Fish and Chips Day

“Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

Fish and Chips Day

In the midst of the beauty of Spring, on a religious day of lament was our fish and chips day. 

I remember my dad’s cuss words as he blew out dozens of eggs to hang painted shells on a freshly cut pussy willow tree. We ate a lot of scrambled eggs and went through crates of farm fresh Mennonite eggs.

It was also the long church day that I dreaded and all I wanted to do was ride my bike and listen for the sounds of Spring and see the robin’s arrival. 

I did not want to go to church. But off we went, cuss words and all, in my newly stitched dress by a Nana who was nimble with her thimble. For a few days the annual Easter church dress masked the scabbed knee and concussion tom boy who always seemed to be up the wrong neighbour’s tree at the wrong time.

This year’s Easter dress was white and covered in blue flowers. But the flowers quickly wilted with the showered holy water from the man of God who prowled the aisles. I made the mistake of sitting by my dad on the end of the pew. After the holy water shower, the holy man came back with his holy smoke.  

Waving around the thurible was trouble for a little girl with asthma at the end of a pew where the smoke billowed and the funeral incense dust blew up my nose and a-a-a-chew, I sneezed all over my little blue flowers. I inherited by Dad's sneeze and its a good thing he always had a hanky in his pocket for the kid who always seem to need it most. 

“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?”
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

I earnestly listened to the word of God, but I was hopelessly lost as to why God the Dad did not grab his son off the cross and just take him home. I assumed there would come an understanding when I became a grown up.

The painted ancient white-haired God on the church ceiling looking down on his son surrounded by his holy angels put a deep fear in me. The holy man of church was not a very friendly one either especially when he went behind the heavy velvet purple drapes in the back that closeted the darkness called the confessional. I learned how to sin in there. I simply made up sins I did not do so I would make a rather grand first confessional. 

No, I did not find comfort and joy at church, nor a God I could know. I found fear there. 

After church, we piled into our worn-out station wagon to pick up fish and chips, wrapped in yesterday’s news. The sweet smell of ketchup and malt vinegar covered the funeral stench of the blue flowers, and I felt safe back at home on our front porch munching fish and chips. 

I saw my bike out on the front lawn and looked longingly at my Mom.  Mom nodded, knowing full well she wished she could also escape her adult fears for a while. 

As I pedalled under the budding trees that would soon canopy the sidewalk, the dusk sky suddenly darkened.  As I watched the swirling clouds, the sky turned a deep indigo and thunder rumbled as the deep blue blurred the line into purple.

A shiver ran through me and a deep sense of awe overcame me as I watched the infinite sky change colour. The creator God of this sky filled me with longing to know him. The fear of the church God drained out of me and puddled beneath my feet.  In my soiled blue flowered dress, I bowed my head on my bike’s little white basket and felt his stillness.

‘Truly, this man is the son of God.'
Peace flooded over me as the sky released holy drops of rain.  I raced home on my bike as real holy water gushed from the lit purple sky.  A baptism of joy washed and cleansed the stench of the holy man’s incense renewing the blue flower.

It was on that fish and chips day that I met a God I could know. The God of this sky, the creator of the beauty of Spring, the God who put his longing in the blue flower was the God I wanted to know. 

And on this fish and chips day I know him. I pray you know him too.  

Happy Good Friday!

“When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Truly, this man was the Son of God.”

Votary of the Blue Flower: “They taught me longing–Sehnsucht; made me for good or ill, and before I was six years old, a votary of the Blue Flower.” ~ C.S. Lewis

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