Tenebrae 2013

March 30, 2013

Tenebrae, A Service of Darkness, is a Holy Friday worship from the early Roman Church in which a series of candles is snuffed out following a reading from Scripture. The light goes dimmer and dimmer as each candle is extinguished. In the end the final candle is snuffed. The Sanctuary is dark and quiet. The Light has appears to have gone out of the world. Remembering the events of Holy Friday when Jesus is called before Pilate, then Herod, we see forces mounting against him. Jesus does not flinch. The Light still shines. Yet the people press for him to be snuffed. “Crucify him. Crucify him.” They lead him away to be crucified. Still the light shines. Jesus is crucified in a place called The Skull, between two who acknowledge themselves criminals. Love of God and love of humankind has brought him here. Light shines in words of prayer asking forgiveness for this newfound company Jesus keeps. Those at the foot of the Cross mock him and bargain for his cloak. (One might think the Devil is in this somewhere.) No mocking, no temptation can compromise Jesus’ mission. He offers a consolation to his companions on the Cross. “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” Even flickering Light offers a glimpse of the Kingdom of God as Jesus commends his spirit to God. It is finished… or so it seems to those who take Jesus away for burial. As a pastor reading the Tenebrae texts and snuffing a candle with each reading, there is such a powerful feeling of what is happening as the Light is put out. I think of all the ways the Light is snuffed out in the world. The Gospel of John speaks to this: “The Light has come into the world, and the people loved darkness rather             than the Light, because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the           Light and do not come to the Light, so that their deeds may not be exposed.”                                                                                                                     John 3: 19 – 20 Light exposes evil doings. People fear light at some level; it reveals the chinks and broken places. No wonder the Light that has come into the world is such a threat. Our failings are revealed. We are bare before God. Ignorance, fear, greed, greed, insecurity, laziness, irresponsibility, hurt, mean-spiritedness all work to snuff the Light. Still at the back of the Sanctuary, a Light shines. A great sound is heard, a crashing like that of heaven being rent. People in the pews are not expecting it. A silent procession of the Christ Candle to the place of darkness carries an enthralling gratitude. The Light has never been extinguished. Even though the Light may be hidden for a time, it still shines. Despite what we attempt to do to it, despite how we turn from it in our own lives as we pursue different paths, despite how frequently our choice is anything but Light, the Light shines and keeps calling us home. In the silence of this Holy Friday, after a day of trial and immersion in the human condition, find peace in the darkness. Rest in the promise that we know the end of the story. Easter is coming. The Light will come across the face of the earth one time zone at a time, pink dawn and promise together. God will never leave us in the darkness alone. Polish up your Alleluia. You’ll need it again on Sunday. Amen.    

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'Tis Midnight
March 29, 2013