Between the Lines: Palm Sunday: April 1, 2012

Text:  Mark 15:1-39 (40-47)

And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.


A Father's Grief
(Photo credit: RobandSheila)

Richard Swanson reminds us in Provoking the Gospel of Mark that in Jewish tradition the tearing of a garment is a ritual expression of mourning, and that the rending of the Temple curtain in Mark’s passion narrative might thus be understood as God’s expression of mourning. “Mourning,” writes Swanson, “is the ritual activity human beings engage in when they are reminded that their hopes and their love cannot turn back death.”

Although no one can avoid grieving forever, in contemporary American culture we tend to give short shrift to ritual expressions of mourning. Indeed, even Christian liturgy focuses primarily on Christ’s resurrection—on Easter morning—rather than the mourning of Jesus’ crucifixion.

As you ponder the passion narrative this week, take time for ritual mourning—not only of the death of Jesus, but also of the deaths of people you have known and loved, the deaths of relationships you have cherished, and the deaths of the selves you once were but no longer can be. Name the losses that continue to grieve you, the deaths you may never have properly mourned. What hopes and dreams lay along side the grief? What is the temple veil you’ve hung to conceal your grief, to protect those dreams? What might happen were you to tear that veil from top to bottom—allow your hopes, dreams, and grief to fly unfettered into the world? Serve as your own priest and create a mourning ritual that expresses the full power of the grief you have identified. Afterwards, reflect on the ways that mourning has transformed your experience. What dead part of you has been reborn?

– Kathie Collins

“Between the Lines” is excerpted from BibleWorkbench, a weekly resource for engaging the biblical story in a new way published by the Educational Center in Charlotte, NC. BibleWorkbench includes a series of open-ended questions focused on a reading in the Common Lectionary aimed at drawing readers into the story and making connections with the world around them and the world within. Also included are “Between the Lines” reflections, Parallel Readings from literature, poetry, and the news, and Critical Background on the text and its setting. For details and subscription information, go to

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