Maundy Thursday, the Pope washing feet, and the call to the basin and towel

12 After he washed the disciples’ feet, he put on his robes and returned to his place at the table. He said to them, “Do you know what I’ve done for you? 13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you speak correctly, because I am. 14 If I, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you too must wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example: just as I have done, you also must do. 16 I assure you, servants aren’t greater than their master, nor are those who are sent greater than the one who sent them. 17 Since you know these things, you will be happy if you do them.” (Jn 13:12-17, CEB)

The call to leadership is the call to serve. It is the call to do the mundane things everyone else isn’t paying attention to. It is to do the “cruddy” stuff when everyone else is thinking, “I’m not touching that!”

Pope Francis I will commemorate Maundy Thursday, and this passage, by washing the feet of youth offenders in jail. 

Foot washing is part of the ceremony of the day as we remember the actions of Christ.

Serving in the ordinary should be the action that follows. Jesus picked up the tools of the servant to do what no other person in that room was willing to do. It was a job that needed doing, so he showed the way. Then, he let the disciples know, “This is what I expect of your life.”

Foot washing today is the ceremony. There is nothing wrong with that commemoration.

It’s what happens after this day that determines if we are really people of the basin and the towel.

Am I willing to serve in the mundane?

Am I willing to pick up the jobs that need to be done and do them without the need for applause when it is finished?

Do I want to do a “foot washing” only so I can put the picture on Facebook?

We need the example of the Savior. Serve. And don’t let anyone else know about it. Just get the job done and move on.

“I have given you an example: just as I have done, you also must do.” (Jn. 13:15, CEB)

Sin

“Sin is not a mistake. Our sin is our willing unlawfulness, our purposeful breaking of God’s law. In attitude and in deed, we rebel against God, and we have for that reason forfeited our right to live. We deserve to die for our sins. That’s what the death of Jesus is for; our deliberate unlawfulness.

We all make mistakes, and we can all brush them off. But our dilemma caused by our offense against God, the removal of the penalty we deserve, can only be solved by the act of God. God must provide the solution…

Jesus didn’t die for your mistakes; he died for your sin.”
— David Hansen, The Art of Pastoring

The Liturgy of Abundance

I ran across this article by Walter Brueggemann, one of my favorite Old Testament scholars.

I love this quote:

The profane is the opposite of the sacramental. “Profane” means flat, empty, one-dimensional, exhausted. The market ideology wants us to believe that the world is profane–life consists of buying and selling, weighing, measuring and trading, and then finally sinking down into death and nothingness. But Jesus presents and entirely different kind of economy, one infused with the mystery of abundance and a cruciform kind of generosity. Five thousand are fed and 12 baskets of food are left over–one for every tribe of Israel. Jesus transforms the economy by blessing it and breaking it beyond self-interest. From broken Friday bread comes Sunday abundance. In this and in the following account of a miraculous feeding in Mark, people do not grasp, hoard, resent, or act selfishly; they watch as the juices of heaven multiply the bread of earth.

Walk in ABUNDANCE.

Eating and Drinking in the Presence of God

Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy elders of Israel went up, 10 and they saw Israel’s God. Under God’s feet there was what looked like a floor of lapis-lazuli tiles, dazzlingly pure like the sky. 11 God didn’t harm the Israelite leaders, though they looked at God, and they ate and drank. (Ex. 24:9-11, CEB)

My own Pentecostal/Charismatic conditioning says this is not how you act when the presence of God shows up. You’re supposed to fall down (forward or backward, depending on your theology), and “be undone.” Then… write a book.

Or something like that.

I exaggerate (somewhat), but when the presence of God comes down, I never heard about eating and drinking.

In that day, it was a sealing of a covenant. It was the acceptance of a peace offering. This was what they knew to do. God shows up, the covenant is agreed upon, so we eat.

The presence of God makes all the difference. His presence in our lives is key. We are to be people of the presence.

And the invitation comes to us on a regular basis. Eat and drink.

Where?

“Take and eat.”

“Take and drink.”

In our church, it’s every Sunday. We come to the Table of the Lord. We are invited to remember this covenant, and by partaking of the table we are invited into his presence. God comes down and we eat and drink.

In most churches of my denomination we are seated and the deacons serve us. The communion generally comes at the end of the service and is generally “tacked on.”

We serve communion weekly and ask people to come forward. I give the bread and say, “The body of Christ for you.”

They move to the next server who gives them the cup saying, “The blood of Christ for you.”

This is nothing new for mainline Christians. (And I’ve probably butchered it. My apologies.)

But every week we are invited into the presence of God. It’s not overly emotional… though I must admit it IS emotional for me. Every week, I love giving communion. It is precious.

But I don’t fall over. (Well, not every week.)

Yet, here I am in the presence of Almighty God. Eating and drinking.

And his presence changes everything.

Thoughts on Pastoring

I have been encouraged by a mentor of mine to put together some thoughts on ministry. It’s meant to be an encouragement for pastors who… well… pastor. It’s more about the ministry and call of pastoring as opposed to all the leadership material we have right now. Mark Galli’s piece, of course, pre-empts all my work! 😉

Since there is probably no publication interested in hearing from a “small church” pastor, I will probably end up forging my thoughts on paper and with some trepidation put together some blog posts in the future. And that will be the extent of it.

But today I was working on the second section of my “article”, which focuses on communion. (We serve communion every week in our Pentecostal church.)

I wanted to try out this thought: “Every week I try to make people homesick.”

In communion we are reminded that one day we need that this world is not our home. One day we get to partake of this table with Christ. With him. We need a longing for a greater allegiance to the Kingdom of God and every week communion gives us that opportunity. Every week I try to make people homesick.

 

Book Review — The Liturgical Year

I received The Liturgical Year from Thomas Nelson as a complimentary copy for review. I am under no obligation to give a positive review.

But I can’t help but be positive about the two books I have read in this series called The Ancient Practices Series.

Joan Chittister walks the reader through the meaning of the liturgical year. I have grown up Pentecostal, so it is only in the past few years I have looked into the ancient practices regarding liturgy. This book is a tremendous help. Her writing style is completely accessible and almost conversational.

The center of the Christian life should be the Christian calendar, not our civil calendars. The beginning of that year is Advent. The necessity of following the liturgical calendar every year is not to keep repeating things. The purpose is to grow.

This book is about growing wiser, growing holier, growing more embedded in the essentials of life as the years go by rather than simply moving from one time of life to the next.

As we go through these seasons year after year, there is a new depth we can find. There is a new height we to which we can climb. I have understood this for years about studying the Bible. I could study the Book of Ephesians every year and not plunge the depths fully. Yet, when I’ve looked at the liturgical year in the past all I have seen is repetition. It does not need to be that way.

We come to the liturgical year and look at what we already know… year after year. Yet, we can then look deeper and climb higher. We can be surprised by something every year.

Chittister breaks down the liturgical year and then takes the reader on a journey through that year. She discusses the four major kinds of celebrations:

1. Sundays. It is a “little Easter” every week. We remember the death and resurrection of Jesus.

2. Seasons of the year. Advent and Lent are the obvious major observances. Lent came very early in the Church. Advent came much later. (By later, we’re talking late 3rd Century.) The Christian church is rooted in Easter. It is the high point of the year. She walks the reader very carefully through both celebrations, but especially through every component of Lent, Holy Week, and Easter. It is a powerful journey.

3. The sanctoral cycle. This is the commemoration of individuals noted for living out the kind of personal holiness they saw in Jesus. There are the feast days of the saints that have been commemorated for centuries. This gets uncomfortable for Protestants. The explanations are refreshing to me. It’s not about the worship of saints. It is about seeing the great examples of godliness and emulating them. I write this on Martin Luther King Day in the United States. We may barely notice this day, but it IS a day to commemorate a great man with a passion for Christ and the cause of equality.

4. Ordinary Time. Between Easter and Advent and then again between Christmastide and Lent there are these passages of time. There is the dailiness of life we deal with all the time. Ordinary stuff. This is where true life is found.

This book is a great primer for the novice. I will access this book all through the coming year so I can learn more of how the Church cycles. I want to draw from this ancient well and learn.

Chittister uses the word “religion” in this powerful statement. I don’t have a problem with it, but maybe substitute “Christianity” or “relationship” if you like. This statement is incredible:

Religion celebrates what the rest of the world forgets — the inherent goodness of life itself. Religion knows that life unadorned and raw is the ultimate high. Everything else is a pale shadow of the real thing. All the excesses in the world — sex, alcohol, drugs, gambling, greed — are simply substitutes for the real thing.

This is a book worth utilizing for at least one entire year.