We retold those encounters that resonated with us most, that we could imagine our way inside. Zacchaeus, climbing a tree in order to watch as Jesus passed by, elevating himself to a place where he could see and not be seen; yet made the centre of attention when called upon to host supper for a weary Messiah. The Samaritan woman at the well, drawing water for a man that should have rejected her, and indeed knew many reasons why he should; yet finding herself inside his grace. The centurion, another outsider by race and religion and part of the oppressing nation, yet having such kindness towards his servant and such faith in the ability of Christ to heal that Jesus smiled to see him. The haemorraging woman, who had withdrawn from human touch many years before lest she contaminate with her supposed uncleanliness; yet reaching out to touch the hem of the healer.
So many thought themselves unworthy - of salvation, of healing, of notice. So many tried to duck in under the radar. Time and again the story is of Jesus stopping to notice, and then to raise them up.
We also talked of the story of the nativity, imagining ourselves first as the shepherds and then as wise men. Two groups of people approaching and becoming aware of the person of Jesus through totally different routes - sudden revelation, versus slow intellectual journey. How do we see both at work within our own pilgrimages?
Our faith is personal, but it is also communal. In sharing bread and wine we demonstrate our connectedness. We become the face of Jesus for one another, sharing his life between us as we do. And in that act we celebrate the extraordinary love of this man who willingly gave his life, despite his sorrow and fear in Gethsemane; and despite his sense of loss and abandonment at Golgotha.
The Hesitant Eucharist
Quietly, softly, tiptoeing our way through familiar words
Or on our knees, fingers interlaced, knuckles white
Willing faith out from our tired hands.
We come, tripping over obstacles strewn in our way
Many of our making, some not:
Still we advance, inevitably, drawn
Towards the light that comprehends our darkness
But is not extinguished.
We open our mouths to speak: but what words
Would usher in your kingdom?
Would excuse our meager offering,
Our comfortable grumblings?
Our pace slows
at this realization: that we have nothing to say,
nothing but the Nothing that throbs and aches
at our centre. We stop, and stand,
bowing our heads in frustration.
And you are there, waiting, as always:
The one who searches in the garden, whilst we
tried in vain to hide our naked forms.
The words that come are your words:
‘Why did you abandon me?’
and ‘take this suffering from me’…
We forgot, alone in grief, that the pain was first and foremost
yours to bear:
Yours to be alone, Yours to ache and grieve and mourn,
Yours the encounter with the Nothing that eats at human hearts.
You answered with hands that uncurled to be impaled
You approached with feet that bore the scars
You spoke the words of desolation
So now, we come.
Quietly, softly, tripping and stumbling; but we come,
Wanting to understand how the abandoned God
The God in human flesh, divorced from his sense of belonging
Desires to share with us his body and his blood.