Tonight begins that three-day journey to the Cross and to the empty tomb.
Tonight we gather at the table, we hear old stories told—stories of other tables in other times; we share the bread and wine; we take out the basin and take up the towel as we wash one another’s feet; and then we strip the altar bare.
Tonight is an invitation really—an invitation to live as if we were there; an invitation to enter into each moment of this journey through Gethsemene to the grave; an invitation to play the different parts, to feel—to really feel the range of emotions present there.
Tonight we are invited to live as if we were there—
There with Jesus at that last supper with his friends He knew the path he was on He knew how dangerous the course of solidarity with the oppressed He knew how dangerous the challenge to the oppressor really is
How poignant, how bittersweet the moment must have been.
Tonight we are asked to step inside the door, to take our place at the table, to sit with Judas and with Peter and with all the rest, there with Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of our Lord.
Tonight we are invited to feel as they once felt, to step into their lives, to take their part, to play their role
The role of Judas comes our way– Mad that Jesus does not share our particular agenda Eager for the quick way out, the easy answer, the empty prize
Or was there something different going with Judas—something much more complicated yet not nearly as dark as we’ve been taught to think
Was Judas the most loyal of all—willing to suffer ignominy so that Jesus’ solidarity with the oppressed could extend even to the cross
With Peter we look up and see Jesus at our feet—towel tied around his waist, basin in his hands Perhaps uncomfortable with the thought of Jesus serving as a slave Perhaps discomfited by the intimacy of it all
Not long thereafter we’re in the garden with the disciples nodding off to sleep—just too darn tired or too distracted to carry on—no time to pray tonight we say as we drift into a deep deep sleep
There are other roles these three days offer us as well
Peter striking out and hitting back—
Disciples fleeing—all afraid
Pilate and Caiaphas in their dance of shifting blame from one onto the other
Crowds taunting Jesus as he walks that road to Golgatha
Simon of Cyrene seeing a stranger in need and picking up his cross
Soldiers pounding nails into hands and feet
And all the time the people in the crowd—jeering, taunting, mocking— some joining in because they are afraid to do otherwise, some keeping silent, hoping no one will notice them
People standing with Him in his passion, in his dying
A mother’s quiet lament
Good friends—the Marys and the beloved one—witnessing with Him, keeping watch with Him
The soldiers watching all of it—hearing Jesus’ labored breath, watching him flinch in pain, hearing Him gasp out, “Father, forgive them”.
The awful silence at the end.
And then the empty tomb—that’s part of it as well. These three days end not on the Cross but at the empty tomb.
It all begins here, now, in this moment. At this table.
It starts here, now, as we rise and wash one another’s feet.
It starts here, now, as we receive Jesus’ invitation to serve as he serves, to love as he loves, to live as if we were there.
Because—because we are there at the table, there in the garden, there on that road, there at the Cross and there before that empty tomb time and again throughout our lives.
There’s one last thing to keep in mind as we enter this three day journey from Gethsemene to the Cross and to empty tomb. One last thing as we begin to live as if. One last word from Jesus: “As you do to the least of these, you do to me.” Amen.