Friday, April 3, 2015

The Tension in the Room - Maundy Thursday Sermon

"In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move." No, wait, wrong story. "In the beginning, God created." Yes, but that's not tonight's story. "In the beginning the word was with God and the word was God. And the word was made flesh and lived among us." Yes, that is the story we are telling. But, hold on a second, let's go back to the first one. It would seem rather unfortunate to be angry about existence, but many people are angry about their existence. Their lives are not how they would like them to be. For many us, truly there are things about our lives that make us very angry. Or things that we wish wasn't true. We wish that no one we knew had cancer. We wish that war was not as prevalent as it is. We wish that political fights did not strip people of the dignity and acceptance that we might have had. We live in a world where police have to tell parents their children died in tragic ways. And its not just other people. We have problems, addiction, severe illness, trauma, conflict, abuse in our midst. We share the world's worries and the weight of our sins. We live as broken people. Yet, this is the world in which the word was made flesh and lived among us. This is the world in which Jesus' story takes place. 

It would be so easy to skip this week. Holy Week. This part of the story is hard to hear. We have the triumphant entry on Palm Sunday and we have the glorious resurrection on Easter and we could go from mountain top to mountaintop without having to walk this painful valley in between. This week isn't about joy or peace, its about our brokenness, our pain, our sin, the tension. We walk in a world full of tension. We feel it, bunched up in our guts, worrying our hearts, nagging our minds. We have to live through every moment, no matter how good or how bad, and this week is one where every moment is full of tension. 

Tension, as defined in the physical world, is being stretched tight. For most things, it means being stretched tight between two objects. String is tense when it is fully stretched between two holding objects, like on a guitar or on a telephone pole. With only one side, there is no tension. The string is loose and fluid. If we apply this to our feelings, tension is when we are stretched tight between different people, events, emotions, or objects. Palm Sunday is tense because the story goes from one extreme to the other. we go from waving palms to give glory to Jesus entering Jerusalem to hearing the whole passion narrative, where Jesus is betrayed after supper and dies on the cross. There a lot of difference between those two emotional states and that stretches us, fills us with tension. We are filled with emotion on Sunday and we have a few days off in the world to think about it, and then we come back, here to the middle of the story and revisit the hardest parts. 

Tonight we revisit the part of the story we label as Maundy Thursday. There are many tensions in our story of Maundy Thursday. Myself, today, I felt pulled between the joy of working with the school students on wonderful service projects and the obstinate behavior of my phone, which decided not to accept a charger and die today. On a community level, we read The Gospel passage and we are stretched by the tension the disciples are feeling. The tension between the comfort and familiarity of spending Passover together and the knowledge and fear that someone is going to betray Jesus. Can you imagine the tension in the room? Someone is going to betray Jesus? And then, we feel the tension between the disciples knowledge of Jesus as Lord and teacher and their confusion at Jesus as servant while he lovingly washes each of their battered, bruised, and dirty feet. This is the action that speaks into the tension of the room. I love each and everyone of you his action whispers. We feel similar tensions as we gather during this service to remember and celebrate the words that Jesus spoke in lovingly washing each other's feet and sharing communion, sharing The bread and wine, Jesus' body and blood. And then, we watch the the altar get stripped, completely and utterly bare. The imagery leaves us emotionally raw. 

Yet, the real tension of Holy Week, the real tension of Maundy Thursday, the real tension in trying to remember, trying to serve, and trying to love one another, is the tension between being broken and being beloved. We know so well how much each of us is a member of a broken world and a broken people. Yet, this week also reminds us of how much we are a beloved people, a world of beloved people. Beloved to a point where God is willing to let his Son die for us and Jesus is willing to die in mercy for us. Each one of us is the object of affection. "Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another." Jesus loved everyone he met with such compassion and care and overwhelming knowledge and love. That is our example for how to love one another. It is much easier to remember, serve, and love others when we first know that Jesus remembers, serves, and loves us, more than we can imagine. We may be broken people. We may live in a broken world. Yet, we are Jesus's beloved. ​We are beloved people.