Maundy Thursday

Jason Bruner
Mar 29, 2018 · 3 min read

A woman, maybe late 40s, decked in purple — or, better, purples — with precise, dark eyebrows, she was put together: “Yeah, I remember this church — yeah, used to sleep here — 30 people in that yard. Yeah, I did that until one time this guy hit me and then slammed my head into the ground until I called some guys to get him off me. They took me way over to west Tempe to get me away from him but you know what then I run into him again all the way over there — found him sleeping behind a bush, but he didn’t mess with me — yeah, so where are the free shoes?”

You do not now realize what I am doing

Pony tail, glasses, athletic gear that wasn’t dirty or worn, late 20s, I thought. He offered to volunteer, but, also: “I could use some new shoes too, I guess.” A kind face, he seemed caught between two worlds. “I went to the gym earlier this morning,” he said to a retired nurse who washed his feet. Graduated with his B.A. in “2008, no 2009 — business management.” I wondered how long it had been since he’d washed his hair though. “I don’t know that I’m like a lot of these other guys, you know?” He was in that world, but not of it.

No servant is greater than his master

He sat next to T. who looked early 30s, and he was taken with my toddler, Kathryn, who was playing on the playground. As he walked to the room to pick out his new shoes, Kathryn saw him and reached her hand towards him as I said, “Kathryn, can you pass the peace like we do on Sundays?” And she shook his hand, and T. grinned bashfully. He joked back, “Pass the Pace picante sauce!”

Do you not understand what I have done for you?

I heard a man introduce himself. Then, a cackle, followed by, “Hi, Superman, nice to meet you! I’m bulletproof!” She’d called herself L. when I welcomed her earlier.

He stood in the threshold and asked, tentatively, about the free shoes. “You came to the right place,” I smiled. “What’s your name?” He didn’t respond, caught in a passing reverie as he looked at my daughters behind me. “Oh. D. –I got a daughter about their age.” He signed in, and I walked him to a chair on the periphery of the playground. “How old is she?” I asked. “Three.” “They’re a handful,” I observed. He was quiet. I got the impression he only knew she was three, but not much else about her. His silence: a nostalgia for what could have been?

Do not let your hearts be troubled.

Two Black men, in their 30s, had picked up their new shoes. They were hashing it out in the parking lot: “No, the Bible says that no man will be your savior, Israel. That’s why I can’t get on board with the idea of the messiah being a man — it just means anointed. God’s the only savior!”

Come now, let us leave

Jason Bruner

Written by

Assistant Prof. of Religious Studies at Arizona State University. Historian, ethnographer, writer, and, occasionally, photographer.

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