Beauty Broken Open

When I was a child, our neighbors across the street, Veta and Myron, were a retired school principal and a retired school counselor. They were generous with their time—inviting us over to play on the swing set they still had up even though their son was long grown and gone. In a rarity for Tulsa, their home sat atop a cellar, and there our neighbor had a collection of rocks, semi-precious stones, and fossils. There were dozens of rose rocks, the State Rock of Oklahoma. He told me about the great inland sea that had once covered the central part of North America, and showed me rocks he had brought back from trips all over the continent. It didn’t take long until I was hooked, and I spent hours over there learning.

One day, he handed me a mud-colored gray-brown orb. It was perfectly round, and surprisingly light—about the size of a croquet ball. I thought it was pretty cool. Then he handed me a hammer. I was confused when he told me to put the rock on the work bench and hit it. But eventually I realized he was serious and did as I was told, not too hard. After a couple of whacks, the thing cracked, and he gave one more expert tap and the orb cracked open. Inside there was a glowing array of light lavender colored crystals. He told me it was a geode. He then let me take my treasure home. I wondered that something so drab and nondescript could be so beautiful when it was broken open.

Tonight, we observe Maundy Thursday—a day when we ourselves are invited to be broken open to the beauty and pathos of these next three holiest of days in the Christian calendar. Our service tonight begins what’s known as the Triduum, the great three days leading up to Easter Sunday. In the early church, the Maundy Thursday service always began after sundown, just before Passover will begin for our beloved Jewish kindred after sundown tomorrow. 

It is traditional for Christians to meet for a simple meal, and engage in foot washing as a sign of our servanthood, just as Jesus set an example for us, and then have Holy Communion one last time before the Great Vigil. And as we share together this Holy Communion, we are called to re-member that Jesus takes and blesses the bread before the meal itself has really started—he takes it and urges that it be broken and shared among those who sit with him at table for the meal. That bread cannot be shared unless it is broken. It cannot be used for eating the rest of the food. It must be broken in the same way that dawn must be broken, in the same way that geode must be broken in order to allow the beauty within to dazzle our eyes.

Tonight, we are reminded that Jesus gathers us, just as he did those apostles on that night long ago, and offers us the Peace of God, not for our own comfort only, but so that we can share and embody that Peace and Grace to those around us. Tonight we remember that Jesus showed us that the heart of love is service—humble, tender, and compassionate. Jesus shows us in word and action how to live the best life we can have. Tonight Jesus shows that only in breaking ourselves open can we be then filled with eternal life and love.

Tonight may we be willing to be broken open ourselves, broken open to the call of love and community and service to our neighbors and to creation, especially during these next beautiful three days.

The Rev. Leslie Scoopmire is a writer, musician, and a priest in the Diocese of Missouri. She is rector of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Ellisville, MO.  She posts daily prayers, meditations, and sermons at her blog Abiding In Hope, and collects spiritual writings and images at Poems, Psalms, and Prayers.

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