As this holiest of weeks begins to unfold, I am struck by how I must not leave Lent too quickly. Some churches rush to Easter with Resurrection services taking place as early as Thursday, the day of the week our Lord was betrayed and before His mock trials, suffering and death — certainly before He rose from the grave! I’m glad I’m not rushing to Easter. There is more work the Lord would do in my heart as I move slowly through this week, walking with Him the Way of the Cross.
On this Holy Tuesday I find the Lord drawing my heart back to a question posed by one of my seminary professors. She asked her students more than once in the quarter, “When you are bumped, what do you spill out?” She used the example of walking through a crowd with a hot cup of coffee. When someone bumps you, the coffee will spill out. She likened the cup which held the coffee to our souls and the hot coffee to what can come up and out of us. When we are bumped — by others, by circumstances, by events, even by God — what do we spill out?
Here’s my Holy Week confession: I offended my husband — badly. Yep, it’s true. Now I know that we are all flawed human beings and Prince Philip and I never think anything of ourselves as other than that. But God has been extremely good to teach us how to live more and more like Jesus Christ. We will never be perfect, but sometimes it’s just not okay to be a “Christian Behaving Badly”. And today I hear my Savior ask me, “When you were bumped, Cathie, what did you spill out?”
It was last Saturday night. We are spending a few weeks in our new worship space setting up at 10 pm on Saturday evening, which means we are there working hard until about midnight. We’ll change over to a very early Sunday morning set up after we get our bearings but for now, it’s two pretty grueling hours late on Saturday night which is when the space becomes available to us. That’s where and when I got bumped. Both Philip and I were tired. Our bodies ached and our brains were numb. Philip was being a real trooper — setting up, lifting, carrying and doing all the schlepping that is required when you set up a worship space for a church like ours. One thing you can say about Philip, he has a true servant’s heart.
But a moment came when Philip moved something to a location that didn’t meet with my approval. How dare he? Why didn’t he ask me where I wanted that item? Aren’t I the one in the charge? And yes, I got bumped. Now I can chalk up my response to being tired and stressed. I can make all kinds of other excuses. But the reality is that when I got bumped, what I spilled out wasn’t good. I didn’t curse at Philip or call him a bad name. I didn’t belittle or degrade him, but I did disrespect him. I did dishonor him.
And I guess that’s what the Lord would have me see today. When I got bumped, I spilled out dishonor.
The Southern U.S. region has been characterized by some as a “culture of honor” where people avoid offending others and do not easily accept improper conduct by others. But the true “culture of honor” belongs to Christians. Here these words from St. Paul in Romans 12:10 where he tell us to “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” As well, I am mindful of Paul’s admonishment in Ephesians 5:2 to “walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.” Love leaves no room for dishonor. And it’s no coincidence that these words calling us to walk in love are followed quickly by Paul’s charge in verses 21-22 to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your husband, as to the Lord.”
On this Tuesday in Holy Week, I bow before my Kind Savior and ask that He purify my heart, forgiving me that I did not walk in love. Instead, I spilled out dishonor which is not pleasing to Him and which hurt my husband. That’s why I don’t want to leave Lent too quickly. I am aware that even these seemingly small acts of behaving badly are ones which placed Christ on the cross. When I was bumped Saturday night, I spilled out sin. And it was because of and for this sin that my Jesus suffered and died.
As you walk through this Holy Week, may I invite you to join me in taking a slower pace? Let’s stay in step with our Jesus as He walked the Way of the Cross. Let’s not rush to Easter, but let’s spend time each day of this holiest of weeks being mindful of the ways we may have hurt Him or hurt others. And maybe it’s as simple as asking ourselves the question God asked me this morning, “When you are bumped, what do you spill out?”
It sure worked for me.
After more than 25 years in parish ministry, Rev. Cathie retired in early 2018 to pursue a quieter life with her husband Philip in the mountains of Central Oregon. Although no longer a leader in congregational life, she continues to follow her calling and passion to minister to those who suffer, especially those with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.