Leavin’ on a Jet Plane

Maundy Thursday makes me think of my mom. It makes me think of all the times we’ve driven to my sister’s house to have that last supper before she gets on the plane and travels thousands of miles from the Mid-West and back to Northern England. These nights never get easier, I am invariably left with children who sob all the way home and I know my sister takes mom to the airport, and that mom tries really hard to hold it together. I know now, having been the one to leave the north of England, just how hard it is to walk down that hallway and to not allow yourself that last look.

We walk away with tears coursing down our cheeks and hold our shoulders tight and upright The words and the tears exchanged, the real love that resides in that house for those hours, the longing to stay.

When Jesus said, don’t make me do this (as I just helpfully translated for my children in the dark of their room), I am not sure it was the pain exactly that he was afraid of. I think that lots of people over the years and years of humans have said those words to God: Please. Not Yet. One more day. I’m not ready. Please.

Tonight my friend took a girl to a homeless shelter in Grand Rapids. She didn’t want to. She didn’t have a choice, because our county, our lovely and vibrant Tri-Cities apparently do not have any emergency housing. They talked all the way there, and my friend said she knew they were getting close when she turned onto Division Ave and the street was lined with people clutching garbage bags and other bags and all their earthly goods. These folks were sitting and standing in the rain. They were waiting for the shelters to open. Because this is how we leave people. Because this is what, dare I say, we come to when the self is more important than the whole.

She called me and I understood why. I’ve been there, I’ve told that long story and tried not cry, and I’ve listened to it too. Because, look, listen to me for a minute, handling claims is not all deer hits and broken windshields. Sometimes people die in these precious collector cars and we are the ones on the end of the line, holding it together, picking up the pieces as people we do not know weep. So she called me because she needed to process what it feels like to drive a person to a certain place in Grand Rapids and to leave her there in the rain.

A person who has washed dishes in our kitchen, donned a choir robe in our robing room, eaten in our hall. A person who has worshiped with us. The last time I served at the table I came to this woman and she still had her bread in her hand and she just looked at me, bearing this huge chalice of wine. I waited and then made a decision, I said, you can dip the bread in the wine and eat it, or you can put the bread in your mouth and take a drink of this. She chose the former, and so we figured it out, how you ingest the body and the blood.

I’m short on words tonight, and heavy on emotion. In just a few hours I will take up my post in the chapel and sit with the body and the blood in the dark of our Narthex, near the Altar of Repose.

Tonight we all recessed to the back of the nave and we removed our white surplice, right down to our black robes. We sang, stay with me, remain here with me. Watch and pray, watch and pray. 

And now it means more than the way all of those voices in harmony sounded in the half light, in that small space.

Now it means bearing the kind of witness that my friend bore today. Driving down that road and SEEING the want and the misery that we leave people in.

This is where I leave you. Unsettled, I hope. And sad. Nearby a man sits in the garden against a tree, and he weeps because he must leave this place that is so angry and broken. This place where the sun rises and the Sea of Galilee is so bright blue, where his friends live, and his family too.

Maybe it wasn’t about a pain that cannot be conceived.

Maybe it wasn’t about the battle to come.

Maybe it was about now. About the people here.

I love you still.






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