Monday, April 21, 2014

Do You See What He's Done?

On Maundy Thursday I offer individual absolution and laying on of hands. After this I also offer corporate forgiveness in the name of Christ,  not only for those who did not come forward, but for our sins as community.
This was the message later...

Do you know what he's done? What Jesus has done? Tonight we don't hear Jesus talk about Holy Communion. It's what makes the Gospel of John different. We come here on Maundy Thursday expecting to hear "do this in remembrance of me" followed by words about bread and wine. WHAT IF...instead we were given what we hear in tonight's gospel as the way of remembering that last night with the disciples? We'd be washing feet each week. You seem underwhelmed. Or maybe overwhelmed.

We'd be told to strip away all of what gives us our status, and empty ourselves of our ideas about it all. And wash each others feet. All the dirt, and the scrapes. The wounds and literally sometimes all the crap that our feet drag around. Just as true in all the places we come from as Galilee. And cleansed, loved, and forgiven. Do you know what he's done?

And it's not just about the feet. It's about the love. Servant love. That loves our unloveliness. Servant love.

Years ago our daughters were arguing over having to clean up the mess in the room they shared and at the height of the row, I heard one of them bellow, "I AM NOT YOUR SERVANT!!" Followed by stomping down the stairs to present the offending sister in hopes I would do something about it
So often, we too want to say, if we're being honest, in the middle of people and situations we encounter, "I AM NOT YOUR SERVANT!"  and do the same.

Do you know what Jesus has done?

He has not only gotten down on his hands and knees, and entered the grittiness of our humanity, he's cleaned up the mess. And he's done it for ALL, even Judas, knowing full well what is to come.

Knowing the very real fact that evil will take up residence in Judas and lead him to be someone it's hard to imagine he'd become. And it will take up residence in Peter and lead him to speak words he swore he never would.

Henri Nouwen writes that we, "People who live close together, can be great sources of sorrow for one another. When Jesus chose the 12, he chose Judas among them. He's called a traitor, literally in the Greek, 'one who hands another over to suffering.' And the truth is that there is something of the traitor in each one of us. Because each of us hands over our fellow human beings to suffering- somehow, somewhere. Mostly without intending it, or maybe even knowing it. When we are willing to confess that often we hand over those we love ( and those we are called to love) even against our own best intentions, we will be more ready to forgive those who mostly against their will, are the causes of our pain."

Because we all muddy the water.

We are called to remember- to re-live- what Jesus has done- for you, for me, for us all. To be shaped by his servanthood and to hear again the command-love each other like this.
He summons us to come and be cleansed and then draws us into a different world
of communion and community
And it can't just be about being with the ones we like.
It's also about being with the misunderstood, the betrayer and the enemy whoever we imagine them to be.

When it's all stripped away we see who we really are- all of us.

Then... we see, just how profound it is what Jesus has done

That we can't stop God's love and forgiveness. We can't stop God's commitment in Christ
To humanity at it's stinkiest and most busted places.

Do you see what Jesus has done? What Jesus does still?
Love EVERYONE like this

When Empty is Good

They go the tomb and it is empty. Empty. Things that are empty are not usually positive- the empty gastank, the empty bank account, the empty refrigerator. Empty is a place of fear, of not enough- that its not enough, or we’re not enough. Empty just by watching your faces tells me feels like doubt, or fears. They go to the tomb and hear- not here. And whether “not here” is like that voicemail message when we wanted help or that spot where someone used to be, “not here” tells of feeling alone, and of loss and sadness. Empty and not here- often means what we don’t see. The women come desperate for meaning and first encounter empty and “not here.”

But then they are rocked with something more. And encounter what happens when empty turns out to be a good thing. It’s mystifying and not fully there. They don’t get to see Jesus but they hear one thing.

But they hear he has risen and to go and tell.

And somehow it is enough

To leave the tomb and move forward instead of remaining paralyzed like the guards. No amount of words can fully capture what that glimpse and truth would mean.

They leave with that and a promise they will learn more on the way.

It’s not everything but it’s good news. And they don’t leave just with the same ration of fear and sadness, they leave with fear AND joy. Both.

Sometimes people tell us that to be a believer means that when we face the unknown or mystifying we just need to have faith.

Not so says the resurrection story.  

Having fear is not the absence of faith. Instead God sent a messenger to help us see the difference between stunned and stuck. Even when we feel like we’re moving but we’re not sure how.

Somehow some of the fear has been left behind in that tomb with the old grave clothes and yesterday.

And it’s replaced with a seed of faith and joy

That there really is new life in this story

There really is more than we see.

Because God has acted and Christ is risen and though we don’t understand all of it, we really will be given what we need on the way.

And as the story is shared, and other things are seen and heard, each who encounters will come to faith, but differently. Just like us. That somehow we see that what seems empty is good.

Recently there was another moment where empty is good- it was last Sunday when we had our first Sunday as one unified worshipping flock. And at the end of communion, the napkin the holds the bread was empty! There were enough of us here that I got the last little tiny bite. Empty! Praise God! I think that moment was one where we gathered in fear and joy and wondered if it would all be OK. And God delighted us with more to strengthen our faith together. That bread napkin was empty! And it was good.

There’s a third time that empty is good. It’s when this place is empty. When we who have been forgiven fed and filled, leave. Because the sharing of the gospel is happening out there along the way. I hope and believe and am filled with joy as I continue to see new faces here- young and old, from everywhere. And I don’t think they’re here because they suspect we have it all together. I think it’s because we are willing to share how we have encountered the good news and invite people to come and see with us on the way.

Some of you have come this day brimming with good news in your lives, and some have come hoping to hear Alleluias that maybe will start to feel true. Still others may wonder if the experience will match the greatness of expectations, or fear that you won’t pull off the perfect Easter day.

Each time we gather and share the story of Christ and share in resurrection, we share those glimpses we see on the way that strengthen us all. Those messages that allow us to look into that tomb and leave behind some of the fears.

And in place of that spot, the emptiness is filled with joy, and with faith. And that’s why I want to invite and encourage each one of you here to keep walking on the way, keep coming again to speak of things that looked empty but led to new life. Of the mysterious power and love of a God that wants to fill our empty places and replace our fears with joy.

God wants to help as us see in the way Brian McClaren has stated it-“that it is enough to faithfully and simply tell the story- of women at dawn, of men running half believing, of rolled stones and folded grave clothes. Of a supposed gardener saying the name of a crying woman, and sad walkers encountering a stranger on the road home. Of an empty tomb and overflowing hearts….(and) God comes to give us wisdom to know that the best we can do is stand in awe. Christ’s work on the cross and that empty tomb surpass all our flowers and flourishes on this day of mysterious hope beyond all words.

May we be less conscious of achieving the perfect decorations, or the finest music or wondering if our emptiness shows. May we instead be drawn more deeply into the confidence in in the Risen Christ whose presence here trumps it all.  God is a God of new life and never-ending possibility. Forgiveness and grace and love for us.

May we this day be surpassed by the simple but undeniable joy of standing together and daring to proclaim the good news- Risen Indeed! Alleluia! That death is not the last word. Violence, hate, condemnation, betrayal and failure are not the last word.

No. Each of them are left behind like rags at that tomb. And from that tomb arises Christ- Alive! For us! Forever!