Preached at the Joint Service with Immanuel Lutheran Church and St Elias Christian Church.
Exodus 12:1-14 * Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19 * 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 * John 13:1-17, 31b-35
[This was the text I took into the pulpit with me, but I did not really follow it after the second paragraph. I think I ended up focusing more on the connection between Jesus's washing of the feet as an example of divine love and the love commanded by Jesus.]
On this day of the command, Maundy from latin Maundatumfor command, we gather and begin the worship of the Three great days. We are here to celebrate the center of our faith. Tonight we hear two commands Do this in rememberance of me, a meal and a holy day reinterpreted, passover, and Love one another. Tonight we see love allegorically shown in the act of a servant or slave washing feet. Tonight We will have a chance to partake in this symbol of divine love in human flesh as you are invited to come forward or to the back to have your feet washed and/or to wash others feet. I and Pastor rimon begin by washing your feet, symbolizing that our ministry leadership greatness in the Kingdom of God and the Church is in service, but such act is for all not just for clergy. But before we get there I want to reflect on these three days: on Love, the Cross, and our Passover from death to Life.
This time is full of the symbolic, of the sacramental, the making present of realities central to our faith that we may be transformed renewed, born again, converted, forgiven, made new. We have journeyed trough a time of fasting and intensified discipline, of a spiritual journey through the desert. Awaiting this celebration of our deliverance from bondage. From this bondage were are called to love and the remembrance of that love shown in human being.
Love one another as I have loved you. Love as Christ has loved? Do we do this do we even know how? I’d like to believe that to some extent our three congregations joining together on these holy days of the church year means that in some sense we are doing so in some small way, overcoming the barriers that can exist, and come between us both as human beings and followers of Christ. Love as Christ loved. Do we Love as Christ loved, as God Loves? This is the command, this is what we remember tonight and these three days, this is what we come in the presence of, this astounding Love.
We are commanded to Love, but not as we naturally love. Think of this the creator of the universe of all the inumerable stars the far flung galexeys, not just earth the sun and this solar system,the one with no beginning and no end, become united with the material world and humand beings whom this one created. But it does not end there, this one doesn't only become a human person and eventually undergoe death on a cross, but lives the life of a mostly obscure poor skiled worker in a backwater town of an empire, and facing his immenent death does a job no one would do but slaves and lowly servants. I think we sometimes view this as Jesus being our waiter, no it is perhaps more like Jesus suddenly appearing at your restaurant as the bus boy to clear your dishes or replenish that glass of water. In the least. But not just that what this means what it means to wash the feet of the disciples, is that Jesus is saying that the God of the universe acts towards humanity as the those who invisibly serve the needs of others and who are ignored and invisible because of that service, and we are to emulate this act of service.
Yet We fail at all this. Even with Jesus' example we fail. I think it is important to admit this. This is why we seek to enter into these realities again and again, through ritual and sacrament. We need to come here again and again to remember the gap, and to seek to be transfigured and transformed again and again, to face the ugliness of the human condition and through passing through and over to face the overwhelming beauty of the divine world opened up to us. As we Passover it is key to remember the way in which it has been opened the way heaven and earth are rejoined, the way sin and evil are eradicated from creation. The way God chose to bridge the gap is itself the difference between the world and Heaven.
There's a great deal to hold together as we recall these saving acts. We can perhaps get stuck on one particular idea of Jesus's death that it asuaged God's wrath, through Christ becoming the sole object of that wrath. The cross can seem like the last thing that could show us Love, better to see it as an accident to move quickly past, to life and Resurrection. Or to simply see in it some way God indentifies with our suffering. Yet, the power of the Resurrection depends on the power of the Cross, what allows the us to Passover with Christ from death to life is, Jesus Christ’s death.
But it is perhaps helpful to hear the orthodox liturgy here: christ beat down death by death. sin and death are bound up togehter, and they are behind all oppression, failure, injustice. And like in many situations of oppression the oppressed can become complicit in their oppression, such that the whole system binds all to the oppresive situation, such that no one or practically no one in the system is able to resist the oppression, oppressor and oppressed.
This may not be because God’s wrath needs to be assuaged but it is here that we see God’s love, that God doesn’t simply undergo suffering, but undergoes for us as well as with us. God with us is accompanied with it being for us. God had to come and do for us what we could not do for ourselves, God becomes the slave of all.
God comes and lives and suffers under this regime of sin and death, and the oppressive systmes within it, and dies at their hands, at our hands. We see confront here both the result of our most private hatreds, and intolerances, the small resentments we cherish, as well as the large hatreds we know we should not. We also confront in these three days our liberation the liberation of all from these oppressions, through Christs death upon a cross and resurection from the dead that says our failures, the oppression, our small hidden sins, Sin and death do not have the final word but God does!