Bread in a drought. We are overusing the earth and stealing from the rivers. We are feeding up animals just to slaughter them in horrible conditions. We are ripping out every other plant to grow more vines so we can drown our middle-class scruples and sorrows in wine (reduced when you buy by the dozen).
We don’t want to wash anyone’s feet, we Christians, unless we have chosen them for their likeness to us. We don’t want Muslims and we don’t want trans disciples, we don’t want inconvenient voices calling out for a stop to rape and toxic masculinity, we don’t want vegans or cyclists, we don’t want unionists. We want a small, narrow, white and bland kingdom of a three-word-slogan God who will medicate us back to sleep.
Thoughts and prayers. Thoughts and prayers. It’s all too hard. God save us. This is a test of faith and we cry when a great cathedral burns (and well we might). But the birthing trees are bulldozed on out and we don’t care. Brown children are trapped in factories with no water but overpriced, plastic packages sold back to them despite their tiny wage. Monkeys in metal collars are forced to harvest coconuts for smug minority world festival goers. Mea culpa, I love a festival and coconut water too.
We care more for who gets into Eurovision than who gets into parliament or what their policies will mean. We want gross domestic product…and the word “gross” really is apt! Wellbeing be damned we want measurable outputs to prove we are winning.
But then it is lent and we are called to become aware of the wilderness we are wandering in, the barren emptiness of lives focused on having not being, focused on distractions not deeds, on status not right relationship. It’s been lent and yet we can so easily sit in out “sty of contentment” as Eliot put it, or in some close approximation. And now it is the eve of Maundy Thursday. “Maundy” because there is a mandate here (the words are related) but the mandate is not just to be the king washing the feet of the properly submissive beggar but to wash the feet we would rather not touch.
I grew up with a liturgical foot-washing, a bishop with many attendants serving him pouring some water over feet of 12 respectable men in suits. As an adult I found more inclusive places, the washers and the washed were varied but still it was the respected and the respectable performing ritual. Noone’s foot was actually very dirty and the symbol was mildly uncomfortable rather than wildly destabilising.
But now our refusal to be destabilised may cost us our lives. We are facing climate change, and the main argument is still over who to hate, who to blame, who to exclude. My former partner told me that I have learned nothing through the years and I still don’t love myself and I felt angry and started to argue. “No but really” he said “I want you to hear me”.
It’s Maundy Thursday and I am still not hearing people. I am still busy trying to be the Martha at the table of grace and afraid to be the Mary. I want to be “good” and “kind” and “wise” and “worthy” so someone will love me, to take away from me the burden of having to love myself. I want to make a bargain with God, shake hands on a deal where I will not have to confront things anymore. I am like my corflute after all, flat and polished and smiling on demand.
There is some sort of sacrament here, and I need it and I hunger for it but I don’t know how to receive it. How can I be so dark and disillusioned on this weekend in particular? If there is meaning and I have strived for it then why don’t I feel it? Why does the love of my friends, and especially of my children reduce me to tears? If I am loved after all, cannot that be a sign?
Many years ago, when I was pregnant with my third child I had lunch with a friend of mine, an ordained minister. He spoke to me about the desire to over-eat, that he prays “only you can fill me God” before every meal.
I sit here full of chips and migraine, politics and study, the housework I should have done and the sleep I wish I could get. I sit here full of performative faith: “Don’t you dare leave me God”. I sit here with leftover suicidal ideation I have learned to control but not really to forgive or heal. I am full of fear and sadness and resentment. I know that I will more than likely be a failure and if I succeed that I will be attacked. I know myself to be lazy and a coward. I worry that I might sell my beloved for 30 pieces of silvered silence away from the struggle.
I don’t know how to be empty so that I can be filled by Godde
I see people’s faces turned toward me, seeing something more heroic and strong than I feel myself to be and I know that I have made idols of others to avoid having to be responsible. I feel Godde’s presence with me, tolerant, but it is not Godde whom I have harmed. Those people I admired, did they feel the weight of my worship? How could I expect them to be so much more than I was ever prepared to be? When I have thought leaders to be pompous and arrogant, even narcissistic was it their shield against my need for them to be gods?
Who was Jesus at the last supper? Did it hurt to be bread and wine? How much did he consent to and how much was he created by his followers?
It sounds like blasphemy to say that Jesus was “only human” and yet if he wasn’t then what is this for us? We do not have another millennium to wait to be saved from our need to create church as institution and ritual as hiding. Jesus did not say “cringe and cry to me”. He did not say “avoid anyone different”. He did not say “I will save you from yourself”. Jesus said “I am the least of your siblings”. He said “take up your cross and follow me”. He said “you can’t be part of this unless I wash your feet.”
So much of the world is crying for the bread they don’t have and for the wine that is never shared with them. Factory and field workers collapse too exhausted to hope. Refugees share inadequate meals in uncomfortable buildings behind wire. I have pedicured my feet ready to seem clean when I am washed. I turn up for religion, but hide from the Holy Spirit.
Like an anorexic I turn away from the Bread of Heaven.
I am addicted to the hunger.