Events That Shape Our Lives
Three events remembered on this night of Holy Week focus our attention on Christ and all Christ has done for us. These are also events that shape our life as disciples of Jesus.
Love As I Have Loved You
Foot washing. Jesus, Son of God Most High, Ruler of Heaven and earth humbles himself to serve those he loves, as a common slave would tend to his or her master, and he tells his disciples that we too are to love each other in this way. It is a ritual of humility, but humility that welcomes others into fellowship, that takes away the accumulated dirt and filth of the journey and opens the possibility of table fellowship that follows. Humility without love is nothing; Service without love is nothing; Hospitality without love is nothing. Love turns humility, service and hospitality into acts of reconciliation and rituals of peace. I think of caregivers, of the humble work they do. How when their work expresses the love and respect they have for the other person, it is no servitude, but love doing what love does for the sake of the other. That is how Christ loves us.
Foot washing is one of the rituals called for in tonight's liturgy, but we have chosen to remember Jesus' command to love one another in humility, service and hospitality through confession and absolution. In confession, we enter this house painfully aware of the dirt of sin and it's threat of sickness and death that clings to us. We present, we uncover our feet, we confess what we are, sinful and unclean. Yet, in obedience to our Lord, the humble Christ, we are welcomed, washed and cleansed, with the Word, yes, but with a word that reminds us how with water and the word God saved us from sin and death, made us clean and pure and whole for Jesus' sake. On that night when Jesus was betrayed, he took the basin and washed his disciples feet. I cannot help but hear it as a reminder of their baptisms and ours. That is the absolution, a return the water of baptism. You are clean now and welcome to Christ's table.
My Body and Blood For You
That is the second event: The fellowship in Christ's body and blood, given and shed for us. In Holy Communion, we eat and drink the body and blood of Jesus under bread and wine. On this night, Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying This is my body, given for you. Do this in remembrance of me. Then after supper, Jesus took the cup, gave thanks, and said, Drink of it, all of you, this cup is the new covenant in my blood, shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in remembrance of me. Then St Paul tells that as often as we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim our Lord's death, until he comes. Christ brings us to the table. He washes us and serves us. We remember how he sacrificed his body and shed his blood for us.
We remember, but at the same time, Christ is here for us, tonight. When you eat and drink this bread and wine tonight, it is truly Jesus for you. You can trust his word, his promise: this is his body for you, his blood for you; you are forgiven, alive and safe in God's household. And in that way, this meal is an event that anticipates the coming kingdom of God. Because God raised Jesus from the dead, because this humble Christ rules now at God's right hand, the fellowship of this table cannot be destroyed or broken by sin or death. Here sin is removed, forgiven; here death is overcome with God's promise of eternal life. The saints of old yet live in Christ; the saints of today, live in Christ. So this event ripples through time and space so that we might know and inwardly digest God's love for you, and nothing, nothing can separate you from God's love for you in Christ Jesus.
Stripped Of Everything But Faith, Hope and Love
There is a third event tonight, a stripping away of all things, answered by nothing but silence. In the story of this night, the betrayer, one of Jesus' own disciples, breaks away from the table to meet up with those who are plotting Jesus' death. Jesus' and the disciples sing a hymn and withdraw to a garden to pray. Jesus prays that his Father might deliver him from the agony he is about to experience; he prays so fervently, so desperately, that he sweats blood. Yet, he remains faithful and obedient to his Heavenly Father. He prays, Father, your will be done. Meanwhile, his disciples sleep. The police come out, armed to arrest him. They strip him of his freedom. The disciples flee, and he is stripped of companions and friends. They will strip him of everything, even life, and it will seem as though the Word of God stops speaking, silence.
This is the stunning paradox of tonight. We are united with Christ. We are God's children, heirs of God's kingdom, and yet in this life there are times when we are stripped of all that we have, all that we love, and God is silent. Here, in the dark and in the silence, Christ intercedes for us, suffers with us, trusts and believes for us. As Jesus entrusted his life and breath to his Heavenly Father, we cling to Christ in faith and hope. God's love for us will yet prevail. God will wipe away all our tears, just as Jesus rose from the dead to live and reign forever.
Three events tonight that are so much more than ritual, in them Christ comes to us to love and save us. That is our Lord, our master, our Jesus. His love is humble and open and welcoming and enduring and faithful. We are his people, and as he dwells and abides among us, we welcome and wash, serve and give, suffer and endure, hope and trust. We love like Jesus because Jesus loved us like this. Thanks be to God. Amen.
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