Easter Tennebrae: dark forces

dark forces
This was the second part of our three part Maundy Thursday Service. Following our “dark dinner” Last Supper reenactment meal in Credo Cafe we lit candles and walked up Collins Street to the Treasury Gardens to remember the arrest of Christ.

dark forces

The Treasury Gardens

Reading : Jesus Under Pressure

Mark 14:26-36

When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 27And Jesus said to them, ‘You will all become deserters; for it is written,
“I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep will be scattered.”
28But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.’ 29Peter said to him, ‘Even though all become deserters, I will not.’ 30Jesus said to him, ‘Truly I tell you, this day, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.’ 31But he said vehemently, ‘Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.’ And all of them said the same.
32 They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’ 33He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. 34And he said to them, ‘I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.’ 35And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36He said, ‘Abba,* Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.’

Reflection : Surveillance:
from an article by Bill Wylie Kellerman (Sojourners magazine)

The issues of surveillance are not foreign to the New Testament. Perhaps because the enterprise today is so technologized, what with bugs and taps, video monitoring, computerized finger-printing, satellite photography, and the like, we are inclined to think political surveillance is a relatively recent phenomenon (howsoever normal it may have become). In truth, it is an ancient tactic of the powers, one with which Jesus contended and coped.

In An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land, William Stringfellow comments on both secrecy and surveillance in a list of “stratagems” of the demonic powers. He stresses that these among an array of tactics are always aimed at “the immobilization or surrender or destruction of the mind and at the neutralization or abandonment or demoralization of the conscience.”

I believe that far beyond the facile function of “information gathering,” surveillance needs to be comprehended as a spiritual assault. It is an attack on the integrity and identity of an individual on the one hand and community on the other. It is intended consciously to intimidate, violate, unnerve, and foster self-doubt or indecision.

At the height of its surveillance campaign against Martin Luther King Jr., the FBI’s own internal memoranda described its objectives as to “discredit,” “expose,” and “neutralize” Dr. King. The bureau was intensely concerned with King’s “state of mind” and sought to exacerbate the tensions and stress, even the temptations which naturally attended his life. When, via bugs and taps, they had acquired information that would be truly and deeply embarrassing to him in public, they sent him a tape of the material with an anonymous letter calling him a “fraud,” “Satan,” an “evil, abnormal beast.” They even hinted at suicide as his only way out.

King was duly distraught. In a phone conversation with a friend, he confessed as much, saying, “They are out to break me.” In another call he said, “They are out to get me, to harass me, break my spirit.” (So read the FBI. transcripts of those calls.)

In John’s gospel Jesus speaks of being “troubled in spirit.” The Greek word tarasso, which is behind it, apparently signifies variously to stir up and agitate, to distress or perplex the mind, to strike one’s spirit with fear or dread. It is used with regard to Jesus in the face of death itself but also notably in connection with his awareness of Judas’ betrayal, Peter’s denial, and the ruler of this world drawing near.

Reading Mark 14:37-41a
37He came and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, ‘Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour? 38Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial;* the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ 39And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40And once more he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to say to him. 41He came a third time and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and taking your rest?

Watch and Pray: Prayers for our World
Prayers are said aloud concluding with “Lord here us” to which the response of the people is “Lord here our Prayer”

Reading: Mark 14:41b
Enough! The hour has come; the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.’
The gathering walks single file, holding candles to the next station.
(We walked to a point in Melbourne’s Treasury Gardens located directly below the Victorian Premiers Office where a security guard stood on a garden bed above us, looking down on proceedings….a fitting touch!

The Arrest:
A reading from “Living the Passion” Walter Wangerin

There comes an orange snake eastward through the night. A snake of fire, a long snake of torches. Perhaps the disciples glance down from the Mount of Olives and see it and do not understand. Jesus understands. It winds the same path they themselves have followed from the city. It winks through the trees in a smooth and silent, serpentine approach. It is a fatal snake. It kills by kissing.
The binding strength of that snake is the armed guard of the Temple and the police of the Sanhedrin. Behold how the servants of God can bite!
But the head of the snake is one of the twelve, a disciple of Jesus. Behold how an intimate may kiss for other reasons than affection and respect.
Suddenly Judas Iscariot appears beside the group of friends who stand outside the Garden of Gethsemane. Smiling. Judas is smiling. And claiming his accustomed place. And holding his torch aloft to shed light on the faces around him. Peering into these faces. Looking for . . . no, not for John, not James; no, not for Andrew or for Peter, though he greets them all with familiar nods. He’s looking for . . . ah!
The snake coils now into a thick knot of bodies and flame before the disciples. It has scores of eyes all flashing red in torch light. Its scales are weapons, swords and clubs adown its sides. Its silence is tense, dead menace in close proximity-and it stinks of human sweat.
The disciples swallow, nervous and uncertain.
Jesus gazes and waits.
Now, the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God made. From the beginning its movement was smooth, its manner mild, its promise to elevate whom it would eat. It was a murdered even from the beginning, a liar, the father of lies, and the father, so Jesus once declared, of-
The serpent strikes!
Smiling, Judas says. “Rabbi!” and kisses Jesus. A sign of devotion. A sign, for the Temple guard, that this is the one to seize and lead away. A lie.

Matthew 26:47f
While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; with him was a large crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, ‘The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him.’ 49At once he came up to Jesus and said, ‘Greetings, Rabbi!’ and kissed him. 50Jesus said to him, ‘Friend, do what you are here to do.’ Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and arrested him. 51Suddenly, one of those with Jesus put his hand on his sword, drew it, and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. 52Then Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? 54But how then would the scriptures be fulfilled, which say it must happen in this way?’ 55At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, ‘Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. 56But all this has taken place, so that the scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled.’ Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.

The Disciples Flee:
A responsive reading based on Mark 14.51-52

Leader: (picking up the white garment/cloth)
A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus.
When they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind. (Disciple drops garment)

Disciple 1: (picking up the white garment)
The white linen, robe was the garment of an Israelite priest. Moses called for all Israelites to be priests to the Lord (Exod. 19:6), a calling reiterated by the apostle Paul for followers of Jesus (1 Pet. 2:9; Rev. 5:10).

We are called to put on Christ, to be priests, mediators between God and a broken world.
All: but we have left the garment and run off naked (Disciple drops garment)

Disciple 2: (picking up the white garment)
In the Apocalypse of John, those who have died for the sake of the gospel of love are given a white robe, and are told to wait a little longer, until the number of the brothers and sisters who are to be killed as they have been is complete. (Revelation 6:11)

We are called to put on Christ, to join with this cloud of witnesses, to put our bodies on the line and follow the way of the cross in a violent world.
All :But we have left the garment and run off naked (Disciple drops garment)

Disciple 3: (picking up the white garment) The Apostle Paul states “For as many of you as have been baptised in Christ, have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:26-27).  In the tradition of Christ’s followers the initiation of new believers happens at Easter. Having passed through the waters of baptism the priest places the white “baptisimal alb” upon the disciple as an outward sign of their dignity as a new creature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

We are called to put on Christ and live in light of our baptism
All: but we have left the garment and run off naked. (Disciple drops garment)

Crowd disperse in silence…


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