Posted by: Jan | 29 March, 2013

Kippax Kitchen Sculpture

I’m in Canberra, as guest of Jill and John Robinson for Easter Weekend. So on Thursday evening we went to Kippax Uniting Church, where Jill, who arranged my travel for this whole breathtaking visit, is a member. Canberra is much cooler than Sydney, which was simmering for the last few days.
I’ve come up here for Easter weekend. Last night in the dusk there was a slight breeze stirring the trees round the church, in an area that is very mixed socio-economically. People of all kinds and age groups were drifting in, and just outside we met a man at a barbecue, grilling lamb. As the service progressed, with thoughtful words and music from a group playing a variety of instruments, the lamb became part of a real shared meal, with bread and tabbouleh and water – and later pitta bread and wine. We told each other the story of the Last Supper.
This congregation have been telling a longer story throughout Lent, celebrating the theme of hospitality in Luke’s Gospel. Week by week they built up a ‘sculpture’ on the Communion table of pots and pans, egg-whisks and cups and graters and lemon squeezers and chopping boards with a kitchen clock – symbols of hospitality.
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So of course the Last Supper was part of that theme.

As the stages of the story darkened, candles were put out, song carried us into the loneliness of Gethsemane and then betrayal, the sanctuary was stripped of flowers and ornament, or covered in black cloths.

This morning, Good Friday, we walked into a sombre space with just one focus – the sculpture in the, on the Table. People were familiar with it, identified with it and what it was about. The liturgy unfolded, until a point came when Gordon, the minister, stepped forward and reminded the congregation, of about 200, what their sculpture represented. Then he and one other took the corners of the cloth on the communion table, and brought the whole sculpture crashing down.

That was when I had been invited to reflect (and which of the Words from the Cross would follow). So I thought I could share that reflection – which is a story, not an explanation – with you.
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On a hillside outside Jerusalem the sun beats down. After the bulldozers have left, there is silence. A house has been demolished. A very ordinary house – someone’s home. To get near, you will have to walk over broken branches, palm fronds and what’s left of the family’s olive trees. The leaves are dusty and dying. There was a vine trained over a trellis, making a cool shade for welcoming guests. The trellis is matchwood, the vine torn down. There will be no more grapes.

In the rubble lie smashed crockery, pots and pans, torn curtains, schoolbooks, a computer, shoes, broken glass. So much broken glass.

This was someone’s home. Bread was baked here. A family ate together, children played. A working man came back tired at the end of the day. A student daughter returned from college. When neighbours, or strangers, passed by, or stopped at the courtyard gate, friendly voices called ‘Salaam Alaikum – Peace be upon you! Come! Come’ And folk would come into the yard, and sit down in the shade, and be offered tiny cups of strong sweet black coffee, from the pot on the brazier, or glasses of mint tea. Take this cup. The cups are in pieces, the glass is shattered.

This was not an ideal home. There was never enough money to smooth all the rough edges, make everything just so. But there was enough. With its walled garden, an oasis of green in the sunbaked landscape, with its olive trees and fruitful vine and the hospitality of its people, it was a little taste of paradise. A safe place, on a human scale. It has been destroyed – deliberately – as part of a ‘collective punishment’ by the occupying army.

Children are crying among the rubble. A man and a woman try to comfort each other. People look on in shock. But this is not the only home to be destroyed. There are others close at hand who know what it feels like. They are not saints. Sometimes they lash out. sometimes they cry out asking where God is, when things like this happen. They are just about hanging on in there – living from day to day with sumoud – long-suffering, endurance, steadfastness. Now they reach out to their neighbours in silent compassion. They offer water to drink, shelter from the sun. There will be a place to weep and to sleep, at least tonight, even though hope seems dead.

‘I promise you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’ (Luke 23: 39-43)

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