Monday, April 19, 2010

Of Strangers and Friends

Easter 2, April 11, 2010, St. Christopher's Episcopal Church, Killeen, Rev. Paul Moore

Every one of us has had the situation occur where someone we thought we knew suddenly looks very strange to us. Kids grow up when we aren't looking, friendships mature into something they were not. Relationships shift and change, and sometimes, tragically, die or go sour. Or suddenly something about someone comes to light, and it shifts everything you knew about that person.

This is what happens to the Disciples in today's Gospel lesson. They knew Jesus was a great preacher and teacher, they knew He was a miracle-worker and a wonderful man. They might even remember Peter's words about Him being the Christ, the Son of God, but they didn't exactly know what that meant, I'm sure. And they had also seen Him die, they had wrapped his dead body in spiced linens, and they had laid His body in Joseph of Arimathea's new tomb. They knew what death was. Or did they? Now suddenly, He is not dead. He's got the marks of His death, but He is not dead. He's not a ghost, but He just appeared among them. Suddenly "Son of God" begins to take on new meanings that they had never even conceived of.

And this new, this resurrected Jesus invites them into something just as amazing and wonderful. "The Holy Spirit is now with you, and by my command you have the power to remit sins." If the product of sin is alienation, then remitting sin must reconcile. Redemption is intimately tied up with relationships, there's just no two ways about it. Remitting sins will shift relationships.

Now the power to remit them implies the opposite power, the power to retain them. You can cling to them, let them ruin relationships, let them destroy lives, let them alienate people who should be loving and serving one another, but you can also remit them, you can release people of the things that tie them down, you can free up relationships to heal and restore, you can renew lives and free them from what so drags them down, and you can give people the power and the energy to love and serve one another. It's just as big a miracle as Him suddenly standing among them.

Stop and think about it for a minute. Here is Jesus, suddenly become the stranger, inviting them into relationship on a strange and wonderful level, a level at which they have that great work of inviting the stranger into relationship with them and with God. Easter is God reaching out to us who have become strangers to Him, and then giving us the privilege of inviting other strangers into relationship with ourselves and with Him.

So who is the stranger now? There are those who have never been anything but strangers. You have never or barely met them, you know precious little about them. Some of them worship here every Sunday; some of them are new here each Sunday. Some of them are coworkers or neighbors. Some of them sit beside you in the airplane or in the public library. Some of them speak a language you don't know, and live a culture you don't understand. They have stories to tell. The stories are strangely like your stories, if you just stop and listen. They are stories of heartache and triumph, pain and pleasure. They are stories of hopes and dreams, of fears and failures.

Most of all, they are stories of God. Yes, they really are. At the root of every person is an untold dialog between themselves and their Creator, conscious or unconscious, it is there. Every love ultimately is the love of God; every pain is ultimately the pain of distance from God. Every good draws one near to God; every evil pushes away from God. Their stories tell of how this person has met, missed, misunderstood, dismissed, accepted, followed, worshiped, and mistrusted God. Just listen, you will hear. You will invite the stranger into the house of your own heart, and be amazed. And you will be blessed by the stranger.

Then there are those who have become strangers who once were not. You once knew them and now you don't. They may have just drifted away, life circumstances changed and the relationship could not continue as it was, perhaps one of you merely moved away. There may have been a rupture, a break-up of a romance, a divorce, an offense that has not been overcome, an outright malicious rejection, or even a death.

These people also have stories to tell. You know something of the story, because yours is the complementary story. You share something with them, and you always will. Because of the brokenness of the world, some people are best related to at a distance, not out of hurt or malice, but out of compassion and wisdom. Others will be an albatross around your neck until you are reconciled. Your story and their story fight for supremacy within you. The only peace is to die to the idea that only one story is true, and that the real story is the one told in Christ, in which both fit into a larger context. That context is reconciliation, the making of peace between those who have become alienated. What a powerful way to remit sins!

The gift of strangers is an opportunity to be like Christ; to invite them into your life; to open your heart to what they have to offer, and let them enrich your lives, as you enrich theirs. If there was a past relationship it will never be what it was...that's not the point. It is a new relationship now, and it can be greater because of the past. Our Easter faith calls us to believe that Heaven is greater than Eden, resurrection is greater than resuscitation; reconciliation is greater than innocence.

If there never was a past relationship then the alienation due to our limited living deserves to be overcome. Abundant living never happens alone, it always happens in the context of relationship. Inviting the stranger into your life is a great act of divine healing in our broken and ailing world.

I have been preaching a series of sermons on welcoming the stranger. After the resurrection Jesus appears at least twice to His disciples and they do not recognize Him until the chosen moment. Until then He is the stranger to them. Evangelism hinges on us learning to see at least the potential of the presence of Christ in the stranger. We must have an open attitude toward the stranger.

However, some strangers are stranger than others. The above paragraph does not mean that some behaviors that strangers may exhibit are acceptable behaviors. Jesus says that the world will know that we are His disciples if we love one another. Sometimes love requires establishing healthy limits.

One such limit has to do with destructive behavior in the community. Some people just get upset and don't stop to think how their gossip or back-stabbing really does not show that we love one another. Some people find themselves out of power positions they were used to for what could be good reasons, but they find it hard to let go of the prestige they enjoyed or the influence they had, or the programs they ran, and end up, consciously or unconsciously trying to undermine or sabotage the next leadership. All these must be confronted lovingly but firmly in the context of the community of faith. It must be seen as the person confronted as an opportunity to grow, to let go of pride and forgive--perhaps themselves first.

Another limit has to do with people who truly cannot control certain destructive behaviors. The mentally ill or unstable often perpetrate horrendous abuse on others with little or no awareness, or if they have awareness at the time, it quickly fades and gets explained in plausible, albeit twisted justifications. People who are manic, paranoid, or who suffer from borderline personality disorder are often very difficult to deal with in this regard. The last case is the most difficult by far.

There's an excellent book on the subject of borderline personality disorder called I Hate You, Don't Leave Me, by Kreisman and Straus. In it they suggest an approach to dealing with people with this disorder that I have found works quite well with anyone who is especially anxious. They call it "SET" and it is an anacronym for elements in a short, succinct, but clear communication with them. The letters stand for:

S: Support. Communicate support, you're in their corner, you're trying to help.
E: Empathy. You know how they feel, you can tell them how distraught they are, how excited they are, how sad, how disturbed, whatever the emotion is.
T: Truth. Tell them in clear terms what the truth of the situation is. You can describe the effects of their behavior, your expectations for their behavior, or your intended course of action, especially if it hinges on their continued bad behavior. Explanations or justifications only muddy the waters, don't bother. Short, straight shooting and to the point.

Try it some time. I have, and it works. Nasty that we have to do this in churches, but sometimes the hard line is the most loving.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Great Welcome of God

Easter Day, April 4, 2010

St. Christopher's Episcopal Church, the Rev. Paul Moore

For the Christian this day has no equal for being a day of light and joy and peace. We talk about bunnies and chicks and Easter eggs, all cultural symbols for this day that over the years have had Christian interpretations overlaid on them. I am no exception. My symbol this year is my birthday present. She's just 10 weeks old, full of fun and energy, a Jack Russell Terrier pup named "DC" for "Dangerously Cute!" Her energy and enthusiasm is already challenging the status quo among my other dogs!

Our Easter Joy is, in a sense, a completion of the joy of Christmas. Christmas was the celebration of the birth of hope in the midst of winter's darkness. Easter is the fulfillment of that hope in the midst of the brokenness of our world. But perhaps we understand Easter best when we take on that particularly Anglican perspective of the Incarnation. Christmas is all about God coming to be with us, welcoming us, including us, being with us. There is in the Hispanic worldview a very important concept called "compaƱerismo." If you go to the store someone will jump up and say, "Te acompaƱo," or, "I'll accompany you." You should have to go alone, so I'll go with you so that you will have company. It is a radical desire for togetherness, inclusion, and validation. Christmas is all about God's accompanying us, joining us in our world, and transforming it by His presence.

That Christmas hope is brought to fulfillment at Easter. The great purpose of God joining us was to transform our world. Our world is broken, out of touch, alienated from God, its creator and sustainer. That's not as things should be, so God set out to do something about it. The first thing is to join us, the second thing is to set in motion those dynamics that will restore us. The end goal in mind is togetherness, inclusion, and validation. So both Christmas and Easter express God's radical desire to welcome back into fellowship those who had become strangers.

Those strangers are you and me, for because of our sin we alienated ourselves from Him. Yet He did not wait until we sought reconciliation, He provided it starting at Christmas and fulfilling it at Easter. Because of Easter we have the option of being reconciled with God, with one another and with the very creation itself.

If you find yourself far from God this day, for Easter's sake, He welcomes you back. Jesus said, "Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them. There is no better place to seek reconciliation with God than in the Family of God. Here in the Body of Christ is everything you need, here for the asking. Be reconciled to God and know the full joy of Easter!

Reconciliation would not make much sense if it were only with God. We are reconciled with God so that we can be reconciled with one another. Who is it that has become a stranger to you? My eldest son since he was a very small child was one of those kids who "never knew a stranger." We had fears that he would walk up to just anyone and, without thinking twice about it, jump in a strange car and we would never see him again; not that the person might have malice in mind; we just knew our child would not know enough to be afraid! But perhaps he was showing us all how fearlessly God seeks to reconcile us with one another. If we are reconciled with God, what have we to fear? There is no personal hurt or rejection we might feel that He has not suffered ten-fold already, and still he seeks us out. Can we do less? Truth be told, most who are strangers would love to be reconciled of that strangeness and count us as friends. In fact, if we have become strangers to God through our sin, then you can flip the idea around and say that those who are strangers to you are Christ, reaching out to you through the strangeness. To reach out to them is to reach out to Christ. For Easter's sake, be reconciled with one another and know the full joy of Easter.

We are reconciled with God so that we can be reconciled with the rest of creation. When Adam and Eve were driven from the Garden of Eden the earth itself was cursed for Adam's sake. Food would only come at the expense of toil, and by the sweat of our brow we eat our daily bread. Yet never lost is the knowledge that even so our daily bread is a gift from heaven and not earned. In Romans chapter 8 St. Paul makes it abundantly clear that, as creation was subjected to decay on account of us, it will be renewed when our redemption is complete. Creation's redemption and ours are caught up in one great act of reconciliation. Therefore the earth and we are intimately linked; it is no stranger to our soul, for it is intimately tied up with who we are before God. If we feel distant it is because we are distant from God. Yet in Creation the very face of God is evident, His fingerprints are everywhere. Be reconciled with creation, then, and treat it as the sacred trust it is, and know the full joy of Easter!

Today we restore the great word of praise, "Alleluia" to our worship. Throughout the dark days of Lent we refrained from using this word. Its absence reminded us that we are alienated from God, from one another and from the earth, yet today we restore it because, by His great gift on this day, we are free to approach God and offer our praise. The earliest Christians developed a refrain which has come down to us through the ages as the ultimate shout of Easter triumph, of our reconciliation and restoration to who we truly are, as those who accompany God in that great act of reconciliation in the world. With them and with Christians of all times and places we exclaim:

Alleluia, Christ is risen!

He is risen indeed, alleluia!

"A ghost doesn't have flesh and bones, as you see that I have." Lk. 24:39.


Tiger Woods has finally faced the press. He's back "on his game," said a commentator on Good Morning America this morning. When asked how he was different than before the commentator said he was "more human." Now what does he mean to say by those words? On asked for clarification the commentator said Tiger was more honest and transparent. Hmmmm....

I don't doubt that Tiger was indeed, more honest and transparent. I got a hint of humility, though somewhat guarded on some questions. It's as if a hard crust of a persona he was projecting cracked, and the real Tiger finally stood up. Boy, how many of us can relate?

Hmm....we so often hear the words, "Oh, I'm sorry, please forgive me. I'm only human." Tiger's behavior beforehand was not "only human," it was hardly human. It was inhuman. It was broken and untrustworthy, and that's not part of being human, it's part of being broken.

Ironic, isn't it? You have to be broken of your brokenness in order to become human, and the media got something right for a change!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Meditations on the Stations of the Cross

  1. Jesus is condemned to death

    He who knew no sin became sin for us. When condemned our natural instinct is to transfer blame to another, to try to avoid the penalty handed down. No wonder we count it noble when someone suffers for another's sake by choice. Yet to calmly hear and receive the death penalty handed down for another's wrong and not resist is truly another way of thinking and being. It reflects incredible power. A show of force reveals the power one has. To control one's power shows yet greater power over one's self. To give up power for another is yet greater still. This alone is the power of love. There is no greater love than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend. He has called us His friends.


  2. Jesus takes up His cross

    The ordeal of redemption always begins by taking up an impossible burden, one that will stretch us beyond our known capacities. Humanity has been on this kind of ordeal since the fall in Eden, but to no avail. Jesus joins humanity, taking up the cross on which He will die. Yet it is not really His cross, it is ours, for there we should be. Yet we do not, we seek instead to lay it on the shoulders of another—any other. And so He takes it, for this He came, and for this He lived. He has claimed our cross as His own, and in carrying it He will accomplish what we could not, showing us just how limitless is His love and stretching us beyond our broken small-mindedness.


  3. Jesus falls the first time

    The Word made flesh falls. He knows what falling is. Falling requires going beyond the limits of balance, of homeostasis. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God…all things were made through Him. Creation requires an omnipresent God to pull back the edges of His limitlessness and allow something else to occupy what was once full of nothing but Godhead. Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, has already limited Himself this way, casting into existence the time-space continuum and setting creation on a march toward its end—the end established by the will of the Creative Son, but influenced by our choices. In doing so He allowed for the most terrible of mistakes to happen—that we might choose evil. This is, of course, exactly what happened, and the first fall was complete. The redemption of this first consequence now sets Jesus on a march toward Golgotha. No wonder He falls now.


  4. Jesus encounters His afflicted mother

    Creator become creation meets His afflicted mother. I'm sure she remembers: "Why do you look for me? Did you not know I had to be about my Father's business?" She knows that Joseph's fostering was borrowed parenting of the One who made Him. She doesn't know that her own body is the creative vehicle for the One who created her. As any mother would, Mary anguishes over the visible end of her Son, yet her anguish goes deeper. Her mother's heart desires life and peace for her Son, yet He is on His way to die. But He goes to die for her, for the Church her faithful response to Him represents, and for the creation her body represents, that we might be in life and peace. That the price of our redemption is so incredibly high is humiliating, even crushing. Anguish always accompanies conversion, the change in the heart—yet no anguish over Christ is ever without redemption.


  5. The cross is put on the shoulders of Simon of Cyrene

    The Soldier did more than provide for a moment of weakness, he revealed the truth. Simon was so common a name that his place of origin is needed to identify him. Yet that is really unnecessary. All of us are Simon, and in Simon, the Almighty has shared the load of redemption with us. It is rightfully so. Redemption is not forced upon us without our consent—we must open our hands and our hearts to receive it. Once received, it must be lived out. Living it out requires that we pick up our cross and follow Him. Just as in the fall Jesus joins us, so in Simon we join Him on the path to Golgotha, to His death and ours, that as He is raised, so we might also be raised.



  6. A woman wipes the face of Jesus

    Tradition has identified this woman as Veronica, and legend has it that the face of Jesus was imprinted on the cloth she used. It was known as a relic into the 9th century. The key to understanding this station is in the woman's name: Veronica, from two parts. Vero- from the same root from which we get the word, verities, reflects truth. Ica- feminized ending on the word "icon," means an image that partakes of the reality behind it. "Veron-ica" is the true image. What is this true image? It is the face of the suffering Christ on His way to die for us. This is the true image behind the face of suffering humanity, dying, often, where we should die. This is the true image behind the face of the anguished soul on his death bed. This is the true face behind the cruelty of war, the anguish of divorce, the weight of poverty and the anger at inequality. It is the image our pain is intended to drive us to behold. Often times merely knowing that God walks through our anguish with us makes all the difference.


  7. Jesus falls a second time

    The Godhead limited Itself in creation, and then again in the Incarnation, "falling" into our createdness Himself and becoming one of us. Paul describes that fall in Philippians 2 as refusing to grasp onto the fullness of the glory of heaven that is rightfully His, and instead, condescending to become one of us, even to the point of dying. Death creeps up on us over time, robbing us of our faculties and capacities until finally it takes the very body. Every fall we experience is an anticipation of that last and great loss. The Son of God was not so removed as to avoid that process, even though it is the consequence of sin. He joins us in our falling, even our falling into death itself.


  8. Jesus encounters the women of Jerusalem

    "The weaker sex," we call our womenfolk, ignoring the testimony of doctors and nurses that tell us that women are usually more resilient to pain than men. Perhaps, then, it is fitting that Jesus encounters humanity with a woman's face. It is in our pain that we often reach out to God, and it is in our weakness that we bargain for His favor. Yet here He comes to us in weakness and in pain—for He must join us in order to redeem us. "God from God, light from light, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried." This is the omnipotent God who comes to save us. This is the God of whom Paul says, "I will glory in my weakness." If in weakness God shows the strength of His love, then in our weakness we show the strength of His grace.


  9. Jesus falls a third time

    God "falls" in creation in limiting Himself. God "falls" in the incarnation in submitting to our broken created state, even to the point of dying like us. Now He falls one more time. How far can God "fall?" He falls all the way to the depths of broken creation. He falls on the road to Golgotha in our blaming and scapegoating of other Christians. He falls on the road to Golgotha when earthquakes and hurricanes and tsunamis wipe out entire villages of unsuspecting and good people. He falls when we give our word and don't come through. He falls when honest and noble soldiers lift up arms against one another for the sake of political agendas of those less honorable than they. He falls every time we lash out in anger rather than absorb the hurt and redeem it as He did. He will continue to fall until the crucifixion finds its fulfillment at the end of time. And He will continue to regain His feet every time we absorb the hurts of the world and redeem them.


  10. Jesus is stripped of His clothes

    God is stripped naked, open and vulnerable for all to see. Was not the point of the Incarnation for God to be known? To be known, inside and out, is one of the most powerful experiences any human can undergo. When it is mutual and un-abusing it is one of the most healing. When it is un-mutual and abusing it is one of the most damaging. The irony of this moment is that we imagine that we are the powerful abusers, stripping down the God we reject, yet it is in His plan. "No one has seen God, but the only-begotten who was in the father's bosom, has made Him known." Here we see God naked and unashamed. We, rather, are ashamed, for in stripping down God we are stripped of our righteous pretenses and are reveal as untrusting and abusing. And even in this God's plan is working, for our stripping is what is necessary for our redemption. It is, in a sense, a crucifixion in itself, a death leading to life. Adam and Eve hid themselves from God, and sewed fig-leaves together to hide themselves from one another. Now, stripped to the core, we can be naked and unashamed before God!


  11. Jesus is nailed to the cross

    It does seem a little silly to imagine that we would have to, that we could even try to nail God down, but we often try.

    "I would like to buy a pound of God, please. Be sure to use a just weight and measure. Roasted and well ground, kept in a paper sack, the aroma is heavenly. Now don't give me too much so as to change my ways, but just enough to get me through the week. Yes, I would like to buy a pound of God, please." (adapted from Wilbur Reese)

    Jesus told the mob in the garden, "You come with swords and clubs as if to catch a criminal. If it is me you want, let these others go." Someone has said that the nails did not keep Jesus on the cross, but rather His love for us and His commitment to redeem us.


  12. Jesus dies on the cross

    The Roman accusation against Jesus was treason—claiming to be King of the Jews. The Jewish accusation was more accurate—claiming to be the Son of God. The Jews are us, for we reject Him for precisely who He is. The Son of God is dangerous. He can change you, make you do things you wouldn't otherwise do. He can get you to give money away, and love ugly people, and associate with people who can drag you down or ruin your image. Best He dies and goes away. This is good, this is convenient, this is proper. He was a bad man anyway. And so we throw at God the worst possible sin, and instead of rejecting it and fighting it as we expect, He merely submits and dies. What kind of treachery will this reveal? What greater, deeper wisdom have we not heeded? Instead of establishing our superiority, the ease with which the Son of God is destroyed undoes our confidence and ruins our poise. Best stab Him in the side to make sure. The earthquake and the darkness are merely mirrors of the storms within. Perhaps the Romans were right as well? Of what sort of Kingdom is this man King? What have we done?


  13. Jesus is laid in the arms of His mother

    What have we done indeed? We wish we could just imagine Him to be only and merely one of us, whose broken remains can be laid in the arms of those who loved Him foolishly to the end. She will surely clean up after us, take care of the garbage of our rage. She, whose loving acceptance has pierced her heart, whose godly tears stand in sudden contrast to our anger, leaves us wondering just who, in the end, is the stronger. A treacherous part of us wants to run over and help her carry her awful load! Perhaps, just perhaps it is our own soul she carries there along with the broken body of God. Perhaps in some unknown way the breaking was necessary, and now the church she represents breaks bread—bloody bread—the body laid in her arms, as bread the of heaven.


  14. Jesus is laid in the tomb

    It is harder for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. "You have a guard," says Pilate, "go and make the tomb as secure as you know how." The great stone, stronger than the womanly arms that needed it rolled away, the guards, the seal, these things are the last ditch effort to be greater than, or at least like, God. We want to make the tomb final, not realizing that in doing so we would make our own tombs final—the end, no life from death, no Spring-times, no second chances—just judgment. Oh, how we overestimate ourselves and underestimate our Creator! Joseph, like Mary, accepts the detritus of our sin as evidence of redemption, and consigns his own final resting place to this Body. Perhaps he knows that after Jesus' use of it, it can never finally hold him either.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Men and Women

Yesterday 69-year-old and still startlingly beautiful Raquel Welch was interviewed on Good Morning America. She has published a book called Beyond the Cleavage. (Hmmm!) She reflected on her role as sex-symbol in the 60's and 70's, it was hard for her to even say the word. In those days she had very little say on the trajectory of her career. After filming her first film, "One Million Years BC," she figured it would just "go away." Much to her consternation she got off the plane in London to find that the iconic poster of her in a goatskin bikini was everywhere and everyone knew who she was...or what she looked like anyway. Now, as her years advance, she wants to speak to the world with her mind rather than her measurements. Laudible, really, and her role at her age, and no sour grapes, either, since she's still a knock-out!

She talked quite a bit about how the genders communicate, and how they don't. Rightly she noted that we communicate very differently, and that men don't really want women to act like men. (She failed to mention whether women want men to act like women.) Great insight, and very necessary. She also suggested that a woman can have meaningful communication with a man without having to act like a man, but can retain her femininity. Also a great insight. I'm glad women that men are prone to pay attention to are saying such things.

What she didn't mention except in passing, was the how. The devil is always in the details, right? She mentioned that instead of driving hard for her wishes and getting...and she let the "b" word slipped--and promptly censored herself--though obviously the network didn't...she could have sought for a mutually common ground and compromised.

Hmmm...novel thought. Compromise, common ground, finding a mutually acceptable way forward. I don't think that is limited to gender-distinct communication. That kind of approach will bridge communication gaps between people of different ages, cultures and purposes. In fact, when each of us is willing to give up our little "world" and create with another person a third world in which both of us can live then there is community. Raquel, at 69 you're headed down the right road, you just didn't quite go far enough.

The Body of Christ

Oops, I'm getting forgetful! I forgot I posted this already.

The Body of Christ

In the 5th Century the Bishop of Hippo was a man named Augustine. Augustine was one of the really great Christian thinkers of all time. He preached a sermon one Easter to people who had been baptized the night before at the Great Vigil. Until now they had been dismissed just before the Eucharistic Prayer. They were not allowed to even witness the Holy Meal. Now they are to partake for the very first time. The bread and wine are already placed on the altar. In this sermon he says, and I quote:


These things, my brothers, are called sacraments because there is a difference between their appearance and their true meaning. In appearance they have a physical form; in their true meaning they have a spiritual effect. If you want to understand what is meant by 'the body of Christ', you must attend to the words of the apostle: You are the body of Christ and his members [I Cor. 12:27]. So then if you are the body of Christ and his members it is the mystery of yourselves that is placed on the Lord's Table; it is the mystery of yourselves that you receive. It is to what you are that you make the response, 'Amen', and in making that response you give your personal assent. You hear 'the body of Christ' and you answer, 'Amen.' Be a member of Christ's body and make your 'Amen' true.


The mystery of the table is the mystery of what you are in Christ. It is the mystery of the Church that we celebrate when we celebrate the Eucharist. In our Gospel reading for tonight from John we see that John does not tell the story of bread and wine, of body and blood. This we get from St. Paul's letter to the Corinthians. What John talks about is who we are in Christ. He first gives an object lesson: He washes the disciples' feet. Then He teaches: "If I as your rabbi have done this to you, then you should wash one another's feet." He is their Lord, but He makes Himself their servant. The nature of this new humanity that Jesus creates is one predicated on loving service, not force of will. He ends with, "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." This, then, is the Church. We are not the people in whom Jesus is known because of our pure theology, or our political stance, or our connections in the community, or our moral superiority, we are a people in whom Jesus is known through the way we love one another.


The community of love is a godly community, for God is love. Jesus is about to go into that great ordeal which shows just how much He loves us. He will suffer and die the cruelest death known in His day. He will rise again and send the Holy Spirit, by whose presence He will continue with the disciples in love and power. His loving heart has one goal reflected in John 14:1-3, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am." He extends us the hospitality of His own home. That home is none other than the mystery of the Trinity itself.


Being the Body of Christ gathered around His Table is to be a community predicated on that great loving hospitality of Christ.


  • Being a member of the Body of Christ means Belonging: We belong at the table--there is a place for YOU. We belong to one another, we all belong.
  • Being a member of the Body of Christ means Participating: We approach confidently, for this is our true home. We take our place, each of us bringing what is unique to our own selves.
  • Being a member of the Body of Christ means Sharing: We share one cup and one bread with one another, the symbol of our unity, we share His love with the world around us; for that purpose we are in the world.


The Eucharist that we celebrate tonight, then, is the pattern in symbolic form for everything to come in the next weeks: Good Friday is the price God paid to welcome us at His table. Holy Saturday is the preparation time any meal takes. Easter is the beginning of the banquet. Pentecost is the strength given by the food. Come, then, and open your hearts to the presence of the God who shares Himself to make us truly ourselves.