Tomorrow is the official beginning of March Madness, or the NCAA Basketball Tournaments for both men and women. In our area basketball matters perhaps as much as anywhere on the planet and the shade of blue you wear to the game is a crucial decision (Duke – dark blue; UNC – light, or Carolina, blue). In a test of allegiances for many, Maundy Thursday services will be taking place just as Duke takes the court against Belmont for their opening round game.
Tournament games are known for their big finishes. I knew an old man in Texas who thought all college basketball games should be two minutes long because everything that mattered happened in the last two minutes. Why bother with the other part? Good question, if only endings matter.
Truth is we live as though beginnings and endings are what matter most. Middles? Not so much. Even our ecclesiastical year turns from the climax of Easter to a liturgical drop off into “ordinary time,” which are the days we mark until we get back to Advent where we can begin again.
Even Holy Week has a middle. The big days are Palm Sunday (big start), Maundy Thursday (Communion), Good Friday (Crucifixion), Holy Saturday (Vigil), and Easter Sunday (Resurrection). But what of Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday? What were Jesus and his disciples doing during the middle of the week? We have a couple of incidents and parables, but the gospel writers didn’t have much to say about these three days. Yet to get from the Triumphal Entry to Golgotha and then to the empty tomb, he had to live through Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. He had some ordinary time of his own.
One of the great omissions of the gospels is they give no account of Jesus laughing , or anyone else for that matter. They tell us that Jesus wept, but they never say, “Jesus laughed.” In the core of my being, I know Jesus laughed. Anyone who started the majority of his poems with, “A certain man had two sons . . .” knew how to tell a joke. Listen to the words. The rhythm is no different than, “A guy walks into a bar . . .” Intentionality is not synonymous with humorlessness.
Jesus’ laughter comes to mind because I know how crucial laughter is in times of grief. He knew the events unfolding were the beginning of saying goodbye to his disciples. Because they had identified with him, they were in great pain. They didn’t understand what was unfolding, but they knew things were changing. When I think about the three nondescript days in Holy Week, I imagine Jesus and his closest friends recounting memories, laughing, and crying. Seriously – all it would take would be a retelling of some of Peter’s exploits and the whole Upper Room would be in stitches.
This particular day was not an eventful one for me. I had to take inventory at the restaurant at Duke and do a couple of other things. I went by the other restaurant where one of the guys was talking to Chef about a difficult decision she had to make about one of her employees that we all knew. She said to him, “I’m feeling a little less guilty about it today.”
In a stroke of quick wit and friendship, he peered over his glasses and said, “You just took Kubler-Ross’ stages and banged right through ‘em last night, huh?”
And we laughed – and I saw how it helped her, even if just for a moment.
In my mind’s eye (my heart’s eye, too), Nameless Wednesday was not wasted, even though it was not recorded. I can picture Jesus and the disciples coming to the end of the day grateful for the ordinary day together. Maybe that’s how it happened. Maybe I just need some ordinary time of my own.