Thursday, March 28, 2013

My Easter Weekend Thoughts 2013

Thursday, March 28, 2013 - 5:00pm - Matter of Taste Coffee Bar, Kitchener, Ontario

As I sit here in the coffee shop drinking my maple coffee, I realize that I only have 2 hours until the church service that I'm going to tonight. Now, you might ask, "What are you doing going to church on a Thursday night," and even more "What are you doing going to a Christian church?"

A little bit of background. I have the absolute pleasure of seeing a spiritual companion each month, and he works out of a United Church here in Kitchener. Well, this week I saw on their sign that they were having a Tenebrae service. I had never heard of such a thing, so I asked the church secretary, and afterward looked it up online. Here's a synopsis I found online: "The word "tenebrae" comes from the Latin meaning "darkness." The Tenebrae is an ancient Christian Good Friday service that makes use of gradually diminishing light through the extinguishing of candles to symbolize the events of that week from the triumphant Palm Sunday entry through Jesus' burial. 

This increasing darkness symbolizes the approaching darkness of Jesus' death and of hopelessness in the world without God. The service concludes in darkness, sometimes with a final candle, the Christ candle, carried out of the sanctuary, symbolizing the death of Jesus. A loud noise may also sound symbolizing the closing of Jesus' tomb. The worshipers then leave in silence to ponder the impact of Christ's death and await the coming Resurrection."

I like these kind of contemplative Christian services; I also attend Taizé services once in awhile. 

Most readers will know that I haven't been a Christian for over a decade now, so it might seems strange that I attend such services. 

Here it is. I am drawn to the contemplative, mystical side of religion, and am most familiar with the Christian religion. Do I believe many of the tenets of Christianity, including the Easter story? No. I don't believe that Jesus was the Son of God any more than you or I are the sons or daughters of God, nor do I believe that he died and shed his blood for the remission of all of humanity's sins, since we don't need a once-for-all divine forgiveness for an original sinful nature which doesn't exist. I don't believe that he rose from the dead three days later. What used to seem  like a gracious sacrifice by God the Father of Jesus on the cross now seems like a kind of divine child abuse when you think about it.

However, there are still emotional ties that I have to these holidays, Easter and Christmas, even if I don't intellectually believe the stories. For instance, the journey from darkness to light that Christians worldwide will celebrate this weekend still stirs me and can still have a place in my heart. And how can I not have the odd emotional tug at my heart, as I was taught from as far back as I can remember that Jesus was a perfect person who loved us deeply and then was killed for our sake? 

I will leave lengthier theological debate for another time. For now, Easter 2013, I wish my Christian family and friends a blessed weekend.

Mark Andrew Alward


Jim McDowell said...

I once organized a tenebrae service...on a Palm Sunday evening at the end of a choral concert by the Jake Willms male choir. It was short, consisting of a reading about Christ's death, then a period of silent reflection with the lights going down, and the sound of a heart beating, slowing, skipping and stopping. Just wanted to share that, and thanks for the expression of good will to your Christian friends. Kind thoughts reciprocated to you and your community. I trust Trinity's service tonight will bless all who gather there.

Mark Andrew said...

Yes, tonight's tenebrae at Trinity was short as well, and a small group; it was nice. Next up: Good Friday.