Friday, March 25, 2016

Sermon; Maundy Thursday; John 13:1-17, 31b-35

Tonight we enter the Triduum – the great three days and the over-arching single liturgical event of Holy Week – Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil.  These three days tell the story of the Passion, from arrest to Resurrection.  Over these three days we are not only observers, but we are betrayers, deserters, and witnesses.

How is your Lenten discipline going?  Has it moved from discipline to habit?  The purpose, I think, of a Lenten discipline is to draw us nearer to Christ.  It is not to make us suffer.  It is not to make us miserable.  It is not a competition with Easter being the finish line, after which life can return to normal.  Instead, a Lenten discipline is there to help us make a change that brings us closer to Christ.  I said at the beginning of Lent, it's not about the What of your discipline, it's about the Why.  And as Lent draws to a close, it's also about the How.

How have you been changed by your discipline?
How have you drawn closer to Christ?
How will this discipline affect you in the future?

These are questions only you can answer as you reflect on this past Lent.

I ask these questions because, liturgically speaking, we are in the same place as Jesus and his disciples.  Just as our Lenten journey is coming to an end, Jesus' time on earth and his time with the disciples is also coming to an end.  Just as Jesus and the disciples gathered for a meal, we have gathered for a meal.  Just as Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, we will wash the feet of those around us.  Just as I asked how you have been changed in your Lenten journey, I imagine Jesus was wondering how his disciples had been changed in their time with him.

And just as Jesus invited the one who would betray him into the circle of love, we who would betray Christ in our own day are invited into that same circle of love.

Oh, we may not be as blatant about betraying Christ as Judas was, be we do betray him.

When certain groups of Christians or politicians call for the neglect, abuse, and/or marginalization of others based on some twisted, incomplete, and incomprehensible Christian value system and we do nothing to contradict, dispute, or oppose their hate speech, then we betray the message of Christ, allowing that message to be co-opted and abused by thugs and mercenaries.

When we pray, “Thy will be done,” and yet do nothing to seek justice, show kindness, and be humble, then we betray the efforts of Christ to respect the dignity of every human being.

When we promise to pick up our cross and follow Jesus, but then allow our fleshly desires to rule our hearts, we betray Christ to the powers of this world.

We all have betrayed and will betray Christ at one time or another.  We have betrayed our promise to proclaim the gospel.  We have neglected Christ in the least of these and in the marginalized by betraying them to the rich and powerful.  We have betrayed the freedom of Christ to the slavery of our selfish desires.  And tonight we participate in the biggest betrayal of them all.

Tonight we imitate the actions of Christ by being a servant to our neighbor.
Tonight we share a meal among loved ones.
Tonight we happily participate in Christ’s circle of love as we gather for a heavenly banquet and keep the feast Christ has commanded.
And tonight, after claiming to be a follower of Christ, we will betray him by removing everything that links us to him.

Tonight we will receive that most holy Sacrament of Body and Blood.

Tonight, after spending this past Lenten season in an effort to draw nearer to him, we will, instead, opt to betray him in favor of following our own desires.

Let Christ take up his own cross; because tonight we want no part of it.


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