Lux in Tenebris
And their sun doth never shine
And their fields are bleak and bare
And their ways are filled with thorns
It is eternal winter there. William Blake, “Holy Thursday” from “Songs of Experience”
Another Holy Thursday, or as you often hear it called ,Maundy Thursday. I don’t like that term, never have, don’t know what it means. I assume that it comes from the term “maund” which means a beggar, although I have not checked on that. Maundy Thursday was the day in England when alms were distributed to the poor, so I think that my deduction makes sense. A Maundy Thursday service in church is traditionally the “feet washing service”. I think the Pope still washes some poor people’s feet on this day. Catch CNN tonight and see if the current fellow keeps up the tradition.
Three great works of the English language are arguably about Holy Thursday, four if you count the King James Bible. The three I refer to are the two poems by Blake by that very name in his “Songs of Innocence and Experience” and the great Joyce short story “Grace” from the incomparable “Dubliners”. I say arguably because all three may indeed be about different Thursdays. England had an Ascension Day which was 40 days after Easter. I think that’s a Thursday. Joyce’s story refers to a “retreat” at the Thursday service. Both Joyce and Blake give Christians a little bit of a hard time in these three works, but no more than we deserve. I commend them all to you, even if you have read them.
At least part of the works identified above deal with that great bugaboo for the religious person, hypocrisy. I don’t know much about other religions, but I know a bit about the Christian model and I am not particularly concerned about hypocrisy. My general view is that people were not hypocrites they probably would not need religion. Jesus was not fond of hypocrites in the synagogue and gave us the benefit of his views on the subject a couple of times. Mostly he did this as an example while trying to emphasize a positive trait he wanted his folks to practice. Contrary to how we usually think about Jesus, he could be pretty stern and outspoken in his opinions of people, but. Then again, he was under a lot of pressure.
Anyway, speaking of hypocrites, I, the head hypocrite, at least in Methodism, got in a minor tussle with a member of our church staff yesterday who thinks that the Board of Trustees is responsible for having a “work day” to clean up and mow and edge a particular area of the church. I told her that as Chairman of the Board, I would bring it up at the next Trustee meeting but that I was voting against it. I suggested that we get our normal groundskeeper to do it. She then suggested that we share the chore with the “Methodist Men” to which I replied, “what about the Methodist Women ?” Answer to this suggestion, so far, comes there none.
Now most people who read this will think that my objection is due to physical laziness on my part. Well it’s true, I am lazy. I hire a yard guy for mowing and my wife, for the good of myself and my neighbors, does not allow me to use anything sharp. But it is more than that, and this is my problem with church leadership positions, they have no boundaries. I am drafted to Chair the Board of Trustees and someone decides that that means that it is my duty to strong arm a bunch of similarly indifferent Board Members to give up a Saturday to the stresses and heat of a Texas summer. The amazing thing is that in the church, in any church, my views on this subject are looked upon, by church staff and all the women and a good number of the men, as those of a wastrel. O.K. that’s probably not so amazing. This is God’s house we are talking about. Park your car in your own front yard for all we care, but you need to get out here and police the area say the staff and congregation (all sitting at home in their living rooms sipping iced tea). Thus begins the slippery slope. Next week I will be called by someone who believes that it is a good idea for my committee to do something else that was never explained to me was in our charter, supervise a car wash, sell “shares” for the youth camp, paint the sanctuary. Work without end, amen, amen.
So here am I, a character right out of Joyce. I can say with the Priest in his “business man’s sermon”, “Jesus Christ is not a hard taskmaster. He understood our little failings, understood the weakness of our poor fallen nature, understood the temptations of this life.” “If” as the priest goes on to say, there are some discrepancies in our accounts, admit the truth, be frank and “ admit it like a man”. So I do, here I stand, as Luther once said , take your best shot.