The Ultimate Word

"The ultimate Word is not a paragraph but a person. If Jesus is the Word of God incarnate, then the heart of proclamation is personal and relational, not propositional."

Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki * God, Christ, Church, page 135

Thursday, April 01, 2010

I hate Maundy Thursday. So there.

1 April 2010
Maundy Thursday C
John 13:1-17, 31b-35


Today marks a shift. During most of Lent we are engaged in a recreation of Jesus’ wandering in the wilderness before he begins his earthly ministry. We submit ourselves to an annual season of spiritual wandering – examining those ways in which we have grown separate from God, and hopefully marking those separations with occasions of repentance, turning ourselves ever more God-ward. It’s in the context of that repentance and reconciliation that we can enter fully into the joy of the Resurrection.

But today, our focus shifts. We enter the Triduum – the final days of preparation for Easter. Where we had been wandering, we now press forward – toward a certain goal.

It’s remarkable that our first stop along the way is what it is: the washing of feet and the institution of the Lord’s Supper.

I have to admit – I love being an Episcopalian three hundred and sixty-four days a year. I love and am fed by our liturgy almost every day. But there’s one day each year that presses me so far outside of my comfort-zone that I have to struggle each year just to endure it.

That day is today.

On one level, today should be one of my favorite days. It’s the day when we honor the institution of the sacrament of Holy Communion. One of the reasons that I most love being an Episcopalian is because I am so fed by the centrality of the Eucharist in our liturgies.

But before Jesus gathered with his friends for his last meal before his trials, he engaged in this act of profound humility: he washed their feet. That’s the part I never can seem to get over. I wouldn’t quite understand the significance of it if we didn’t reenact it liturgically. It’s in the act of occupying the spaces of both washer and the washed that help me to feel just how humbling this act is for all of us involved. It’s uncomfortable. It’s a level of physical intimacy that most of us don’t encounter with each other on a day-to-day basis. Even for those of us who are fairly familiar with one another, this pushes us.

And I think that’s exactly the point. We are meant to push ourselves into those deep places of discomfort. On Maundy Thursday, certainly, but also throughout our Christian lives. Only then can we rise to new life.

Every year I find myself hoping that this will be the year that I learn not to hate Maundy Thursday and our foot washing ritual. So far, every year I have found that it’s not. Truth be told, if I didn’t hate today, I’m not sure it would work for me.

So I’m back. Opening myself once again to being pushed just a little farther than I’d like to go. I hope you’ll join me.

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