***Homily delivered at the Daily Eucharist on Monday in Holy Week, 4/10/17, Isaiah 42:1-9, Psalm 36:5-11, Hebrews 9:11-15, John 12:1-11 http://holycrossfm.org/***
Hello, my name is Maggie Dunlap and I am the Youth and Family Ministry coordinator here at Holy Cross. When I was in 8th grade, my parents accepted jobs teaching at a bilingual school in San Salvador, El Salvador and we lived there for 5 years. Throughout high school in El Salvador, I attended a weekly non-denominational Youth Group on Friday evenings in. Though this opportunity was important and meaningful at the time, I didn’t realize how much I missed the rhythm and prayers of the Episcopal Church until I visited Sewanee while touring colleges. The liturgy of this special, flawed, and wonderful branch of the Jesus Movement has been a home for me for as long as I can remember. The idea that I could be a part of that community again was a huge part of my decision to attend the Episcopal theme park, also known as The University of the South.
At Sewanee, I steeped myself in “Episco-Disney:” as a freshman I was confirmed at the Easter Vigil, I attended the weekly Christian Education class, or “Catchumenate” all four years of undergrad, and I worked as an acolyte, and sacristan in All Saints’ Chapel starting my sophomore year. While working as a sacristan, I was finally able to connect the ancient physical sacrifice that took place on that first Easter with the Eucharist we perform each Sunday.
Our head sacristan had asked us to follow the liturgy of the table more closely while we worked a service. Being a sacristan is kind of like tech theater; you’re responsible for all the behind the scenes work that makes the big show run smoothly and it’s distracting to think, “I wonder if we have enough wine? Did I remember to check on the ushers before the service?” But my friend pointed out the pause after the breaking of the bread before the priest moves on with the Eucharist, a silent moment of reverence for the violent memory of Jesus’ sacrifice. A moment to acknowledge that bread was once flesh, and that flesh was literally torn and broken for us, on our behalf. As Paul writes, “When Christ came as a high priest of the good things that have come…he entered once for all into the Holy Place, not with the blood of goats and bulls, but with his own blood.” For a long time, witnessing that moment the way I now understood it was physically painful and I would look away from the scene at the altar.
The familiarity of this story, that Jesus was born, lived, and died to save us from our sins and give us eternal life, renders it emotionally hollow. Either from rote repetition or emotional self-preservation, I would wager most people do not consciously remind themselves of intensity of these last days of Lent and the deep sadness that must have preceded the Easter miracle. That would be emotionally exhausting. Besides, no one would have any energy for the Easter egg hunt!
But we have the luxury of knowing the end of the story: after three days, Jesus will rise from the dead in all the glory of God and ransom our sins. Lent ends in joy! Jesus’ first followers, who we hear from in today’s gospel, could not rest easy in the knowledge that their Lord would return. And, the Easter egg hunt will follow the 10:30 service!
Full disclosure, I did not Google Jesus Christ Superstar in preparation for this first chance behind the pulpit; I stumbled upon it while trying to determine who composed Phantom of the Opera. Nevertheless! Today’s gospel is reflected almost verbatim in “Everything’s Alright” from Jesus Christ Superstar. Mary sings to Jesus, telling him “Everything's alright, yes, everything's fine. And it's cool, and the ointment's sweet For the fire in your head and feet.” Judas chastises Mary extravagance:
“Woman your fine ointment, brand new and expensive
Should have been saved for the poor.
Why has it been wasted? We could have raised maybe
Three hundred silver pieces or more.
People who are hungry, people who are starving
They matter more than your feet and hair!”
And Jesus rebukes him:
“Surely you're not saying we have the resources
To save the poor from their lot?
There will be poor always, pathetically struggling.
Look at the good things you've got.
Think while you still have me!
Move while you still see me!”
Incidentally, the first time I ever watched this musical was at Sewanee. The Sewanee Union Theater showed it several times during Holy Week. I went, and cried through the whole thing.
“Everything’s Alright” shows us Mary is overwhelmed by her feelings for the Lord. She can’t get a grip on her devotion, fear, reverence, and admiration all rolled into one and she certainly can’t decide how to show it. The irony in this song is that, as Mary and Jesus’ followers are pleading with him to relax, telling him everything’s alright, the music becomes more and more frenzied, more and more manic. The singing, chanting voices layer over one another and sound incessant, petulant. Maybe they’re soothing themselves?
Ultimately, Judas is probably right to say Mary was foolish; using the expensive perfume is not practical or economical. But Mary is grasping at straws for a way to show how she feels about her teacher, leader, friend, and mentor, looking for a way to rationalize the turmoil around her and come to terms with possibly loosing him. Love is not rational. Love is not practical.
Last summer at Surf Shack Vacation Bible School, Jill Miller and I led the music station. One morning while we were dancing and singing, a 4 year old looked up at and asked, “Why do you work here?” The first thing that popped into to my head was, “Because I love Jesus.” I suppose that’s true enough. But the potentially deep, deep truth in that response is astounding. What does it mean to love Jesus? How do I show this love during Lent, or any other time of year?
I’ve been pretty delinquent in my Lenten discipline this year. I’ve been restless and disquieted by the emotional lead-up to Easter. I don’t want to be still and reflective. I don’t want to dwell in contemplative silence, to “remain here, and stay awake” as Jesus asks his disciples in the Garden. I feel more like Mary: impatient and confused and overwhelmed. But I can choose to love foolishly, to love as Mary loves Jesus. I can try to be still in these final, painful moments before Easter and think about Mary’s reckless love and the words of the psalmist: “How priceless is your love, O God!”
***Graduation speech delivered May 2010 at the Escuela American in San Salvador, El Salvador***
Good morning everyone.
I entered Escuela Americana in the 8th grade. I had never left my home state of South Carolina, let alone traveled to a foreign country before. On my first day of school, I walked down to the eight grade building from the complejo. I was embarrassingly early; as such, there were not many students in the hallway. As I tried desperately not to look like I had no idea where I was, I saw another girl at the other end of the row of lockers. And that is when I realized (PAUSE): I was wearing my uniform skirt backwards. I thought the zipper went in the front. (Pause) I didn’t know where the girl’s bathroom was, so I had to duck into a doorway to turn my skirt around. Later some kind classmates showed me how to roll up the sleeves on my shirt and pull my shirt out a bit in case I had forgotten my belt. Now I was “cool.” But I knew in my heart I was still “backwards skirt girl,” a little lost and a long way from where I belonged.
However, I slowly learned to adapt – and El Salvador became my new beloved home. Podría hablar de sus hermosos lagos, sus volcanes majestuosos, o sus mares azules. Pero lo mas me impactó de El Salvador en los cinco años que he vivido aquí fue su gente. Los salvadoreños son generosos, trabajadores, y sobre todo dispuestos a disfrutar cada momento que se les da la vida. El Salvador y su gente me adoptaron cuando solo era otra gringa que no sabía que era una bicha ni porque me decían así. Tuve mucho que aprender. Aprendí que no se come una pupusa con una cuchara, que “Fulano de Tal” no es una persona real, y que todo es mejor con limón y sal. Les agradezco a todos que me enseñaron a amar este paisito y todo lo que representa. El Salvador, te llevo conmigo en el corazón.
Just as I was welcomed by El Salvador and its people, I was also welcomed with open arms into the warm and friendly EA community. I think we, the Class of 2010, will miss EA more than we can ever imagine at this moment. We have all been so privileged to attend a school that embraces the idea of community and always looks out for its students. Now I don't think we'll miss everything (PAUSE) - not the middle schoolers who yell and scream while we are taking a test, not the Completo fruity punch, probably not the uniforms…
But I think we will miss the afternoon rain storms that cooled off our hottest classrooms. I know I'll miss hanging out in the library when Ms. Shari turned on the air conditioning. Maybe you'll miss eating mangoes during PE class when you were supposed to be running laps, or going to visit the school nurse because her water tasted better than the water fountains, or wearing Class of 2010 t-shirts and jeans on Fridays. Maybe you'll miss the churro sales at break time, or hanging out in the reading plaza, or Charlie’s faithful ice cream cart. EA is special place for its students for all of these reasons. Though these moments are simple, they are what I think we will all miss the most.
The EA Class of 2010 is many things – we are loud, opinionated, interesting, and ready to laugh. But I think the word that describes us best is diverse. Though many members of our class started at EA in pre-kinder, it doesn’t mean that we think and act alike. Just look at the list of colleges we are attending and you can see that we are all off in different directions to study different things. Even though we are diverse, and even though we attend one of the most exclusive schools in Central America, I think we are an inclusive group. Just ask the two seniors who joined EA this year. I shared your doubts and fears over being the new kid, but like you I quickly felt welcomed into this group.
If you took American Literature in 11th grade, you might have had my mother as your teacher. If so, then she showed you one of my all-time favorite films, It’s a Wonderful Life. Like a young George Bailey, I think we all have dreams of building things. We might not want to build his “bridges a mile long” – instead we want to build companies and concerts and computers. I hope none of us ever have to face the incredible disappointments that made George so disenchanted with his own life. But at the end of the film, when the town has all rallied to help out their friend, George reads the message that the angel Clarence has sent him: “Remember George, no man is a failure who has friends.” This is our message too. We are all successful today because we graduated from high school – yea us. But we are even more successful because we are loved by all our friends.
To Mom, Dad, Will thank you for all your love and support. To my “adopted sisters” Ceci and Rosanna, you are my family no matter where I go. Para, Mila, mi segunda mama, le debo tanto y la quiero muchísimo. To Nana and Uncle Danny, thank you for coming so far to be here for me today. To my complejo family, my incredible teachers and coaches, and the kind and helpful EA staff – thank you for making me feel like this is where I belonged.
And to my classmates, the class of 2010,
Always remember that you have friends.