Thursday, March 24, 2016

Homily for 24 Mar 2016 Holy Thursday

24 Mar 2016
Holy Thursday

From the burning bush, God said to Moses: “Take off your sandals, for the place you are standing is holy ground.”  And later on, as the Hebrews prepared for the Passover to freedom, God said: Eat the sacrificial lamb “with your loins girt, sandals on your feet and your staff in hand, you shall eat like those who are in flight.” 

And at the feast of Passover centuries later, Jesus said: “Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed.”  Now, you might be wondering what the big deal is about feet: What’s the difference if they’re covered (or not), or clean (or not).  But from Scripture, we see that God likes to make a connection between our feet and our state-of-life. 

After all, our feet carry us from this place to that place; from a walk through the park to a walk through the mall.  They step on things in the dark, and the little toes get stubbed.  They get us to school, to work, to church.  They carry us to the tv or internet, or to our favorite chair to read a book.  Sometimes, our feet even fail us, and we have to find a substitute for them: a wheelchair, a cane, crutches, prosthetics, braces.  

Our feet carry us through life here in the world.  And sometimes—a lot of times—we find ourselves firmly grounded in this world.  And so, our feet have a symbolic value, too: they symbolize our wandering soul, and what we allow ourselves to be influenced by and carry away with.  Our feet are like tree roots: wherever we stand, that’s the culture and values and beliefs we’re going to soak up.

When Moses approached the burning bush, God said: “Take off your sandals.”  In other words: “Let nothing stand between you and me.  Let your ‘roots’ soak up all that I am.”  But later, God said, “Put sandals on your feet, you shall eat like those who are in flight.”  In other words: “As you travel the world, protect yourself from soaking up too much of worldly values.”

And at the Last Supper, Jesus said, “You only need to have your feet washed.”  In other words: “You’ve traveled in the world and become too grounded in the world.  Let me sweep you off your feet, and let me carry you.  Let me be your world.”

And that’s a beautiful image: Jesus pouring water over his disciples’ feet, dislodging them from being stuck in the world, to being free and alive in him.  But, as we know, it isn’t all clean and neat.  Humanity was too far gone to be simply washed with water.  And so Jesus poured out for us not only water, but blood as well.

Once when I was writing a paper in seminary, the professor commented that he thought it didn’t have enough “blood” in it.  In other words, it needed more “life” and “vigor” in it.  And that’s how we understand blood: Blood is life.  We need blood in us to live.  When Jesus pours out his Blood, it’s his life he gives us—both symbolically and really.  When the communion ministers say to you: “The Blood of Christ,” they could just as well say: “The Life of Christ.”

And what is the Life of Christ but a covenant of sacrificial, self-giving love.  And it’s a “covenant” that’s already happening in the life of God—between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  But it’s a covenant—it’s a life and a way of living—that’s poured out in a chalice for us to share in and to drink from.

From the Book of Revelation we have the wonderful image of the River of Life flowing from the City of God.  And that’s what we have here at the Lord’s Supper: the River of God’s Life poured out in both water and Blood.  And whether it’s the washing of the feet or eating the Body and drinking the Blood of Christ, they’re both concrete ways in which our God is trying to “sweep us off our feet.”  He says, “Be grounded in me.  Let me be your feet.  Let me carry you . . . to resurrected life forever and always.”   

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