Thursday, March 24, 2016

Maundy Thursday. - John 13:21-30

Today is the day we remember Christ's final supper with his disciples. In the Gospel of John, Jesus wishes his disciples feet and then after the supper he tells his disciples that one of them will betray him.  When asked (presumably by John) who it is that will betray him, Jesus tells them that it is the one to whom he hands the bread.  Jesus hands the bread to Judas, Judas takes the bread and walks out.

I am facinated by the image of Judas walking into the night with a piece of the bread of the Eurcarist in hand.  The gospel of John does not include the institution of the Eucharist, as the synoptics do, but thoughts of the communion could not have been far from the minds of the gospel's first readers.  The Johanine community would have known the traditions which included the Last Supper as the institution of communion.  Judas can not be walking out with anything other than the bread which Jesus broke, saying, "This is my body, broken for you." 

Judas, walks into the night, the betrayer holding (essentially) a peice of the betrayed.  Taking Christ with him even as he is about to well Christ out for a handful of silver.  A little bit of grace, a little bit of Christ goes with him, even as he moves to work against Christ.

Even there in the dark Judas has a piece of redemption with him.  When we gather around the table, when we partake of the bread of Communion, we carry Christ with us where ever we go from there.  No matter where we go, no matter how dark the night, no matter what it is we are moving to do, Christ goes with us.  Even when we fail, even when our actions move against Christ, we take him with us.  Christ our redemption goes with us when we are at our best AND when we are at our worst. Even when we fall short of being the images of Christ we are called to be Christ our redemption is with us, right there.  
We can't really speculate what could have happened or what would have happened but when we like Judas move into the darkness and the dark places that our own sinfullness can take us, we should remember that Christ is with us.  We can remember that in our hand, inside of us is a little peice of Christ waiting to forgive us, waiting to redeem us, calling to us to remind us that we can never go too far, that Christ is not there with us.  We are never so far gone.  Christ our redemption is always in hand.  Even if we have betrayed the very one who is our salvation, we the betrayers can turn to the betrayed and know that we an seek forgiveness, that there is redemption and never condemnation there.  If only Judas has realized what it was he had in his hand. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

New things in us

Isaiah 43:16-21
I saw my first rowing team out this past week. Now I will be the first to admit that I know nearly nothing about the sport of rowing, but a quick bit of research on the internet gives me just enough knowledge to think I just might know something about what it is I am seeing as I am watching these boats gliding swiftly and elegantly down the river.
According to what I read about the sport of rowing this week, the rowers are a team who work together, each one doing their part to move the boat swiftly down the river and hopefully to victory when it comes to an actual race. Each person faces the stern of the boat which places them facing the opposite direction than the one in which they are moving. As they propel themselves down the river they are not looking where it they are going but they are looking at where they have been. But there is one person in the stern of the boat, who faces the bow of the boat. This person, called the coxswain, is the only person who can see where the whole team is going.
The coxswain’s job is to three fold. First their job is to keep the entire team safe. Being the only person who can see where the boat is going, they are the only person who can detect obstacles which may lie in the path of the boat. Secondly, the coxswain’s job is to steer, by using the rudder, which is in their control, by directing the rest of the team in how to row or some combination of the two. The last thing the coxswain does to guide the team down the river is to speak for the team. There are three ways to do this.
The coxswain uses his voice first of all to give commands to the team directing them in how to row more effectively. She also uses her voice to motivate the team giving both criticism and encouragement at needed. The last thing the coxswain uses his voice for is for coaching, that is, helping the team become a better team, directing them in the proper rowing techniques and the best ways to work together to form a more effective rowing team.
In many ways the sport of rowing is similar to the way in which the Hebrew people moved through history. First of all the Hebrew people moved forward through history while looking at where they had been. They were continually looking at what God had done for them in the past and depending on where they have been and seeing how God had guided them and directed them in the past to know and understand how God would move them forward into the future.
In this way God was very much like the coxswain guiding them and directing them into the future. God’s voice like that of the coxswain would speak to the people keeping them safe, commanding them in how they should live and coaching them in how they can better live in ways of their God. All these things would help them better be the people of God which they had agreed to be.
At this point in the people of Israel’s journey they are way off course. They had not heeded the voice of the Lord as God had called out to them from the stern of the boat telling them that if they proceeded in the manner in which they were proceeding they would crash and crash they did. God had warned them if they continued trying to play a political game they were not capable of playing, they would loose. They had tried to stand in the middle and play two of their world’s greatest powers off of each other and in the process was crushed between them, resulting in them being carted off to exile.
They have been in exile for an entire generation, meaning, the people to whom Isaiah is speaking at this point are not the people who were carted off into exile but were their children and grand children. They have lived their whole lives hearing stories about their homeland and even though they have never set foot in the land of Israel themselves; they have had a desire to return to their homeland deeply imbedded into who they are. They long for something they have never had and miss a place they have never been.
As they are living in the land of the exile, longing to return to homes in which they have never lived God comes to them with the message I read this morning.
Since the people of Israel are looking to where they have been to help them understand where it is they are going, God begins by talking to them about the past. The Lord begins by having them look to the Exodus reminding them it was God who made a way for them through the sea, leading them out of their Egyptian slavery by having them cross the Red Sea on dry ground. The Lord reminds them that it was God who closed the sea up behind them causing the Egyptian chariots that were chasing them to fail in their endeavor.
But instead of then turning to the people and saying to them remember how I did that. Remember how God saved you from the hands of the Egyptians, I AM that God. I am still that God. I brought you out of the land of Egypt; I will also bring you out of the land exile. God breaks out of the mold, God says, forget all that. I may be the same God who did all that back then but today, today I am going to do a new thing. In fact I am going to do something completely different.
Before I parted the waters and made a path of dry ground in the water, this time I will part the desert and I will make a path of water through the wilderness. God says instead of bringing you up out of the south to deliver you into the promise land this time, I will take you down from the North. Before I made land in the water this time I put make water in the dry land. I will deliver you just the same, I will take you to the promise land but this time I will do it in a new way. And you need to trust me.
Too many times we find ourselves in Israel’s shoes. We were taking ourselves swiftly down the river, and God was speaking to us. God was telling us what the consequences of our actions would be but we did not listen. We told God we had this handled, we told God we knew what we were doing and we careened into the mooring of a great big bridge of something we did not want to happen.
And now as we are getting back into the boat God is ready to give us another chance. And God says, "I will bring you out of this mess. I will lead you to where you need to be but I might not do it in the ways I have done it before. Last time I made dry land in the water, but this time I just might make water in the dry land. I am still at work. I am still God. I will lead, I will guide, but you have to trust me. Trust me to do something exciting. Trust me to do something different. Trust me to see where we are going and take you safely down stream.