Thursday, March 24

Maundy Thursday Sermon

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?"

Jesus answered, "You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand."

Peter said to him, "You will never wash my feet."

Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no share with me."

Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!"

Jesus said to him, "One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, "Not all of you are clean."

After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord--and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”

When he had gone out, Jesus said, "Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, 'Where I am going, you cannot come.' I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."


This is our wondering for the week. What is it about drama that is useful for the Christian to understand, to live into Holy Week?

Live into? That is the idea, isn’t it? There is a drama to Holy Week to be certain, but we have not been asked to put on masks and to become actors. No. We have been asked to have the mind of Christ and to love one another. This is no staged reading. This is life.

The problem is for me is that I prefer a staged reading much more than life. I would rather escape into a staged drama with masks and lights and costumes than live the life given to me by a loving God.

Trish and I watched the movie Big Night recently. It is one of my favorite movies. It's about food. I can't help myself. The movie is actually about two brothers from Italy who have moved to New England to open a restaurant. They are named Primo and Segundo. The trouble is that they are making no money at all. They are struggling to make the restaurant work. Across the street, however, is another Italian restaurant that is doing quite well.

As the story progresses, Segundo goes to the restaurant across the street to speak with the owner about borrowing some money. The owner, another Italian immigrant, refuses to loan Segundo money, but does promise to help. He says that he is friends with the great Louis Primo. If Segundo will throw a party, invite everyone they know, he will get Louis Primo to come. Segundo agrees to the bargain and goes to the bank to pull out the last of the savings for this meal.

It is an amazing meal. Secret recipes are employed. There is dancing and music and drinking and drama. Segundo is cought by his girlfriend kissing another woman. It is a romantic series fo scenes, colorful and gorgeous. This is the drama that the brothers find themseves in. This is their hope, the promise they feel they have been given.

And it is all based on a lie. The owner of the restaurant across the street never intended to invite Louis Primo. The brothers have spent their last dime on a farce...a beautiful and dramatic meal, a blessing to their friends, but all predicated on a falsehood. There is no greater drama than this in the movie. This is heartbreaking. The brothers fight. They roll around on the beach in the moonlight cursing and swearing, pummeling one another with their fists. Drama.

But then it is morning. There are no words spoken in the last 10 minutes of the film. Segundo walks into the kitchen to find the busboy asleep on the table. He stands and looks around the kitchen, picks up a few eggs and begins to make an omelette. It is a simple recipe. Eggs, salt and pepper. That is all. Without speaking, the busboy gets two plates out, finds two forks and a couple of slices of bread. Segundo portions out the servings, leaving enough for a third in the skillet.

Primo walks in. The whole scene is shot in a single frame. There are no cuts. No one speaks. Segundo sees his brother, gets up and prepares a plate. They sit beside one another. The busboy leaves. And then the brothers put their arms around one another and eat thier simple meal.

This is the movie. You can miss the entirety of the preceeding drama and still get the point of the movie. The simple silent ending, the reconciliation and love between two brothers is deeply moving ans speaks of the truth of our gospel reading tonight.

Again, the problem is for me is that I prefer a staged reading much more than life. I would rather escape into a staged drama with masks and lights and costumes than live the life given to me by a loving God. My wife and have spent more time talking about the magnificent dinner and how to recreate those recipes than we have been delving into the beauty of that last scene and the love expressed between two brothers.

It seems that Simon Peter was wrestling with similar demons. He was cought up in the drama. He could see only the costumes, his assumptions of the purposes of Christ's ministry. The redemption of Israel would be challenging and romantic!

This is the challenge of our faith. This is the challenge of the gospel. Tonight we will wash one another's feet. We will celebrate the eucharist. We have companions in prayer with the icons. But all of this, no matter how beautiful and blessed, for it is certainly blessed as Peter was blessed. Peter was given the keys to the church. He is the rock, drama and all. But we are not called to be known for the drama. No. We are called to be known for our love. This is the deeply challenging love of the cross. This is the love that goes to dark Gethsemane, that dies for our sins.

I know that it is a danger to ascribe emotions to Peter. A professor of mine would be quite frustrated with me. But I read this passage and Peter appears to be up to his old tricks. He wants to keep Jesus "in his place," high above all. And, when rebuked, he seems to want to glorify his own lowliness. Peter says, "Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!" If I am to be low, let me be the lowest of the low!

Ah, the drama of it all. Peter was quite the romantic, I think. He loved the drama of it all. He never did anything half way. And God blessed him for his faith. Thankfully Jesus keeps Peter on track. Let us pray that through the drama of Holy Week that we too will be kept on track, that we will be known for our love.