Friday, April 2, 2010

Maundy Thursday, Year C, April 1, 2010

Exodus 12:1-14a, Psalm 116:1, 10-17, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, John 13:1-17, 31b-35
Courting Imperfection, preached by Rev. Peter Courtney

A company was experiencing terrible morale. Nothing they did seemed to work. Even giving everyone a raise didn’t seem to help much. In desperation and little hope they hired a consultant. After listening for a while the consultant concluded that the employees did not know one another well. They had all been so carefully taught to look good and sound good that none of them ever encountered the other in anything but “dressed up mode.” The more they met the successful persona in each other, the more inadequate they felt and the more competitive they became.

The consultant proposed a neat idea. She called the whole company together; it wasn’t a large one. She provided each person with a whole sheet of large stick-on red dots. She invited everyone to place a red dot on any part of their body which had been injured during their lifetime. She had to provide extra sheets of red dots because the more people examined their experience the more they discovered wounds. Most of the people had dozens of red dots on their broken hearts, or where their feelings had been hurt. Many more had red dots all over their heads as their perceptions of themselves had been damaged.

Seeing one another covered with red dots was an amazing discovery. Perfect people disclosed they were neither immortal nor impervious to the vicissitudes of life. Porcelain dolls turned Raggedy Ann. They all found out about each other’s struggle. None was perfect nor even successful all the time.

Oh how badly we want others to believe that we are handsome, thin, rich, and smart. Jesus washed his disciples’ feet even though they thought they weren’t good enough.

He washed their feet as unwilling guests. Foot washing was common garden variety courtesy, the kind of thing expected to be done for people you didn’t even like.

Foot washing or even hand washing is expected. Jesus’ hospitality at dinner is different. Very few if any of Jesus’ guests at dinner would have passed even the most cursory social scrutiny for “B” list never mind the higher reaches of social acceptance. No one is expected to invite people they don’t like to dinner; no one wants invite people for dinner when they are covered with red dots. We want people on their best, preferably better than their best. Then as now we prefer to invite people who would make us look good and make us feel good.

I remember an evening in which my children and I were invited to dinner by some not very appealing people. Not wanting to be rude, I accepted. On a breathless August Sunday afternoon we went to their very small, very hot house barely containing two very unruly children. Dinner took forever to appear and when it did it was four starches of the same color and well-done greasy meat. My children still remember it as a very trying experience although their behavior was beyond reproach.

Being a host to unwilling guests must be very trying. Yet Jesus our host calls us, his trying, phony, children into fellowship with himself. Jesus offers himself as food itself. He is the hospitality. We can be very unruly and unwilling guests, yet he continually pours himself out for us that we might notice our own wounds until we finally notice — our wounds are His.

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