"A quarter for your thoughts," I said. Not a penny: a quarter. I looked into his eyes and he looked into mine.
"I was thinking it would be nice to go somewhere where we could be alone," Q said, before anybody called him Q, and something inside my chest just fell away, stripped from me in that moment. We haven't been apart since, not to speak of.
"I had a bouquet for a sick friend, but she wasn't home when I brought it to her. So I thought I'd take it to the sisters instead. And Mother answered the door herself, and she said 'Oh, I knew you'd come!' And I was stripped, in that moment. Nothing was ever the same again." That was almost sixty years ago.
"When she died," said a nurse, "I felt something in the room, something completely quiet and peaceful. And kind. And all the fear and all the pain just fell away. And that quiet, kind spirit lingered there for a long time as we sat there with her, and there was nothing but kindness around her body, just all around, until it was time for them to take her to the funeral home. I've seen that many times."
Sometimes a thing so holy happens that it strips everything else away. Pretense, fear, embarrassment, uncertainty -- they all just fall away. How does that happen? I've never met anyone who could tell me. But I think of those holy moments, my own and those of other people I have known, every Maundy Thursday when the altar is stripped. The embossed altar book on its brass stand, the candlesticks, the fancy prayer books, the fair linen cloth and what is under it, the pulpit fall, the needlepoint prayer cushions -- all the small things of worship disappear silently into the dark, leaving only us in the church. And my extraneous things follow them: with each item that is carried out of the church, my anxieties, my self-absorption, my silly prideful imaginings, my inadequacies, they all disappear into the dark with the sanctuary furniture. Everything is stripped by something truer than anything any of us know.
They'll all be back, of course. all the furniture. All my stuff. The welcome and the unwelcome -- they'll all be back, soon enough. But I treasure this stripping, every year. This is what it can be like. This is what it will be like. It can all be taken from me. It will be.
I can just let it all fall away.
Good Friday, March 21 Barbara Crafton will preach twice at St. Luke's in Metuchen, NJ 08840, once in the ecumenical preaching service from 12-3pm and again at the Good Friday Liturgy at 7pm.
Easter Sunday, 8am Barbara Crafton will preach, also at St. Luke's, at the earlier of two Easter services.