Dancing and Praying
A reflection for Maundy Thursday, leading to Good Friday:
They’re always dancing, those two.
No matter the time of day, music or not, surrounded by others or just the two of them. They’re always dancing.
You can tell who of the two finds comfort in leading: they’re brash and loud, never backwards about coming forwards, there is a not so subtle, yet familiar confidence about them. They’re known, and they know things, and don’t you just know it.
The other is smaller, their posture demonstrates their resistance to taking control, they go with the flow and don’t like to be heard, shrinking from the limelight and opting for secrecy, they almost seem still, even when they’re dancing. They’re unknown, and they are resistant to knowing, and you’ll never fully know it.
The dance of known and unknown is as ancient as the created order.
Shame was unknown to Adam and Eve until the serpent, and then the power of guilt was known to them both;
Forgiveness was unknown to the sons of Jacob until Joseph, and then the power of restoration was known to them all;
Safety was unknown to the Israelites until Esther, and then the power of advocacy was known to all of them;
Calamity was unknown to Job until he suffered great loss, and then the power of faithfulness was known to him;
Hope was unknown to Elizabeth and Zechariah until they were promised a child, and then the power of joy was made known to them;
The world was unknown to Mary until the Angel Gabriel visited her, and then the power of burden and responsibility was made known to her;
Justice was unknown to the leper, to the woman at the well, to the Centurion, until they met with the Christ, and then the power of redemption was made known to each of them;
True despair was unknown to the Twelve until they broke bread and shared wine with Christ, and had their feet bathed by him, and then the power of the betrayal was made known to them;
And still the dance continues today.
Each year we reflect on the narratives leading up to, through, and after Easter Sunday. We know the story well, perhaps too well, and rest in the comfort that knowing brings.
Yet, this year we also find ourselves in the unknown – many of us never having experienced similar circumstances before. This meal before us is known, but the context is unknown. The result of Easter Sunday is known and will soon be celebrated again, but it is earthed in the unknown of our present days.
And as we approach the foot of the cross again – an act we have done year in, year out, yet representing an unknown that is beyond fathoming, we are reminded of all of this. Of the eternal dance of the known and the unknown.
Prayers for Good Friday, guided by the rhythm of Luke 23.
God of all creation, we come to you now in prayer.
26 As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus.
We pray for those whose burdens are heavy today, and every day. Particularly those who face loneliness in times of isolation and have no one to share their struggles with.
27 A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him.
We pray for those whose families have been broken, ripped apart by others. For the refugees and migrants, for the dispossessed by war, and the victims of domestic abuse.
30 Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ 31 For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
We pray for those in despair, for those who see no hope to hold on to, no redemption to be received.
34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”
We pray for the freedom that forgiveness brings, mindful that in forgiving others, so to are we forgiven.
35 And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah[g] of God, his chosen one!”
We pray for those who are mocked or abused for their faith, for those persecuted and under threat for the profession that Christ Jesus is Lord.
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
We pray for your coming Kingdom, the Kingdom of God of now and not yet – our future hope, and our present aid. Remember us Jesus, as you remembered those crucified alongside you.
45 while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two.
We pray in the darkness, when all hope feels lost.
47 When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent.”
We pray for the innocent who have fallen afoul to racist, homophobic, transphobic, and misogynistic systems and powers. May we be champions of their innocence, and may our voices be heard.
49 But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
We pray for the world that often unfolds around us at a distance, unable to intervene or restricted by location, wealth, or status. May we be mindful of all that we can do and be kind to ourselves when we have reached our limits.
53 Then he took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid.
We pray in the hopelessness of the tomb, cold and dark, alone and in grief. We pray for the light to come again, and for hope to be restored.
56 Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments. On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment.
We pray for faithful hearts, minds, and deeds in these times of unrest and unease – like the women who sought to tend to the broken body of Jesus. We pray too for rest, that we exercise patience with ourselves and others, and acknowledge that there is a time for resting as much as there is a time for doing.
God of all creation, in the days of darkness that unfold around us, we pray most of all for your light, and the coming again of Easter Sunday.
In the name of your son most loved, Jesus Christ. Amen.