Friday, April 22, 2011

Holy Thursday 2011 - Reasonable Expectations

Exodus 12:1-14 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 John 13:12-26a

It is not easy to draw parallels between the time of Jesus and His disciples then, and the time of the Risen Christ and His disciples today because we can easily say - and mean - that if we had witnessed what these guys had witnessed first-hand, there is no way we could possibly turn against Him. Yet as we encounter Palm Sunday each year and the subsequent holy days leading up to Good Friday, we are painfully reminded of how easily mobs - and weak hearts - can turn. It is not easy to admit, of course, but it is easy to see and feel ... IF we are truly honest with ourselves.

We can draw the parallel between the Israelites of the first Passover just before the Exodus, and the Christians who draw near to the Holy Eucharist to this day to partake of the Bread of Life and the Blood of the Holy Lamb of God. The comparisons are there, but we often overlook the significance of what has been done ... and what is still being done in our behalf as we continue the journey through our own wilderness and into our Future Reality.

It is important for the people of YHWH to remember and observe the Passover, the Lord's Supper, and His washing of His disciples' feet because Jesus Himself makes the clear observation - and command: "I have set you an example that you also should do as I have done to you."

What is not so easy is to draw the parallel between then and now because obviously the disciples did not see what was coming even though Jesus had warned them. They surely never quite expected that the crowds that had only days before joyously welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem as some "conquering hero" would not only turn against the very "Son of David" but would also become a serious threat to the disciples themselves, as Peter discovered.

We never quite know what is ahead of us from day to day because there are always external factors that can change our preset course in the blink of an eye. We who drive to and from work and other activities are only one drunk or distracted driver away from Eternity. We obviously would not plan such a thing and in fact we cannot foresee such a thing, but we have all attended funerals to mourn the passing of so many who "never saw it coming".

And this, I think, is one of the significant and missing elements of Holy Week. While it is important to commemorate these things which were done before "as an example" to follow, we are not Christians of the past or even the present; we are disciples for the "future reality" of the Eternal Kingdom. We are the disciples called forth not for the sake of our own souls but for the sake of the Holy Church. We are the disciples who venture forth, faithfully in the footsteps of our Lord, and are unafraid of the certainty that what may or may not happen tomorrow is completely beyond our control. We are disciples who acknowledge the reality of "external forces" that may manipulate our present course, but have absolutely no power over our Eternity.

We remember, as we must and as St. Paul teaches, that "as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes." This is to say, it is not only about His death since He cannot - and will not - die again. "We are Kingdom People", as the late John Paul II proclaimed, "and hallelujah is our song!" It is as our Lord declared in the presence of Pontius Pilate: "My kingdom is not of this world ..."

If He is our Eternal King, dear friends, then the hope of all our expectations must be forward into the Kingdom which is to come because that Kingdom is where our King resides. We must respect the present and acknowledge what is thrust upon us, but all that we are and all that we expect in faith is yet to be fully realized. There is nothing in this world that can offer anything beyond its own moment, including the Passover, and I think maybe this was Jesus' whole point to His disciples as they shared the meal and He taught them - in fact, accused them - about what was to come not only in the following day or two but far beyond time itself.

So we ask ourselves how this affects how and why we do this same Meal each Sunday and especially on this particular day in the Christian calendar. To remember His sacrifice? Of course. To "proclaim" His death? Absolutely. But we must necessarily move forward. We cannot be stuck in any moment, even in such biblical moments as these in spite of their significance, because our future, our Kingdom, is ahead of us ... as our Lord is ahead of us. We can take some measure of comfort in the certainty of the moment, but these moments pass - they always do. They die, never to return.

Jesus called His disciples forward into the meal and into His eternity through the meal. As they moved forward with Him, they encountered nothing like what they expected. And in spite of their best human efforts, they soon discovered that their future was already laid out for them. They just had to be willing to surrender to that Future. They had to be willing to embrace it and live for it as if their very lives depended on it. For indeed it did for them ... as it still does for us. Amen.

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