‘Wherever you are is called Here, And you must treat it as a powerful stranger.’
These words from the poem ‘Lost’ ring particularly true at this time: reminding me that however normal life can sometimes feel on a given day in lockdown, however much I reach for familiarity through work or trying my hand at being a home masterchef, an unfamiliar, mostly unwelcome, new world is emerging.
Our vicar’s zoom sermon last Palm Sunday touched on the theme of encountering the strange. The reading from Matthew 21:1-11 will be known to many: Jesus rides into Jerusalem on the foal of a donkey and the crowds gather to welcome him as the long-awaited King of Israel. The sermon focussed in on the penultimate verse, describing a city unsettled by this strange new arrival and asking ‘Who is this?’. Our vicar suggested that we, too, hold back the desire to fast-forward to the resurrection, and take time to ask the same question this Holy Week.
Sometime around then I also watched a heart-warming Miranda Facebook video-cast where she reflected on normality and asked what kind of ‘normal’ we actually want to return. Do we, that is, want to return to our frenetic ultra-consumerist carbon-gulping lifestyles? Most of us would say of course not, while at the same time dreaming up post-lockdown holidays, and, if you’re me, looking forward to the time when you can once again get a take-away single-origin feather design-topped cappuccino without standing at a two-metre distance with gloves on and holding your breath. As much as I know, somewhere in my heart, that we must face into this world that seems to have turned upside down and try to learn some real lessons from it in the turning, a massive part of me deeply yearns for it all to go back to how it was.
I wrote a poetic reflection on it:
This is the normal I long for
A day when I turn my gaze to the expanse of glimmering sea
And it speaks to me
of the way things are
rather than how they should be
For the day when I do not awake
from anxiety-laced dreams
to a tense body
and a furrowed brow
to small, tired eyes
to dread at the news of
and those seriously sick, close and distant, high and low.
To a discordant symphony of soft, serene sea
and terror inside.
I do not know where to look for you
Are you in the soft, serene sea
or in the terror?
Are you in both?
Who is he?
This king, making a triumphal entry
to end in a distressed plea in a garden
In that week, you preached, you confronted, you lamented,
You knew what lay ahead, yet you ate and drank, laughed with friends
You angered, grew sad and fearful,
took our punishment and felt our pain.
You laid down your life.
For every one of us.
Forgive me that I shrink from it
Something so big
The enormity of it, I cannot contemplate
Let’s start with today:
here you are
It is not yet clear, who you are
Help me to know you
Between the soft sea and the terror.
Meanwhile, the Palm Sunday Body of Christ was another flatbread. Simple to make and without yeast, which seems appropriate before proclaming He is Risen.
Recipe here (omit za’atar and butter if using for communion bread).
Easter post coming soon.