Saturday, March 30, 2013

A "Good" Friday?

I spent a large part of yesterday trying to live in the events of the last day of Christ's incarnated life. I read the story in Matthew and then I watched The Passion of Christ
I attended our tenebrae service in the evening. I was a wrung out by the flood of emotion as I found myself identifying with so many of the players in the drama.

I was a disciple not able to stay awake and pray. I was frightened by the strange behavior Christ was demonstrating in Gethsemane. I too wanted to fight and then flee when Judas came with a large crowd bearing swords and clubs. I was amazed by how non confrontational Jesus was and how much he seemed to know before it happened. I was shocked to hear Him call Judas a friend. I struggled to remember what Jesus had said at the Passover meal and to understand what was happening.

I was appalled by the driven behavior of Caiaphas and the teachers and the elders. I was not surprised that they really didn't understand. But, their obsession with finding a way to silence Jesus and put an end to his movement was horrific. Caiaphas needed to be in control. I don't think Caiaphas was really interested in truth prevailing. I saw him as a political manipulator and likely "in bed with" the Romans. He rigged the trial. Perhaps he was threatened and feared the loss of his power. Best case scenario is that he was loyal to the Jewish faith and was compelled to to put an end to all blasphemy. But, I doubt that was the case.

Pilate's ambivalence toward the Jewish people and even toward Jesus made me uneasy and triggered awareness of my own tendency to inner conflict. When Pilate washes his hands and seeks a way out of any part in putting an innocent man to death, I recognized my own inclinations to accuse others of my own guilt. Pilate, like Caiaphas, didn't want the boat to rock out fear he might lose his seat in the captain's chair.

I was tormented by shame and self loathing with Peter as he vehemently denied ever knowing the man he, just hours earlier, had vowed to follow even to death. I could taste the bile as the cock crowed and I realized with Peter that I too am unable to remain faithful. With Peter I felt disgusted and heartbroken and shocked by the reality that I cannot truly love.

The fear and the instinctive urge to flee and hide was overwhelmingly physical. The confusion and the conflicting behavior of the crowds of people only caused more chaos and disorder. I felt the anger and hate and fear and the sense that nothing was going right. I felt the panic on both sides of the conflict. I felt the helplessness and powerlessness generated by circumstances out of my control.

But, Jesus, in every way and in every place stood out as different. In Gethsemane, before the Sanhedrin, and before Pilate, He knew who He was, where He had come from, and where he was going. But, He was fully human through it all. He was not spared the physical, and mental pain of his march through death. All the while he despised the shame and endured the cross because He could see what came next. He knew we would not be able to grasp the eternal significance. It was not that it wasn't important that we "get it". It seemed that it was most important at the time that the scriptures be fulfilled and that the work God set in motion from the beginning of time could be completed. Understanding would come later and it seemed that Jesus knew this. So he stepped right into it all, fully aware of what had to happen, fully aware He would have to do it alone.

While driving home after the evening service, I thought about Jesus dead and in the grave, His life spent in full for us all. And I cried with Peter and with Judas as a fearful denier and a betrayer. And I confessed my longing to know with my whole being the impact of Christ's death in my stead.

God's response to my confession is to remind me of the truth and invite me to embrace it. God is love. In Christ we know God and His love. We know He loves us as He lays down His life. Love doesn't expect us to "get it". Love gives even though we don't. Love is greater than our weakness. Love is greater than our denial and our betrayal. Love is greater than our need to be in control and our fear of being out of control. Love bears all things: the pain, the suffering, the abandonment, the shame, the guilt, the failures, the weakness, the unknowing, and the grief and carries it all to the cross. Love knows that we know not what we do. Love forgives. Love puts an end to the old so the new can rise up.

©Schreiner/The Odes Project
You who sometimes were brought so low, Rise up, RISE UP
You who were in silence: now raise your voice , Rise up, RISE UP
You that were despised be lifted up, Rise up, RISE UP
For the right hand of the Lord is with you right now Rise up, RISE UP
Open your hearts, All you who are saved, IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER
Through all generations, abiding in His love, IN THE NAME OF THE SON
Now and forever, Let your love abound, IN THE NAME OF THE SPIRIT
For the right hand of the Lord is with you right now Rise up, RISE UPChorus:
Christ in us, this wondrous mystery
Christ in us, from age to age
Christ in us, the hope of glory
For You have sealed us in your nameYou who sometimes were brought so low, stand tall, RISE UP
You who were in silence: may you shout for joy, RISE UP
You who were despised may you be lifted up, RISE UP
For the right hand of the Lord is with you right now Rise up, RISE UP

Listen here:  Rise Up! (Ode 8)

Thursday, March 28, 2013

A few Maundy thoughts

Beginning in chapter 12 of the Book of John, the Pharisees begin actively plotting to kill Jesus and Jesus, knowing this, rides right into Jerusalem and into the center of the plot. With this hostility as His backdrop, to His disciples, Jesus predicts His death and calls His disciples to follow Him. To the crowd, the challenge is made to walk in the light while they still have the light. Then He leaves and hides Himself. The tension is felt by everyone. Jesus has left them holding the weight of His words:  Time culminating, light dissipating, judgment, death, salvation. and eternity.

In chapter 13, “knowing that it was time for him to leave this world”, Jesus communes very intimately with His disciples in what has come to be known as the “upper room discourse”. He knows from where He has come and where he is going. He knows His disciples can't possibly grasp the depths of what he is talking about but he presses on. Though what is set before him to do in the next days should justify complete self absorption, silence, and isolation, instead it is here in this place, in His last hours with these chosen friends, that Jesus, in an act of greatest humility, washes their feet.  Songwriter Michael Card describes this act in his song entitled The Basin and the Towel .

And the call is to community
The impoverished power that sets the soul free
In humility to take the vow
That day after day we must take up the basin and the towel

And the space between ourselves sometimes 
is more than the distance between the stars
By the fragile bridge of the servant’s bow,  
We take up the basin and the towel

The example has been laid before them and the tone set for the rest of the evening. After this call to community through his example of humble service, Jesus speaks grievously of how He will be betrayed by one of the very ones whose feet He held and washed. And if this is not enough pain for Him to bear, He has to bring to light a truth not yet realized … Peter’s denial. One of those that He was most intimate with would, out of fear, deny that he ever knew Him. And another would hand him over to those who seek to kill him.

I can not imagine the all body. mind, and soul pain that Jesus endured that night as He anticipated what lay ahead. I can imagine the chaos in the body, minds, and souls of his disciples. The next days for them and for us are cataclysmic.