Play and Holy Week

Apr 6, 2020 | As Grain Once Scattered

My daughters have been playing a lot of dress up lately. I’m not sure where or how we came to possess so many costumes and dresses but I have been thankful for them during this pandemic. It has brought joy to watch them play and pretend, creating new worlds and exploring them. Of course that joy is made even sweeter by the fact that they are entertaining themselves, giving Laurie and I a breather (I say special prayers for all parents of young children as we shelter in place). As I’ve watched them, or in the rarest occasions when they’ve permitted me to join in, I’ve remembered things I used to play with my brother and friends. It’s universal; kids use their imaginations to create worlds that they for hours will inhabit; laughing, arguing, learning.

I don’t mean to take all the fun out of it, but kids aren’t just playing for to play. In the worlds they create they are actually learning what it is to be an adult, to negotiate, to compromise, to make decisions and act on them; they are imagining a world that they will someday actually inhabit, most likely without the lion costume and the capes, but who knows, that might be a fun world to live in after all. They learn about their bodies, what they are capable of and the limits to push themselves; coordination develops, strength is gained; they play at what they are becoming.

If this sounds fun, and even if it doesn’t, I have news for you: We do this kind of play every week in our worship, and for most of us, every day in our spiritual disciplines. Through our rituals in worship we are moving our bodies, shaping our hearts and minds, to live in a world that we can barely imagine, but a world that God is creating all around us nonetheless.

As we find ourselves in Holy Week, about to observe the three days of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and The Easter Vigil, we are invited to find ourselves participating in play. This is play that is not just for fun, but play that is shaping us to become what we are playing at. There is a movement this week that begins on Palm Sunday where we find ourselves as observers, watching from the crowd as Jesus rides into Jerusalem shouting “Hosanna” and “Crucify him” in the same space. Here we find ourselves as we really are in our faith: those that rush to accept and follow Jesus and also those that at times reject him and the demands he places upon us. It is from this vantage point that we enter Holy Week each year. On Thursday we move from observing to participating in Jesus’ servant ministry through foot washing. On Friday the shift continues as we come together to venerate the cross as a symbol of life, a life lived in humble service and obedience to God. It is on this day that the Church stands in for Jesus in praying for the needs of the world through the Solemn Collects. These prayers inform our actions and ministries in the world. On Saturday for the Vigil we are ready to celebrate the New Creation God is busy bringing in with us as those who are baptized into the body of Christ; that very creation. Through the liturgies and rituals of this week we find ourselves at play, both as we really are, and as those who we are to become; hoping in a future that we can barely imagine yet nonetheless we claim God is calling us towards.

So go on, get dressed up, it might feel strange at first. Join with us as we go through Holy Week this year from a distance. Yet rest assured, we will together be shaped by the mysteries of this week and arrive at Easter in clothes that have been made just for us.