It’s Maundy Thursday – Whose feet are you washing?

Tonight, we will gather all over the world.  By we, I mean Christians.  We will gather around table and basin as the story of our faith rises toward the hill of Zion and the cross.  We begin with the story of the last supper, when we believe Jesus blessed bread and wine with new meaning after setting right the human being who would follow him.  How did he do that?

He washed his disciples’ feet.  This simple act of humble service was demeaning, given to the lowest of the household.  It was an act of service to touch their feet with warm water and the towel at his waist, stripped of his mantle, kneeling before them, men and women who had followed him from their lives into his vocation.

He is about to face the powers and principalities of oppression and control, and he does not draw up his power within, he does not go off alone to do some push ups and drive up his testosterone.  He strips and kneels before his students.  He reverses their role and then points out that this is the way, his Way, to lead.

Later he will be stripped again and humiliated, crucified before the powers of the world.  He will not take the path we expect, or like Peter we want.  He is going to take the way of the roses, of his own blood spilled, not his soldiers and servants.  He is going to give his life instead of taking other lives.  He is going to take the only rise to power that can draw all to himself.  He is going to obliterate the very idea of victim sacrifice and a warring god.

He is stripping the war gods of their claims to YHWH’s throne and taking the only path to peace there is.  Oh, that I could claim to have been there! To have seen the prince of peace take off his mantle and take up the towel, to let him cleanse me.  Alas, I was born almost two millennia too late.  So all I can do is take off my robe and take up the towel, to kneel, to obey, and trust that this way of the cross is the Way.

And so our holy week journey begins.

Join us tonight at 6:30 pm at Grace Episcopal Church in Traverse City.  Join us wherever you are in the world.  In him, we are together.

eastersunday – a poem a sermon before lent sneaks up on us again

from Norwich Cathedral

from Norwich Cathedral

easter sunday – a sermon a poem
By Daniel P. Richards

we walk when we can to the tomb
knowing that life is the way we always suspected

our hope in pools beneath the executioner’s wood
our grief has turned numb and we do what we probably should

take care of the details

so we mix our spices and oils
and go as we have always gone

it was (according to luke) the traditional way
of preparing bodies after the sabbath day

the state (it is said) always wins in the end
so here we go again

the state of things are as they have always been
there is war somewhere and losses here at home

justified killings and innocent people sacrificed to a greater good
we live lives of collateral damage

the environment ruined for a comfortable drive to work
someone somewhere is working her 1000th day in a row

so that i can have affordable tennis shoes or cheap lettuce
a child this morning is watching television alone (again)

what can we do?

we try to take care of the details
and sit is the reality that consumes us

the pragmatic pessimism that sighs
and says once again this is the way things are

we go to war because we are supposed to
when someone wrongs us we have to hit them back

we have to have these betternewerbigger weapons or suv’s
or borders or vaccinations to keep danger at bay

but it doesn’t work does it?
we load the gun and the child finds it

we buy organic and still get cancer
we love our children and they walk away


eastersunday is the ultimate proof
that the way things are is an illusion

the grief that numbs us is confused
by the emptiness of the tomb

and the way things are is underthrown
by a god who works in death to do the new

the thing we did not expect and cannot explain
the moment of death has become the moment of life

god meets us where we felt most abandoned
crying out my god my god why have you forsaken me?

the answer did not come when we wanted it
(when all the world would see

and they would know that we were right
that we were on the winning team)

but rather in whispers and bleached clothes to some women
whom not even peter and john quite believed

and yet here we are still scratching our heads
and asking exactly what it means

i don’t know
but i hope towards this

that god is here with us

the god that didn’t fix the way things are
didn’t soften the religious leaders hearts or overthrow rome

that didn’t go searching in the dark sabbath for revenge
or mount up an army to go after (them)

but that god the creator comes quietly after the storm
and whispers tabitha cum to the little girl

and takes us by the hand
leads us out into a new light

maybe too bright or too dim to quite see everything
and the soldiers are still standing guard at the comer

but somehow it all seems new

and the people around us are no longer enemies or even strangers (now)
but they wear the smile of family and friend

someone breaks a fresh loaf of bread and says (this)
and we take it and become

someone gets out the bottle of wine and says (remember)
and we do

we remember who we are gathered in this quiet room
the unsuspected and somewhat surprised family of god

no god hasn’t made us perfect
nor did we win

but god told us even in the worst of what we could do
that we are still god’s own and loved (beloved)

and god tell us now in this festal laugh
that the way things are is new

the reign the household jesus proclaimed exists
and always has

the whole world over our family is waking up
and slowly getting it as though at dawn

the light of a new day shines and all are one

how then do we live in our cheap tennis shoes
and believe the woman who sewed them is our sister?

that the people in the mosque are redeemed somehow
and that our soldiers are more than killing machines?

i don’t know

but i get up every morning and i sit
alone in a blue room with a candle and an icon

and i remember who i am
and then when i go to the store

i think about who else has touched these things
and i remember that they are loved too

and that they deserve what i do
and instead they get the way things are

so i put my hands into the clay of my tiny corner of the world
and i get to work building this new jerusalem

where the way things are is the way i know them to be
soaked in the light of this eastersunday morning

a world made new and being made new by christ (yes)
and by the christ in us (yes)

today we will baptize children
and we will say with them the words we say about who we are

let us not say them only but remember them in our clay
and not come to this table lulled to sleep by the way things appear to be

but let us come to this table awake to the new day
hands dirty and ready to work

let us hand them a world with fewer crosses and more empty tombs
with more justice and a greater peace

and when jesus comes again in glory
he’ll find a house he recognizes

and their familiar faces
already getting out the bread and wine

for the greatest party ever thrown
and everyone will be welcome

daniel p. richards