Sermon for Maundy (Holy) Thursday 2009

Sermon for Maundy (Holy) Thursday 2009
The Revd. J. Michael Povey at St. Boniface, Siesta Key, FL

Exodus 12:1-14; 1 Corinthians 11:23-32; John 13:1-35

Let me tell you about two Dioceses of the Episcopal Church, each is far from Florida. One of them elected a new Bishop in 1994. The other did so in 1996. In each case, members of these Dioceses expressed the hope that they would choose a Bishop who would be “deeply spiritual”.

That’s hardly surprising. What would be surprising would be to read of a Diocese whose prime requirement in a new Bishop is that she would be “deeply worldly”.

Diocese B elected their “deeply spiritual” Bishop. His office is overshadowed with a cloud of mysticism. His answer to every solution is “pray about it”. Period. He doses out large amounts of syrupy sweetness, when that Diocese almost certainly needs dosing with syrup of figs.

Diocese A elected their “deeply spiritual” Bishop. He has become a terrible disappointment to many. For he takes public action on matters such as human rights, racism, same sex marriages and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. He is a monk as well as a Bishop, and many of his detractors wish that he would simply retire to his cell and do his beads.

This leads me to a question for this evening. “Do we need more spiritual Christians or more worldly Christians?”
I begin to ponder that question with another. “What would Jesus Do?” , It seems to be the right place to start since this evening we begin three days which are all about Jesus.

The Jesus of whom John writes seems at first blush to be a much “spiritualised” Jesus, a man of ideas. He speaks not with earthy parables, but with concepts such as “truth”, light”, “life”, “being born from above”, “glory”.
His world appears to be that of the ashram or retreat centre; not the world of sowing seed, finding lost coins, reaping harvests and the like which we find in the other gospels.

But wait, there’s more.

Jesus in John’s Gospel is also a man of action. He ensures that people have the times of their lives at a wedding by turning water into wine. He barges into the Temple, early in his ministry to challenge the corrupt elite. He hangs around with a much married woman who is of the “wrong” faith and race. He feeds the crowd with good bread and delicious fish.

Here is an earthy Jesus. But of course! For when John begins his gospel, he speaks of “the true light which enlightens everyone coming into the world”. That’s a “spiritual” concept for us – the idea of enlightenment. But John goes on to say that this “true light” became flesh. That is John’s version of the childbirth in a stable. Earthy stuff.

So we see and know what we need to see and know about God, in an earthy human being. This being the case, our response to questions about spirituality is to say that it is rooted in flesh; in human bodies; not in an ethereal or other-worldly mysticism.

Jesus, on this night, shows us a spiritual life which is all about bodies. He washes the feet, the dirty, smelly feet of the disciples.

Christian spirituality is all about stuff, and earth, and bodies. It’s about the godliness of bodies.

Feet first, for they bear the heaviest burden.

Feet first and from them:-

To gorgeous bodies: in which we see the beauty of G-d.

To bodies broken by violence, hunger, disease or rape: in which we see the suffering of G-d.

To sexual bodies: in which we see pleasure and delight of G-d.

To aching bodies: in which we see the weariness of G-d.

To singing and dancing bodies: in which we see the joy of G-d.

Legs which dance,
arms which embrace,
lips which kiss, voices which sing,
hands which hold,
armpits which sweat,
muscles which ache,
faces which smile –
-in all of these we encounter the living G-d, as that G-d washes our feet.

Last Sunday at the 9:00 a.m. Eucharist, Wesley Wasdyke reminded us that G-d did not give us a theory of atonement, but that G-d gave us a meal.

Tonight we are reminded that G-d does not give us a theory of spirituality, but that G-d gives us feet to wash.


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