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So much of our understanding of Christ and our faith can be seen in this night. Jesus serves those who have been following him by washing their feet and demonstrates what it means to be a christian leader. Jesus and his followers fellowship around a meal. That meal provides a way to remember what is about to happen the next day for ages to come. Jesus goes to lament, pray, and even beg for change in his own future, but places his faith in the hands of God the creator and sustainer, much like we will for thousands of years following.
This is a special day, one worthy of reflection and contemplation of what it means, both in the current unexpected and unpredictable environment we find ourselves in, as well as in light of the things in the world that beg to be changed regardless of our personal experiences on this day.
I have included with this 3 images, the first is a picture of the Pope a few years ago choosing to wash the feet of inmates. In this picture, you see one of the most powerful religious figures in the world reminding us that the service of foot washing on Maundy Thursday was not reserved for those who were seen as acceptable. The followers of Jesus whose feet were washed included Judas who Jesus knew was about to betray him as well as zealots who had fought (most likely illegally) against the government and tax collectors who had worked against those in need and over-collected to fill their own pockets. Yet Jesus served even the least of these and called us to do likewise. Inmates are among the forgotten people in our world, removed from daily life and from our sight. They are those who many feel least deserve grace and forgiveness, yet the Pope served them first and reminded us that we are all human and all deserve the full love of God and one another.
The second picture is my absolute favorite and one that I constantly am looking to acquire a print of. Created in 1998, just two years after the peace accords in Guatemala were signed, "The Apostles of the Lake" by Manuel Reanda is a painting of the Last Supper if it had happened around Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. In it you see Jesus and the apostles portrayed as indigenous Maya from all over the region dressed in traditional clothes of their communities. I love this not just because of my love for the location it represents, but because it reminds us of how we are called to bring people together around the table. Our call is to be a welcoming place for all, even for those who may leave us or reject us because they do not understand what it is we are doing by bringing all together. You can see "Judas" leaving via the door, sneaking out somewhat embarrassed and confused. Others are at all stages of faith: doubt, love, grief, confusion, lament, commitment, etc. It is a table where God does not judge, just welcomes all.
The final picture is from exactly 100 years earlier. Created by Paul Gauguin, "Christ in the Garden of Olives" shows for me better than any other work the struggle of Jesus in this moment. He would do anything to have this present changed, to continue to live and be with those he cares about here on earth in a physical form. He takes this weight alone, but only to a point bringing his closest friends and followers with him who sit at a distance confused. This echos the oldest told story in scripture, the book of Job, where the closest friends sit and try to explain Jobs situation to him, offering platitudes and opinions and not just being with him. While his friends do not offer Jesus these things, they likewise cannot stay fully with him, falling asleep due to the burdens of their own lives and how things have worn on them. They are all staring into an unknown future, whether they know it or not, and the struggles to this point have left some tired, and Jesus in lament. I have always loved this image, but in these times it seems even more appropriate. Many of us are praying that we will live through this, others are working hard to change the path of destruction this virus is causing and are exhausted looking for rest. All recognize that life will continue without this pain at some point, but none of us know what that will look like or what will happen in between. We find ourselves somewhere in this garden today. We may be with Jesus, with the apostles, with Judas, or with Peter, but we all are here, trying to understand what is going on and trying to make it through.
Over the next few days, the disciples will break apart and come back together. Likewise while we are apart physically this night calls us back to the common faith and common table we all are welcomed at. This is a day to prepare. Prepare a meal together with family. Prepare and make connections via phone or other media. Prepare for the future through rest and lament. Prepare yourself by taking time to reflect and contemplate and taking care of yourself. We are called tonight to be together with all the world as we remember our past, celebrate our present, and prepare for our future. Let us do this together. Amen.
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