Back in High School I always enjoyed the school’s sports. I was good enough to play sports and enjoy myself but wasn’t of the high school star-caliber. I went to all the games and cheered the Spartans on to victory or to whatever the outcome. Our high school basketball games were pretty frantic. The gymnasium seated several thousand. The high school was pretty big with nearly 2000 students.
So, I would go to the games. I had lots of good friends in the school. But on game nights, the girls were a part of the Block “L”. It was a school-spirit thing. I suppose there were 250 high school girls….a certain number wore scarlet blouses and sat in a large letter “L” (for Lima, of course) and the rest were in white blouses and framed the letter “L”.
Now that I look back it sort of reminds me of those colorful demonstrations of forced unity that Communist China was always putting on display in huge stadiums back during their Cultural Revolution in the 1960’s. I would see pictures in the newspaper of a stadium of 200,000 Chinese and there would be a “card” section or else the people would be wearing clothing, that, when they sat together would show an heroic person lifting high the banner of unity and or the torch of freedom and urging the masses on to smash imperialism.
No, the Lima Senior High “Spirit Club” was not a front for the Chinese Cultural Revolution, but still, I opted out. The guys were not a part of the “Spirit Club” and they had to be content with sitting in the section directly behind the girls in the Spirit Club (Block L) and shouting out alternate-cheers, jokes or risqué remarks to the cheerleaders who were doing their best to be focused and not feel verbally assaulted. (Ah! High school!)
I opted out and sat at the far end of the basketball arena in the bleachers under the home basket. I wouldn’t exactly say that I was an iconoclast, but to sit at the opposite end of the gym and root the team on with a few friends, rather than the official “Block L” and the unofficial “boys rooting section” was a rare thing to do. (The cheerleaders wouldn’t even come to our end of the basketball floor…what WAS I thinking??)
An aside here, a few years before my time at the school, the high school boys formed a more formal-unofficial rooting section called “The Local Boys.” Their trademark was to wear white caps with red polka dots. I remember someone saying that the local railroaders wore those caps. Several years’ later after High School I actually worked for the railroad in Lima. I never saw one railroader wear a red polka dot cap. Never. I asked a longtime railroad guy about that one day. He said, “You mean those caps that the high school boys wear??” No one was willing to admit to be the first to wear a red polka dotted cap. Interesting town, Lima.
All of which brings me to Easter and who and why people attend our services.
Ministers and church going members tend to dismiss the C & E folks (Christmas and Easter folks). I don’t. In fact, they hold a special place in my heart and I’ve finally figured it out…the C & E folks are like me in high school….they are a part of the larger group, but they just don’t sit in the crowded block L or with the Local Boys….they are sitting where I sat…..at the other end of the gym, on the bleachers under the basket. They are very much a part of the entire event, but they just sit off and away a bit.
Holy Week is a very different type of thing to grasp. In a world that is constantly peppy, feel-good, award and reward yourselves, be optimistic, glass-half-full, count your blessings, look on the sunny side….Holy Week calls for us to stop and look inside ourselves. We are called to be introspective.
Recently one of the Presidential candidates gave a major speech and when it was over, many of the commentators said and wrote that it was a wonderful speech but was “nuanced” and thus would not be understood by many Americans…or at least, it would not be carefully considered by the voting public because of its detailed analysis of an issue.
We want things black and white, right or wrong, on or off. Anything in between is not considered. Holy Week is “nuanced”. It has the high of Palm Sunday. The mix of the Last Supper and Betrayal of Maundy Thursday. The low of Good Friday. The emptiness of the Saturday after Good Friday. And finally is the triumph of Easter. In order to truly understand Easter, you have to experience the entire week and its day-to-day highs and lows.
Because of these nuances and it surprises me that anyone would want to show up for the Maundy Thursday evening service. There is nothing upbeat about it. In talking Kay, Lisa and Scott, each who had brief, spoken meditations for that evening, I found that we all wanted to move beyond the events of that evening and move quickly past the Last Supper with its sacrifice and the betrayal and remind folks that Easter with its joy was coming.
The Good Friday with its Cross Walk was well attended also and I had to wonder why folks would walk in silence, carrying a cross through the cold streets of Dublin. Nothing upbeat about that. But, lots of people came on Maundy Thursday and on Good Friday.
Many came on Easter Sunday too. They came to the early service in the Gladden Chapel. They came to the 10am service in the Sanctuary. I imagine there were C &E people there. I did note a number a names on the Attendance Register with which I am not familiar. But rather than wonder where they have been for the past few months or year…I have to hand it to them. They were here. They feel the presence of the Spirit. They recognize some ancient calling to be in the midst of others when it comes to celebrating Christ’s triumph over death. Far be it from me to question where they have been lately.
Maybe they were, so to speak, just sitting there under the backboard in the bleachers at the other end of the gymnasium, rooting the team along the whole time.
Holy Week, Easter and the culture of high school basketball games are all full of nuance. You have to experience them all in order to appreciate them all.
Peace, Rev. Bob Tussing