If you are the dealer, I'm out of the game
If you are the healer, it means I'm broken and lame
If thine is the glory, then mine must be the shame
You want it darker
We kill the flame
Magnified, sanctified, be thy holy name
Vilified, crucified, in the human frame
A million candles burning for the help that never came
You want it darker
I'm ready, my lord
You Want It Darker, Leonard Cohen
How do we respond to the discord, suffering, and pain surrounding us in our world? Do we create more systems and walls to keep it further away? Do we design more clever narratives that continue to uphold the current hero and scapegoat models that comfort us? Or do we allow darkness, suffering, and pain to touch us and our concepts of life and death and God? Is there a way for even God to die and resurrect? Engaging these questions and more is the purpose of the decentering practice of Lent and Good Friday.
Decentering is a contemplative exercise designed, like all meditative practice, to facilitate prayer. However, unlike centering prayer, which has the aim of focusing on a single truth about God as a way into prayer, de-centering practice is the engagement with doubt and the perceived absence of God.
Decentering is an intimate form of prayer with a long biblical tradition, the most well-known examples coming from books like Job and Lamentations but also frequently in the book of Psalms. Here the authors vent their anger, fears, frustration and doubt with God with shocking honesty. It is a kind of prayer that holds nothing back; it expresses a deep trust that God can indeed handle all of our thrashing around in the absurdities of life.
In fact, those absurdities might, in fact, reveal the most transcendent realities of God.
For the last six years, Torn Curtain Arts has brought together artists, poets, and musicians on Good Friday to hold a space for the decentering practice of Good Friday, the day when God abandoned God and died on the cross as the covering for our sin. All of these events have taken place at Restoration Community Church in the past, and I'm grateful for the space they provided to make room for the cross before the tomb. Now we're sharing this event with other our other friends and faith communities. This year our event will take place at two churches in Denver; Belong and New Denver Chruch.
Each year we have tried to approach the passion of Christ from a different direction. Some years we've designed an interactive gallery of small installations following the stations of the cross and some years we've produced a short liturgy all around a different theme. This year we are combining both the stations and the liturgy into a new event with the theme of Darkness.
Darkness is an important metaphor for spirituality because it is somewhat pliable. Most often it is used to refer to evil or wickedness because it is the absence of light (a universal metaphor for The Divine.) However, in scripture, God seems to be quite active in the darkness. It's at night when God comes and speaks to many characters. The term "In the middle of the night" became a literary device the writers would use to indicate a moment of precarious possibility. Things could go either way; terribly bad or terribly good!
Darkness is an inevitable certainty on this planet that revolves around the sun every 24 hours. It is part of our cycle. The death of one day and the birth of another. In the darkness, it's not as safe to move. In fact, in ancient times be outside the city in the dark was extremely dangerous. Darkness, therefore, is a time of waiting, resting and preparing for the return of the light.
I hope this year you can wait and prepare for the light with us during our decentering practice at one of the locations this coming holy week. The stations will be open to engaging with at New Denver Chruch each night during holy-week from 5pm-9pm. You can find more details on our events page, and the stations will be available after a special Good Friday liturgy at Belong church at 7 pm on March 30th. Look forward to seeing you there!