I've heard about him—only saw him once before. Yesterday, I was gathering kindling and he was standing with several of his followers near the Temple. He was pointing to a poor old widow putting a couple small coins in the treasury. "She has done what she could." Not many teachers commend a woman, a poor one at that! He must have felt my stare because he turned around then and looked at me and smiled.
I don't like the way most men look at me. I keep my eyes down, and am almost glad to be too poor to own more flattering clothes. I have my "don't notice me" walk and I try to always stay as close as possible to the exits. But for about the first time in my life a man noticing me seemed like a good thing. They shouldn't be able to drag a man like him like that.
My fire is going better, higher now. Now a man sits down and warms himself across from me. I recognize him. He is one of Jesus' disciples. I know it! I've seen him before.
Does a friend wrap a cloak tight around him at a warm fire while his friend is suffering? Some strange anger made me break my "speak only when spoken to" rule. I pointed to him and said loudly, "This man also was with him!" I may be just a servant girl, but I know the difference between a friend and a coward.
The Chamber of Pilate's Wife (Mt 27:15-26)
(Props: Jewelry box filled with necklaces all tangled together. Put on black shawl and silver bracelet. As you talk, absent-mindedly try to untangle necklaces)
Why should I feel as if a knife were being twisted within me? I never even met him. I was standing by my upper window last night when they led him by on the way to Caiaphas' house for questioning. Always looking at life from behind my shutters. I had the absurd impulse to jump out, fly down, and, like a great bird, put him on my back and fly him up out of the tangle.
I tried to go to sleep at my usual time, but fell into a strange dream in which I myself sat in my husband's seat, looking into the eyes of the young prisoner, who was looking back at me with nothing but understanding." "He is innocent! He is innocent! Release him! Release him!" A voice began softly at first, then building in volume. I woke up just as I realized the voice was my own.
Why, how is it that the woman I am in my dreams takes action while the woman I am in the light of day stands to one side and watches? I sent a note straightaway to my husband- "Have nothing to do with this innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him."
They're deciding his fate now. Not too likely they'll listen to me! Still, for once I did something!
How did everything get so tangled up?
(Take off black shawl from around shoulders and place it around your head)
At the Moment of Jesus' Death (Lk 23:49; 55-56)
Women at the Cross
We are standing at a distance watching. Words fail us. We keep a silent vigil, our presence a testimony to a faithfulness that is stronger than death. Now we go to prepare spices and ointments. We do what we can.
He'll be by soon. Every year I stand here harboring the foolish hope that, this year, the outcome will be different. His choice is not going to change. But isn't there at least the chance that ours could? Insisting on integrity? Beseeching Justice? Standing in Solidarity? Isn't there the chance that disciples could sustain their Hosannas all week long, and be joined in joyful chorus by the shouting stones?
(Silent symbolic action: Silently place sweater, shawl, coat, scarf, hat, gloves on aisle to prepare for Jesus.)
Note: A version of this meditation appears in my book Novel Preaching: Tips from Writers on Crafting Creative Sermons(Westminster John Knox Press, 2010).