Thursday, March 28, 2013

On Holy (Maundy) Thursday

From this morning's Gospel:
"Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?" Jesus answered, "You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand." Peter said to him, "You will never wash my feet." Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no share with me." Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!" Jesus said to him, "One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you." For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, "Not all of you are clean."

After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord--and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them."

I'm thoroughly arrested by this unfolding moment. The Christ is mere hours away from enduring the most hellish ordeal ever endured by one clothed in human flesh. The spotless Passover lamb would soon have the sins of the vilest offenders laid upon his shoulders. It's at moments of reflection, such as now, my casual sins and respectable little murders become a foul, fecal stench in my own nostrils.

I don't imagine the scene as a loud, or boisterous affair. No, somehow, imagine that the Master is speaking in a hushed tone and his disciples are leaning in to attend to their teacher. The moment is punctuated by Christ's chilling revelation that one in their midst is a traitor. This is followed be a moment of shallow self-examination and chest puffing. Christ pulls out a straight pin to pop their collective bubble. It's not to be about whom has the biggest chest full of medals or the biggest "I love me" wall. Greatness in Christ's unfolding kingdom will be measured by a far different standard. Jesus draws imagery from a lowly house servant or slave, perhaps recalling the foot washing recalled by St. John.

Slaves, in their contemporary culture, came in all varieties. Anyone from the wisest mathematician to the lowliest child could be counted among the enslaved. Where the former are remembered in history, the latter are generally forgotten. These were those who washed the master's feet after a dusty day on the road. These were the ones who were at the beck and call to fetch whatever the master needed or desired. These were the models for greatness within the kingdom of God.

Our LORD has no need or use for strutting popinjays who seem to pervade the vast spiritual and cultural wasteland. The "No Fear" Crowd does little more than stir His holy wrath. He saw all of these traits in His onetime anointed cherub, and threw both him and his fallen me-monkey angels down from Heaven. He seeks something quite the contrary.

Consider on this Maundy Thursday... Our Lord seeks those who've grasped the concept that in the greater scheme of things, they're truly of no account. They've got nothing to bring to the table. These are the ones whom the Master can fill with HIS GREATNESS, and may well use them to turn the world on its head.

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