Saturday, April 17, 2010

3 Easter Yr C

Myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, singing with full voice, worthy is the lamb. Singing and worship are central to Revelation; a fact often overlooked by people who see the book only as a system of end time predictions. In Revelation we sing our way into God’s new vision for our world. We worship the God who gave us life. And wherever we go, to school, to work, or shopping, everywhere in the world, the lamb is with us, leading us into a new way of life. And that new way of life is forgiveness and reconciliation and is brought about by the power of vulnerable love to bring healing.

Chapters two and three are not in our lectionary to read, they are John’s vision for the seven churches that are in Asia. They show us that John’s Revelation is not a private ecstasy, just as the Gospel is not for private consumption. The Good News is personal, but it is never merely individual. The Good News is always revealed in a family, a tribe, a nation, a church. The gospel pulls us into community. Sin fragments us, separates us, and sentences us to solitary confinement. At the completion of each of John’s visions for the seven churches, are the words, Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.

And that brings us to Revelation four and five, these chapters that point us to worship. In chapter four we hear about the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and inside. Day and night without ceasing they sing, Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God the Almighty, who was and is and is to come. And continuing, You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created. Words you may be familiar with from hearing each Sunday worship service in our Eucharistic Prayer. Chapters four and five are all about worshipping the God who sits on the throne and the Lamb.

Christians worship with a conviction that they are in the presence of God. Worship is an act of attention to the living God who rules, speaks and reveals, creates and redeems, orders and blesses. According to Eugene Peterson, author of Reversed Thunder, The Revelation of John and the Praying Imagination, outsiders, observing these acts of worship, see nothing like that. They see a few people singing unpopular songs, sometimes off-key, someone reading from an old book and making remarks that may or may not interest the listeners, and then eating and drinking small portions of bread and wine that are supposed to give nourishment to their eternal souls in the same way that beef and potatoes sustain their mortal flesh. The question Peterson asks is, who is right? Is worship an actual meeting called to order at God’s initiative in which persons of faith are blessed by his presence and respond to his salvation? Or is it a pathetic and sometimes desperate charade in which people attempt to get God to pay attention to them and do something for them? Jesus stands at the door and knocks. What happens when we open the door? Peterson goes on to write, In worship God gathers God’s people to himself as center. Worship is a meeting at the center so that our lives are centered in God and not lived eccentrically. We worship so that we live in response to and from this center, the living God. Failure to worship consigns us to a life of spasms and jerks, at the mercy of every advertisement, every seduction, every siren. Without worship we live manipulated and manipulating lives.

Revelation calls us to worship God, and to respond to God’s presence. Many have legitimately asked the question, why go to church? Why worship God? Some people will say, I believe in God, I’m just not religious, or I’m spiritual, I just don’t believe in organized religion, or, I worship alone, by myself, out in nature. But I agree with Peterson, worship is a meeting called to order at God’s initiative and we are all blessed by God’s presence and respond to God’s salvation. Revelation shows us the way. And here’s a spoiler alert, near the end of the story, in Revelation 21, we hear that the home of God is among mortals, God will dwell with us, we will be God’s people, and God will wipe every tear from our eyes, death will be no more, and the one who was seated on the throne says, see, I am making all things new. This is why I find Revelation so exciting. God is doing these things now. Not at some future date, God is making all things new now, that is what happens in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. This is why we are Easter people, because God is making all things new, God is making you and I new, God is renewing the face of the earth. And the fulfillment that God promises is that God dwells with us. I believe this is what heaven is, God dwelling with us.

This exciting and Good News calls us to worship, calls us to be blessed by God’s presence and to respond to God. It also means that we have agency in the new creation. We have the power to be co-creators with God and with Jesus in this new creation; we have the power to do something significant as citizens of God’s kingdom. Our Presiding Bishop has been quoted, “We claim a faith that has a vision of what civilization ought to look like, called the reign of God, or the kingdom of God. When current reality is dramatically divergent from that vision, most of us feel it's our responsibility to advocate for a different vision.” What is our vision of this kingdom on earth? What is it that our worship creates in us, in our church, in our world?

Our worship forms a vision of hospitality. We recognize the risen Christ in our midst by the offer of “come and eat,” we recognize our true selves in the meal Christ offers. In Jesus’ life, all were welcome, even if that wasn’t so true in the culture in which he lived. At Jesus’ table, all were welcome. The impetuous Peter, naked in the boat who dressed before he jumped into the water, who denied Jesus three times before the cock crowed, and who repeated three times “Yes Lord, you know that I love you.” Thomas, not the doubter, but the one who needs to ask the questions. John, who always refers to himself as the one Jesus loved best. Matthew, the tax collector. Judas, the betrayer. Mary, who loved Jesus enough to sit at his feet and be still, Martha, who loved Jesus so much she would leave her kitchen to come and be with him. Zaccheus, the one who had to climb the tree to see Jesus, who was also a tax collector. Saul the persecutor, who became Paul, the bold and courageous. All whose lives, whose relationships, were broken, all who were welcome to come and eat. All who recognized Jesus and were loved, and fed, and who were restored to wholeness.

We are invited to come and eat. In the midst of the mess of this world, in the midst of tragedy we are called to the hope of transformation. We are invited to the meal, and no one is left behind or left out. We are invited to worship God who is the center of our lives, personally and collectively. We are invited to forget about ourselves, our problems, our needs, and are to be concerned about the other. We are invited to feed each other. And in the feeding, we become who we are created to be.

The vision of the new kingdom, the kingdom that we are active in creating is a vision of hospitality. At God’s table, all have enough to eat. All are healed of brokenness, of alienation, of separation. Everyone sits down at the picnic table together to feast on fish and bread. The lives that are changed by this meal are our lives. We are invited to eat, and in the eating God seeps into our very being. We offer our brokenness, we offer our true selves, and we are accepted and loved and empowered. Jesus’ hospitality empowers us to respond in worship in feeding others as we have been fed. We are empowered to offer dignity where there is none.

And this vision of hospitality is about the now and the not yet. The charcoal is laid, and we are invited to eat. Now, this very moment. It is also a vision of what will be. Revelation calls us to wake up and change, Revelation calls us to transformation, Revelation calls us to the supper of the Lamb. The vision in Revelation is invitation to the supper it is of new and transformed life and it is about being in the world as an empowered and nourished agent of change.

Alleluia, The Lord is risen: Come let us adore him. Alleluia!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

2 Easter Yr C

For the Sundays after Easter we have an odd sort of thing happening with our readings. We will hear semi-continuous passages from Acts, from Revelation, and from John. It is an opportunity to hear quite a bit from each of these stories. I’m going to spend some time talking about Revelation for the next few weeks, as well as some from John.

I think many of us shy away from Revelation, assuming it is just too hard to understand or too scary maybe. Currently, Revelation is my favorite book of the Bible; it is filled with Good News for us today. So today I’ll begin with a little background.

First of all, it is the Book of Revelation, not Revelations. Jesus is the main character in Revelation. The book’s opening line, as we heard read this morning, tells us that it is an “apocalypse of Jesus Christ.” Revelation’s primary purpose is to tell us the story of Jesus, not to predict end-time events. Let me just repeat that. Revelation’s primary purpose is to tell us the story of Jesus, not to predict end-time events. Revelation and its synonym apocalypse, mean unveiling. Apocalypses pull back a curtain to unveil or reveal some deep truth about the world. When Revelation was written, apocalypse was a popular type of literature for Jews and Christians. Apocalypses were easy for ancient readers to understand because people were familiar with the structure and imagery, just as we are familiar with science fiction and horror movies today. People in the ancient world were drawn to the drama and mystery of apocalypses.

One typical element of Revelation and many other ancient apocalypses is the visionary journey. This is what we have before us. Revelation’s talking altar, multi-headed beasts, woman-cities and other fantastic creatures are not at all unusual for an apocalyptic journey. And in a typical apocalypse the traveling visionary returns from the journey with an urgent message for us about what he or she has seen, usually a call for repentance and faithfulness, perhaps also a political critique. Other examples of apocalyptic literature are contained in the Dead Sea Scrolls, and also the biblical book of Daniel.

Even Charles Dickens wrote about an apocalyptic journey in A Christmas Carol. As we all know, A Christmas Carol is a morality play in which the miserly Scrooge is taken on a visionary tour of his life. A hair-raising visit from the ghost of his dead business partner gives Scrooge the first warning of what his future may hold if he does not change his life. Subsequent visitations by three spirits show Scrooge his painful past and what his painful future may look like. He also sees a scene that inspires hope for him, the warmth and the love of the Cratchit house. These contrasting visions prove to be a wake-up call for Scrooge. Scrooge is changed by these visions in this story. In the terrifying moment when he sees a vision of his own grave, Scrooge repents of his ways, asks for forgiveness, and is transformed into a caring and doting uncle, employer, and friend. Scrooge commits to walking a different path. We may even say that our encounter with A Christmas Carol, in some way helps to transform us as well.

The Book of Revelation is like that. Jesus is the main character, and we may say that the story is to call us as individuals, and as the community of faith, to repentance and faithfulness. John, the author of Revelation, is taken on a series of visionary journeys on behalf of his seven churches. Transported out into the future, he is shown contrasting visions of two cities. He sees the evil whore called Babylon, whose merchants and kings lament the loss of all their wealth. He hears that Babylon sits on seven hills, identifying Rome, and he hears the voice of an angel calling Christians to reject Rome and all that it represents. Finally John sees an alternative city, God’s wonderful paradise like world, descending from heaven like a bride, inviting us in. This is the citizenship Christians are to hope for. The urgent message is that Christians must be faithful in worshiping God and renounce Babylon which is Rome, in order to participate in God’s holy city. Revelation’s primary purpose is life-changing; it does not predict literal events. The book’s goal is to exhort us to faithfulness to God by means of a new vision.

That brings us back to the beginning of Revelation, and our main character who is Jesus, the firstborn of the dead and the ruler of the kings of the earth. So what does that mean? We have just been through the wilderness with Jesus, we have been to the cross, and we have witnessed the resurrection. Jesus, the firstborn of the dead is indeed about what happens in resurrection. We believe that the work God does in Jesus on the cross and in the resurrection is to inaugurate the new kingdom, and we will hear all about the new kingdom in this Book of Revelation. The Easter reality is that death does not have the final word. The Word of God has the final word, who is Jesus. And the new kingdom, the new creation, has begun. You and I are new creations because Jesus is the firstborn of the dead; the church is a new creation because Jesus is the firstborn of the dead. We are a body, a mystical, incarnate, flesh and blood body because Jesus is the firstborn of the dead.

Scrooge commits to walking a different path as a result of his visionary journey. You and I have that opportunity as well as we hear Revelation, and as we hear this story of Jesus who visits his friends after the resurrection in John’s gospel. What difference does all this make for us today? It makes all the difference. All the readings we have heard put some flesh on what it means to be citizens of this new kingdom, to walk this path of discipleship. It is also important to remember that this isn’t about just you or me. This is about God’s renewal of our entire world, our community, our families. As we read further in Revelation we’ll see that more clearly, the new kingdom, the new earth, is about God dwelling with us right here, recreating this fragile earth, our island home.

The story of Thomas in John’s gospel points us to the different path we disciples of Christ are to take. We have heard so much about the story of Thomas being a story of doubt, but maybe that’s not it at all. Maybe, what John is doing is addressing us, the readers, who do not have the opportunity of direct sight that Thomas has, to engender belief in us that will result in the sort of transformation that leads us to the path of generosity and forgiveness, citizenship in the new kingdom.

Citizenship in the new kingdom that Revelation describes calls us to forgiveness and to reconciliation; as individuals, as a community of faith, and yes, as country. Citizenship in the new kingdom calls us to show the world a way of that is very different than what we have been experiencing lately. Citizenship in the new kingdom calls us to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. Citizenship in the new kingdom shows us that the respect we owe to God should be reflected in the honor and respect we show to each other in our common humanity, particularly in how we speak to each other. And citizenship in the new kingdom calls us to recognize in humility that we are limited and that there may very well be a diversity of rightness. We have been made new creations in the death and resurrection of Jesus; we have been born again as citizens of the new kingdom that God has begun in Jesus. The time is now for us to live the full measure of our citizenship.

Alleluia, The Lord is risen indeed: Come, let us adore him. Alleluia!

The work on Revelation is from The Rapture Exposed, by Barbara Rossing. The work on John is from Conversations with Scripture: The Gospel of John, by Cynthia Briggs Kittredge.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


I have seen the Lord! Mary says to the other disciples and friends. I have seen the Lord! After a night of death and destruction, of sadness and fear, of waiting and crying, Mary delivers this good news. Alleluia. Christ is risen! is the acclamation we shout.

We have walked with Jesus to the cross. We have watched and waited with one another. We have heard of God’s abundant love and grace, we have heard the story of the prodigal, we have seen Jesus as the mother hen who puts herself in between her chicks and the fox. We have read about the signs and wonders that point us to Jesus, the Son of God. We have witnessed violence and destruction, pain and sadness. And our journey takes us to this place of hope, this resurrection.

Today, this Easter day, is the inauguration and fulfillment of God’s amazing and abundant love for God’s creation. God has done something absolutely new and amazing, God has freed creation from the bondage of sin and death, God has raised what was dead, God has brought creation back from isolation and sinfulness, God has filled humanity with grace and love.

Jesus begins this new creation that God has promised for each of us. If we but look, we can see the evidence all around us. But like Mary, we sometimes cannot see. Mary saw Jesus standing there before her, but did not know it was Jesus. Remember the story about the apple tree we heard at the beginning of Lent, it is a story of new creation, it is a story of the God who gives second changes, it is a story that helps us see where Jesus is. Look for Jesus among us. Look for Jesus in yourselves. God has already begun the transforming work among us. We are Easter people.

The evidence for resurrection is astounding. Where there is death and destruction, where it seems there cannot possibly be new life, new life surprises us. It usually does not come as we expect. Sometimes God does need to knock us upside the head so that we open our eyes to the new life that erupts around us. And always we need to die, we need to die to greed, to selfishness, to control, we need to die to that which is killing us, in order to make room for the absolutely new thing that God has in store for us.

One of my favorite stories is a little book called Hope for the Flowers. It’s about two caterpillars who wish to find the new life that they can’t see but that they can feel coursing through their bodies. They can’t see it because it takes dying first. But once one of them weaves her cocoon and becomes a beautiful butterfly, her friend also is able to let go of the struggle of getting ahead, getting to the top, getting more, and dying to all that to become the beautiful butterfly he was created to be.

The intensity of Holy Week helps us to shed our skin, to die to getting ahead, getting to the top, getting more. We are able to turn around, set ourselves for resurrection, and for the reality of the death that must precede new life. This is the journey on which we accompany Jesus, and Jesus accompanies us.

Jesus has done the transforming work with his love, on the cross, and in the resurrection. We need to live as Easter people. We need to see each other with transformed eyes. We need to look at one another with the reality that God has already done the work, and each of us is a new creation. God has lavished extraordinary love and grace on us, on creation. Each of us has abundant value and worth because we are made in God’ image. Each one of us shows forth God in our midst. Treat each other with extraordinary respect because we are filled with God’s extraordinary love. Treat yourself with extraordinary respect because we are filled with God’s extra extraordinary love.

Something wonderful has happened. God has graciously interrupted our world. God has come into our lives, to call us back into relationship. God has made it possible for us to be transformed, to live in freedom, to be liberated from sin and death. God has made new what once was dead.

To walk in newness of life is all full of verb, of action, of creativity; to create life, to become more than just me, or just you, but to become a body.
This is where grace happens. The pain of loss is surpassed by the bliss of love. The suffering of spirit or body is surpassed by the happiness found in relationship; the relationship God calls us into, and the relationship of family, friends, and community. The alienation and isolation of different-ness, is surpassed by the joyfulness of being marvelously made in God’s image.

God’s abundant love and grace are available to you. New life in Christ is the something wonderful that Easter is all about.

Alleluia. The Lord is risen indeed: Come let us adore him. Alleluia.

Easter Vigil and Baptism

Something wonderful has happened. God has graciously interrupted our world. God has come into our lives, to call us back into relationship. God has made it possible for us to be transformed, to live in freedom, to be liberated from sin and death. God has made new what once was dead. Alleluia, Christ is Risen! Is the acclamation we shout to the world.

This is the work that Jesus does. Because God gave up all power to come and live as the powerless, we, you and I, are made new. Because God became one of us, to live, suffer, die, we have new life, we can live a the life we have been created to live.

Tonight, at this Great Vigil, this amazing celebration of resurrection, we remember who we are, and whose we are. We rehearsed the story of God’s activity in the life of God’s people. We remembered creation and blessing, we remembered turning away from God, we remembered being called back to God, we remembered being made a new people, and we remember restoration and resurrection. We give God praise and thanksgiving that we are new, we are transformed, we are free. And we are re-membered, through the gift of the bread and the wine, we are one body, one spirit in Christ.

Tonight we have baptized Riley, and we have recommitted ourselves to living a transformed life. Tonight we have promised again to continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in the prayers. We promised to persevere in resisting evil, and whenever we fall into sin to repent and return to the Lord. We promised to proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ. We promised to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves. And, we promised to strive for justice and peace among all people, respecting the dignity of every human being. That is a lot to promise in one night. But just think about what Jesus accomplished for us in one night.

Because of what Jesus accomplished for us, we are called to live a transformed life, a life that is in among this world, but is no longer slave to sin, but free to be in relationship with God. There is some instruction in our reading from Romans. There we hear, “therefore we have been buried with Jesus by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” This is an ethical admonition. To walk in newness of life. And Romans goes on to say, “We know our old self was crucified with Jesus so the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved.

Lent shows us that Jesus joins us in our suffering and pain, and in our alienation and isolation, and that is what being baptized into Jesus’ death and resurrection is. Jesus does not take that away, Jesus joins us in the midst of all of our pain and joy.

Transformation, new life, does not mean the absence of suffering and pain, or the disappearance of being alienated or isolated. Transformation and new life made possible by God living in our midst is about just that, living in this world, with all of its challenges, its difficulties, its injustice, and being able to respond to it creatively.

To walk in newness of life is all full of verb, of action, of creativity. To create life, to become more than just me, or just you, to become a body. This is where grace happens. The pain of loss is surpassed by the bliss of love. The suffering of spirit or body is surpassed by the happiness found in relationship; the relationship God calls us into, and the relationship of family, friends, and community. The alienation and isolation of different-ness, is surpassed by the joyfulness of being marvelously made in God’s image.

New life in Christ is the something wonderful that Easter is all about.

Alleluia. The Lord is risen indeed: Come let us adore him. Alleluia.

Good Friday

On this night we remember. We enter into the story of the passion. We hear the story in the voices of those who were with Jesus that terrible night. We do so not to be macabre, not to glorify Jesus’ death or any other death, we do it so that we may be healed, we may be reconciled, that we may have the absolutely new and abundant life that God offers in the life, suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

The people who populate this story, and the events of this passion, the betrayal, the lies, the apathy, the bad luck, allow each of us to enter the story. You and I are these people, we are people who have betrayed and been betrayed, we are people who have lied and who have been lied to, we are people who have shown apathy, and we are people who experience just darn bad luck. We are people who have experienced sadness and pain, we are people who feel isolated and alienated at times. We are human beings who live in the muck and mess of this life. What we do together this evening, and the foot washing and holy communion of last evening, even the joyous resurrection we will celebrate together tomorrow evening, doesn’t take away the reality of the muck and mess in which we live. We carry these burdens, they are part of who we are.

So what does happen when we walk the way of the cross with Jesus, when we enter into the events of this holy week and this holy day? Why do we all show up all these evenings to walk the way of the cross with Jesus? I surely hope transformation happens. I surely hope we are changed by our encounter with the people on the way, the people in the stories, and by the amazing love that God has for us that we know because God is willing to be one of us. Because only a God who is willing to be one of us, who has such faith in us, is a God in which I can place my love, my loyalty, my attention.

You see, what Jesus does at this moment is to let evil wreak its fury upon him; he negates its power and takes it out of the world with him. Jesus takes on all of our betrayal, all of our lies, our apathy, all of our pain, sadness, loneliness and isolation, and Jesus defeats it, not by resisting it with the sort of violence that was visited upon him, but by absorbing it and removing it through the power of love. On the cross, Jesus ultimately collects all of the violence of this world, takes it and holds it so that the stream of hate and hurt will flow no farther. Jesus takes in all of our pain and our suffering, all of our betrayal and lies; all of our isolation and sadness, and Jesus contains it. Jesus’ life and death says to our world, it all stops here. It all stops with me.

Earlier in Lent, I spoke about the work that Jesus did like the mother hen, who puts herself in between the powers and principalities, and the chicks, or all of humanity. Remember then that I said that the problem is that the world counts death as failure. The words we use to describe disease and death invoke battles that are won and lost. We see in obituaries things like she lost her battle with cancer. This idea even sometimes directs our health care decisions. We are afraid that if we don’t wage a courageous battle, somehow we are not good enough. And Jesus’ dying on the cross looks to the world like failure. Jesus suffered, Jesus died. But Jesus did not fail. Jesus redefined death and life. Death does not have the final word; death does not have the victory. The Word of God has the final word.

What Jesus did on the cross was to make it possible for us to have new life, a life that our words cannot begin to describe, a life that our minds cannot begin to imagine. What Jesus did and does is to make it possible for us to be transformed.

Winning and losing have no meaning in Jesus’ Kingdom; love and forgiveness are gifts. Success and failure have no meaning in Jesus’ Kingdom; sharing and walking together are gifts. Isolation and alienation have no meaning in Jesus’ Kingdom; relationship and connection are gifts.

Jesus does not take away pain and sorrow and isolation. The reality that you and I know, is that to be human is to feel, to feel pain, to feel joy, to feel isolation, to feel intimacy. And, being human means being born to die, and only a God who is willing to share that can actually help us face our own mortality and that of those we love.

Death is real and grief hurts and sometimes we just have to sit in the silence and cry and wait. That is what this Good Friday is about. We have some experience in this. It is very like when we sit with our loved ones in hospital, as the result of illness or accident, waiting, quite unsure of what to do or what to think, silence and sadness and tears, are our only activity.

Too many Christians want to go straight from the garden of Gethsemane to the garden of the empty tomb without going by way of the hill of crucifixion and the stone-cold body. It seems too painful to sit in silence, waiting and grieving. And yet nothing of the reality of Christ’s victory over evil on the cross, or our faith in the resurrection to come soon, must be allowed to shield us from the awful brute fact that Jesus died.

And yet, as we sit in the silence to cry and to wait, we sit with this company. The disciples sat together in the silence to cry and to wait. Our only comfort right now resides with one another, with these relationships to each other and to God. Hold one another, grieve with one another, and remember, give one another the gift of hope. The cross does become the place where transformation is possible.

The Lord is full of compassion and mercy: Come let us adore him. Amen

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Maundy Thursday

I consider the liturgy of Maundy Thursday a gift. It is a gift of time, and a gift of remembrance. In our hurry up and get the next thing done world, when was the last time you put aside some time to wash someone’s feet? In the “skip over the hard stuff because it might hurt world,” stopping to remember the incredible sadness of these events seems foolish. Our liturgy invites us into being present, being present to one another as we bare our feet to have them washed, and as we bare our souls to have them cleansed and fed. Stop, and listen. Stop, and serve. Stop, and smell. Stop, and eat.

Jesus’ foot washing is a radical activity. Foot washing was a common practice when guests arrived for a meal, it was an action usually performed by slaves or low-status servants. It was an onerous and demeaning task because it meant washing off human and animal waste. No matter how well a person bathed, sandals and feet inevitably became smelly and dirty in the process of walking to a meal at another’s house. And then, particularly here in John, to wash another’s feet is to wash away their actions, foot washing is a parting gesture performed by Jesus and urged upon the disciples, they and we must forgive one another as Jesus first forgives, they and we must love one another as Jesus first loves. Peter completely misunderstands that Jesus is talking about discipleship.

The gospel from John tonight concludes with the words, 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. Jesus speaks of discipleship in this distinctive way in John, having love for one another. We have heard the stories of the Old Testament all through Lent, the great stories of promise and covenant. What is radically different about this new covenant, this new commandment in the gospel of John, is this aspect of discipleship, love one another.

Jesus, teacher, rabbi, friend, knows that the end is near. In this part of John’s gospel we have event after event of Jesus trying to impart all of his teaching to the disciples, story after story that shows Jesus’ friends what discipleship looks like. Discipleship looks like love and forgiveness, and in the context of 1st century Mediterranean culture, love and forgiveness are radical. It is honor and power that has been valued, Jesus shows something else entirely.

It is a good and right thing to do for us to wash one another’s feet, but it cannot be just symbolic action. It needs to be sacramental, it needs to be an outward sign of an inward reality, it needs to be the way we live our lives in the church and in the world. The hard part about love and forgiveness, the hard thing about discipleship, is that the world we live in does not necessarily reward love and forgiveness. Just look at what happened to Jesus.

The other piece of what we do this night is to celebrate the last, last supper. This meal that Jesus shared with his disciples, the meal in which he said, do this, for the remembrance of me. Everyone eats, no one goes hungry. When we break bread together, we live in the reality of the radical nature of love and forgiveness. We live in the reality of the radical nature of coming together not for solace only, but also for strength, not for pardon only, but for renewal. The grace that is present in this meal heals us, makes us whole, so that we may go out and show forth God’s love and forgiveness, God’s reconciliation. Something amazing happens, risen lord, be known to us in the breaking of the bread.

Foot washing and Holy Communion, two radical ideas. Washing dirty feet, and eating together with people we may or may not like, people we may or may not agree with. These activities are a sign to the world that something is different; the ways of the world are not the ways of those who follow Christ.

On this night we hear Jesus’ words, do this in remembrance of me. Every time we remember, we bring forward to the present a reality that was lived in the past. Bringing that reality forward makes it real again. This observance of foot washing and Holy Communion brings the reality of what Jesus did to our present, so that the power of who Jesus is is made real. Risen lord, be known to us in the breaking of the bread. We not only remember, but we are re-membered, we are put back together, we are made whole.

Stop, and listen. Stop, and serve. Stop, and smell. Stop, and eat.

The Lord is full of compassion and mercy: Come let us adore him.

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost Yr A Proper 9 July 5 2020

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