It all started with Sharpies. When my kids were toddlers, I wanted to find a sensory way to engage them in Holy Week. So on Maundy Thursday, while I retold the story of Jesus washing his friends’ feet, we used a Sharpie to trace their bare feet and hands and the rim of a cereal bowl onto a piece of paper. Then they colored the intersecting lines with oil pastel and “washed their feet” by watercoloring over the whole thing. (Sharpie + oil pastel + watercolor is my all-time favorite media combination for kid art, but that’s a topic for another blog…)
Later, I learned about the tradition of “burying the Alleluias” for Lent, so we started spending the Tuesday before Lent making alleluia banners that we then hid away until Easter morning. Most years, these banners were quick, simple affairs of crayon scribbles and puppy stickers and misspelled alleluias on butcher paper; occasionally they were more elaborate projects, one of which now hangs in my living room.
As my children grew, so did the scope of my Lenten creativity. After a while, I was no longer engaging just my kids in sensory Lenten experiences, but my whole congregation. And so by now, with over a decade of practice, my body holds some muscle memory around creativity and Lent. Every year as Lent approaches, my hands ache to make things and my brain overflows with [mostly wildly impractical and sometimes truly terrible] ideas. This year’s sidewalk Stations of the Cross and their Easter transformation was a product of this creative energy, with lots of ideas and help from Josie, Liz, and Beth.
But there’s always a moment in Holy Week when this creative energy feels misplaced and foolish. When all the time and effort spent on community art projects, or on making slides or building webpages or editing video (new quarantine skill!) or tweaking liturgies or a million other mundane creative tasks suddenly feel a bit ridiculous. All this work . . . for what? For a temporary glimpse of beauty on Easter morning for a small community of people on a small stretch of sidewalk in a small neighborhood? While the world is grappling with a global pandemic?
And yet. Holy Week also brings us the story of people’s branches and coats trampled in an impromptu street parade amongst cries of hosanna. Holy Week brings the story of Mary anointing Jesus’ feet with costly perfume, tears, and her very hair, a ridiculously extravagant act that Jesus calls “beautiful.” Holy Week brings the story of two men tenderly laying the corpse of Jesus in a tomb, and of three women rising before dawn to rub his grayed skin with spices. Amidst the kiss of betrayal and the crowing rooster, the tears of blood and the crown of thorns, the grief and cataclysm of Holy Week is punctuated by acts of beauty. Temporary, ridiculous, extravagant beauty beheld by only a handful of people, while all around them the world feels like it’s tearing apart at the seams.
Every Holy Week I get a burst of creative energy. Every Holy Week I feel foolish for acting on it. And every Holy Week I retell myself the familiar stories, and my creative acts become a labor of love that help me participate in the beauty of the resurrection.
And this year, you all participated right along with me. As I wrote in an outreach blog earlier this week: “you transformed the chapel sidewalk into a place of prayer and pilgrimage: first by walking and praying through the Stations of the Cross, and later by transforming it into a colorful resurrection garden. Thank you for providing this gift of sacred space and public beauty to our neighbors. My continued prayer is that as neighbors walk this sidewalk (it gets a LOT of foot traffic!), it becomes a place of encounter with the risen Jesus.” Amen to that!
I’ve made a little video about the sidewalk transformation using your #onethingIAC-tagged photos, any photos and videos you sent of the fence, and our Easter alleluias recorded over zoom. The quality is . . . well, about what you’d expect from a bunch of wobbly cell phone images stitched together by a woman who only learned iMovie from a 12 year-old a week ago. But I hope it captures the sense of communal, homemade, participatory, temporary, ridiculous, extravagant resurrection joy that you all created together on Easter morning. Thank you and ALLELUIA!