Enter the Slave Garden

photo by Tulay Palaz
photo by Tulay Palaz

Living Hope Community Church meets at Ironwood Elementary School, and to enter, you must pass through a small gated courtyard before you reach the doors to the worship space.
Every Sunday we are able to come to our church space, pass through the gates, enter through the door, and participate in the worship service. There are no requirements, no check points, no guards at the door who require you to prove your worthiness to enter. You are not restricted by your age, your gender, your education, your finances or your past. You aren’t stopped because of who your parents are or were. You don’t have to present papers, or pay to enter. You are welcomed in freely.
But what if that weren’t the case? What if you showed up and there were chains on the gate? What if, suddenly, you were made to enter though a side door, and wait for the chance that you might (or might not) be allowed to enter? What if someone or something owned you, and you weren’t free to worship how or where or when you wanted, because the one who owned you had forbidden it?

This year, on Good Friday, the people of Living Hope Community Church (Living Hopefuls) will be invited to experience a taste of this. They will find the gates of their church locked. They will be allowed to gather in the courtyard outside the worship space, but not enter.
I call it the Slave Garden.

It is the place where we can sit for a few moments and consider: what are we slaves to?
What demands your time and attention? What makes claim on you? Who or what controls you—even in the subtle ways? Who or what gets your first, your best, your most? I’d venture to suggest that if God isn’t the first answer to these questions, then there is a slave master that is fighting to capture you. He can take all sorts of forms: addiction, fear, debt, laziness, perfectionism, to name a few.
Sin, and sin.
The Good News is that this Good Friday, the Living Hopefuls won’t be made to stay out in the dark of the Slave Garden. They will be allowed to enter the even darker space of the Tenebrae service. It may seem counter-intuitive to move from the nice ambient light that will be present in the Slave Garden, and enter into a darkened, black-draped, candle-lit room. Living Hopefuls will pass through a doorway symbolically covered in the Lamb’s blood, where we will sit together and experience darkness overtake the room and swallow us up.
Why is that good news? Or even Good News? (come back soon for the next post that answers this question!)

Living Hope will experience Good Friday on March 25th at 7 pm. If you are in the Tucson area, you are invited to join us.

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