Friday, April 19, 2019

Maundy Thursday

          In Douglas Adam’s quirky, off the wall, and kinda twisted Science Fiction novel, “The Hichhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” a computer named Deep Thought was asked to calculate “The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything.”
The surprising answer?
          Well, if we were to ask a similar question of John’s Gospel, if we were to ask it to calculate, “The answer to the Goal of Love, Jesus dwelling among us, and… all of this.”
The answer would be 13.
          John chapter 13 has it all, it is the whole enchilada, the buck stops here, it is, “The answer to the Goal of Love, Jesus dwelling among us, and… all of this.”
          Though Christ will cry “It is finished” from the cross, that finality is a forgone conclusion, for Jesus has already loved his to the end
—he has reached his goal, the three years of his ministry are completed at this meal,
with this washing, with this call to love.
          All of this, Jesus does in an ongoing chain of service, a web of relationship—that’s the consequence of God dwelling among us
There is Jesus kneeling and washing feet, as he first was washed.
Mary knelt, using her resurrected brother’s burial perfume,
wiped her Lord’s feet with her hair,
shamed by Judas, but hospitable still,
anointing Jesus for the task ahead
—as she did for him, so now he does for his disciples, even for Judas.
Mary’s perfume of new life, there at Christ’s table.
          What is love?
By what authority is he called Teacher and called Lord?
How is God glorified in Jesus Christ?
Through servanthood and through hospitality.
Love through concrete actions, the intimate and uncomfortable earthiness of foot washing.
Lordship, taking the part of the servant
or the humble host, then obliged to all who sup with him.
God glorified at table, kneeling and stripped for service.
          The Disciples are anointed by this washing for the task of love,
given an example so concrete and in their face even they can’t ignore it,
their Lord stripped and scrubbing their feet…
they are called to love…
no they are commanded to love
—as his disciples they are to love one another
…follow after him upon the path of love he has trod…
and yet, this is what always gets me, it is different for us, is it not?
-We are diluted where he was concentrated,
-we are many whereas he was one…
The example and us living it out,
the idea and the deed…
they differ,
 those particulars at play, will play out differently among us…
          Perhaps it is inevitable the way it played out
—perhaps it helps us see it all more clearly-even
—he does this grand gesture, has this last meaningful meal, with Judas there
… Judas who is overwhelmed by evil and seduced by silver… AND he is washed, he eats with Jesus, he is loved by Jesus.

Jesus offers them his whole self in service, and there is Peter almost purposefully misinterpreting this gratuitously gracious act of love…

There is Peter, too, who will deny his relationship with Jesus, that sting is already there… AND he is washed, he eats with Jesus, he is loved by Jesus.
Denial, betrayal, misinterpretation—AND still love.
          Truly, the 13th chapter of John is, “The answer to the Goal of Love, Jesus dwelling among us, and… all of this.”
          Now, the thing I love about “Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy” is that it doesn’t stop with 42 as a sort of joke, instead the quest for the meaning of life continues, even after it has been found…
A more powerful computer needed to be created in order to understand the question that was asked.
The kicker, is that the machine is the planet Earth itself. To understand the question that was answered with the number 42, the whole history of earth needs to unfold and be understood.
          And so too John 13 and Maundy Thursday
—I can point you to the swirling strangeness of that night,
-Continuity of relationship,
-Lordship short circuited by humble love,
-Discipleship as a process but perhaps not an end,
-Loving in the face of evil…

 but the quest for the completion of all this continues, even as it is found…
the rituals we do this night, laying on of hands to point to forgiveness, washing of feet, eating of bread and wine, stripping of the altar
—these very physical earthy things we do, they, in a different way than words, turn us to love and Christ among us, the goal and end and completeness of all things.