happy Easter, friend. He is risen!

      You nailed some of my heartsongs here; ‘Jesus Christ, Superstar’ was a Columbia Music House special for me. I was about 11 years old. I was fascinated and impacted by the music and the story, and I recall asking my father if he thought Jesus liked ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’. He said, yes, he thought probably He did.

      And ‘we fall down/we get up’ brings me to my knees every time I hear Bob Carlisle sing it…

      Thanks for the introduction to those new psalms..

    Leave a Reply