Tonight was Maundy Thursday at church. I think we do it right and tonight was no exception. Fr. David Waweru, chaplain and much loved in the community delivered a very thought-provoking homily about the human brokenness of the disciples, and how in spite of that Jesus welcomed them all at the table. Simon the Zealot would probably have murdered Matthew the tax-collector under other circumstances. Judas and John make another interesting contrast. Yet all were welcomed and found unity because they were close to Jesus....
Then we washed feet. Retired bishop Claude Payne and his wife were there, and it was touching when I saw him stand and walk down the aisle barefoot to have his feet washed...here is a real servant of God letting us serve him. I've always respected the guy.
The stripping of the Altar is always a heart- and gut-wrenching moment. We take the reserved sacrament out for tomorrow, and then the Altar Guild ladies take everything off the Altar, and everything that can move out of the area inside the rail, what we Episcopalians call the Sanctuary. What is left is a stark shadow of its normal life. It reminds one visually and viscerally of what Jesus suffered this night in the garden--a heart- and gut-wrenching ordeal as He struggled to take the cup the Father had given Him to drink. The depths of his despair is hardly known among us humans. And yet He did it.
Which brings me to the theological part of this post. So whose idea was the cross in the end? Was it the Romans? Yes, they invented this horrific way of executing a wrong-doer. But they didn't choose it for Jesus. Was it the Jews who did that? Yes, they wanted Jesus to die, and that was as handy as any. The more traditional Jewish stoning would not have been cruel enough in their eyes, apparently. I'm convinced they knew that God was with Jesus in a very special way and just plain didn't want it! They knowingly rejected God, just like we all do at one point or another in our lives. And yet Jesus just took it. Why? Because finally it was the Father's idea. Yes, ultimately, when we sinned God knew what it would take, and He chose the path of Jesus' destiny, in order that we might be saved.
And so, absorbing the senseless, meaningless and ultimately cruel death delivered Him, He saves those whose lives are possessed of the same senseless, meaningless suffering, whether as victims or perpetrators, and we are all a mixture of the two.
T. S. Elliot's poem, "East Coker" says it well at the end of the fourth section:
The dripping blood our only drink,
The bloody flesh our only food:
In spite of which we like to think
That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood—
Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.