Thursday, April 05, 2012

Enter the Mystery: A sermon on Maundy Thursday for the Three Days

Over the next three days we are in the midst of the great Mysteries of our faith.  Mystery not in the sense of something to find out like a detective using deductive logic, Nor even mystery as something that can’t be understood intellectually, but mystery in the sense of something mystical, something that needs our contemplation, something that in our contemplation of it transforms us and the world.  Or in other words we here in this three day liturgy come face to face with our salvation.  We should be prepared to not be the same, we should prepare to die and rise again, to new life.
What are these mysteries: Tonight we recall the mystery of the Eucharist. On the night before he was betrayed,  Jesus takes the Passover meal and transforms it.  We celebrate the Passover, and like the Hebrews, being freed from Egypt we eat the lamb and in bread and wine.  We also recall the mystery of transformation, as we pass through darkness; we come to touch something of how the disciples were thrown into confusion on that night.  God offer’s himself in Jesus Christ to us and the world by becoming human and ultimately undergoing suffering and death on the Cross; we who are Christ’s have the heavenly food that is Christ himself, we are never far from that night, the joy, the confusion and the life of Christ.  Freedom can be scary, freedom can mean dying to a way of life that is familiar and safe.
Thus, we will sit and contemplate the mystery of the cross and the suffering of Christ, the passion.  In this we are not only there with the woman and apostle at the Cross distraught and Christ death, but we celebrate that through the Cross and Christ’s suffering God enters into and transforms suffering.  Because of this mystery we freed from Sin and Death.  Here there is a bit of a puzzle, we face something odd, for it is not only that there was a dark time, but God overcame it, Rather God in Jesus Christ enters death, actually dies.  And not only dies, but dies as a criminal, a criminal, a terrorist, King of the Jews, that is someone who threatened the imperial rule over Palestine.  God in Jesus Christ becomes the outcast. On the Cross God in Jesus Christ takes upon himself all the oppression, the suffering, injustice and sin of the World.  But even as we contemplate this mystery we are not left with death, for The Cross has meaning only if Jesus was raised from the dead.  One man 2000 years ago in a backwater of the Roman Empire being crucified, makes no difference; many other Jews of Jesus’ age were so crucified.  The cross becomes meaning full in that God acted; God chose the weak and despised things of this world as the means of our transformation and salvation.  The Resurrection oddly enough tells us that God in Jesus Christ actually suffered, and retains the marks of his suffering. God doesn’t come ultimately with Shock and Awe (as he did in Egypt) bringing death, but undergoes death to free from death.  And so an implement of execution and torture becomes an object of beauty and contemplation, and we honor the Cross, we bow to what God has done in that one moment, for in the Cross there is life already even in death.
And then we come to our Passover in the Easter vigil, as we and Christ Passover from death to life, to True life, Resurrected life.  Yet in Resurrection we never leave the Cross or the works of God throughout history that Jesus fulfilled on the Cross. The Resurrection only has meaning in the cross and death of Jesus.  The resurrection shows us that the way of the cross is the path to transformation, the dying does lead to life, that God can transform our suffering.  God has indeed begun the transformation of the world.  In the Easter Vigil we know that though it may often look like evil and death and injustice still reign, God is transforming the whole cosmos, and we who have come to believe in the Cross and Christ Jesus Raised from the dead participate in that transformation. In our contemplation of Christ passing from death into life, we find our own path as we die to ourselves and take up our cross that we may continually find Resurrection.  There is then a responsibility in all this contemplation, for we become the locus of God’s saving transforming work in this world.  We are the ones who know the mystery and have experienced it and we are to be open to God’s ongoing transforming work in the world.  The world should be different because we who contemplate and celebrate these mysteries also live out these mysteries in the world in our daily lives by the power of the Spirit.  We who have gone through the waters of baptism and died and been raised to life in the waters of Baptism, are to live into this new life, growing ever more into the age that is to come.
Yet this too is a mystery for we don’t always live this way, we still struggle with these mysteries, we still need to come back to this moment when God beat down death and injustice by suffering injustice and death.
Ultimately this mystery is one of Love, a costly love, a love we are called to participate in a love we are to share with each other and the world.  This Love is shown in service, in washing of the feet.  Washing the feet is a symbol of this way of the cross and of practicing resurrection.  In this act of having our feet washed and washing each other’s feet we come to know in our bodies the love of God, for ourselves and for all.  We symbolically show God’s love to each other in an act that isn’t comfortable, and which is awkward.  Peter found it uncomfortable and awkward.  We do this that we may learn what it means to be like Christ in the world.  In foot washing we enter into the mystery of the Three Days, so that we may carry this mystery with us into the world in service to Christ and the world.  We let our feet be washed and wash other’s feet, so that we may remember in our bodies the Love of God and the way of the Cross.  The servant is not greater than the master; we take up towel with Christ, and walk to Calvary and are raised again to new life.  So, come and symbolically enter into the way of God’s transformation, and learn to be a servant like Christ in your body. Come and feel the love of God in your body.