Friday, April 06, 2007

"core stories"--a second, and frankly better, meditation for Maundy Thursday

I wrote this the hour before the service (with a little copying/pasting from the one below, written yesterday). I like it so much more than the other one, so this is what actually happened. The service was awesome--a Middle Eastern dinner, lots of fun and fellowship, some great was wonderful.

Rev. Teri Peterson
Ridgefield-Crystal Lake Presbyterian Church
core stories
John 15.12-17
April 5 2007—Maundy Thursday

‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.'


This week 17 confirmands, 3 other adults, and I went to visit the synagogue just down the street. This week, you see, is Passover, and the synagogue was hosting a seder dinner, to which we were invited. A seder is a full meal with lots of rituals, and this one had some fun parts too. There was the usual: the shankbone, horseradish, roasted egg, parsley dipped in saltwater, and four cups of wine—accompanied by lots of prayers and readings in Hebrew. There was also the highly unusual: a song about the ten plagues sung to the tune of the Addams Family theme song and a Passover Hokey Pokey performed by some of the men of the congregation. There was tons of food and great fellowship, lots of talking and singing and playing. It was a true celebration—as it should be, since the celebration of the Passover is the celebration and remembering of the defining event of Jewish history, the central part of their identity as Jewish people. God brought the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and into a good land, God made the people into community and gave them a story and a future.

I like to imagine that the seder Jesus was sharing with his friends during Passover so long ago was a lively party like the one we participated in two nights ago. I like to think there was singing and good food, lots of conversation, and some fun. Probably no Addams Family Plague songs, but maybe some poems or some spirited psalm singing, maybe some joking around during the meal. It was a celebration, after all! What kind of celebration party is it if there’s no fun to be had?

That night Jesus while Jesus was celebrating the core story of his people, as host he had some things he got to say. Among them were these words: You are my friends—not my servants, not my followers, my friends. And then this: This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

This isn’t quite what the story of the Passover is about…I can imagine the disciples—sorry, the friends—being unsure what to say to that. Of course the highest form of love is the self-sacrificing, giving-without-expectation-of-reward love. There’s nothing else to give than one’s life. This is not touchy feely Elephant Love Medley love, this is not red roses and pink hearts. This kind of love, Jesus’ love for us, is love, the verb. This is love, the action. This is love, the boundary-crossing, hand-dirtying, DOing, and even dying, way—not just a warm fuzzy feeling.

This is love that gets down on the floor and washes feet, that touches lepers, that eats with sinners, that spends itself for enemies as well as friends, that goes to where gritty life is lived and breaks itself open for the world. This is love that lays itself and its bearer on the line, exposed, vulnerable…and full. This kind of love is a little different than just another silly love song. This is love that gives and also calls. Jesus doesn’t just say “I love you,” he says “love one another the way I have loved you.” He doesn’t just give, he doesn’t just love, he doesn’t just pull us close to his heart, he calls.

This is love that breaks bread and pours wine, that hosts a dinner party for every one of God’s children, that calls us out into the world to live like the beloved people we are. By hosting this party, by laying down his life for his friends, Jesus gives us a new chapter in the core story. Once our Israelite ancestors were slaves in Egypt, and God did many mighty deeds of power and brought them out into a good and plentiful land. Once we were slaves to sin and death, and God sent his son to teach us how to live and how to love, and then saved us from our slavery with an act of power—power first made perfect in weakness, then power that triumphs even over death.

There is no greater love than this—to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. Because we have known such love, we too can love.

Thanks be to God, and may it be so.

Followed immediately by a soloist singing/playing "Bridge Over Troubled Water."

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