Sermon: Maundy Thursday

5d61da57e2917373e6761c0b6921e8b5Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are proved right when you speak
and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Surely you desire truth in the inner parts;
you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

King David had been out on the roof of his house looking out on the city around him and the country that he ruled. As his eyes scanned the scenery he spotted a woman on the roof of her house – Bathsheba – who was naked and bathing. As King David watched, he began to desire her, and even though she was married he devised a plan to have her.

Her husband, Uriah, was one of his soldiers, so he had him sent to the front lines of a fierce battle where he would certainly be killed. He was and after the appropriate time of mourning, David had Bathsheba brought to him and married her.

The Lord saw David’s wickedness and sent Nathan the prophet to rebuke him of his sin. David confessed and it is believed that David wrote the Psalm I shared with you during his time of penance. He cried out to the Lord, “Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.”

From the very beginning of human history when Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden, this cry has crossed the lips of all God’s children: “Wash me. Wash me from my sins so that I might be whiter than snow. So that I might be cleansed of my sins.”

It’s always been this way; however, on the day, ordained by God, Jesus opened the gates to another way. On that day, Jesus began by taking on the role of a slave and washed the disciples’ feet. Peter objected, but Jesus insisted, “If you are to be a part of me, if you are to be where I am going, then you must allow me to wash your feet. You must allow me to cleanse you.”

Following the foot washing, scripture says, “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’ Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’”

It is fair to say that the disciples failed to understand the significance and the relation of these two events, but after his crucifixion they would come to understand that the foot washing was symbolic of the washing of their souls through the body and blood of Christ.

Jesus – God – humbled himself to the role of a slave and washed their feet so that they might be outwardly clean. Jesus – God – humbled himself to death upon a cross so that their souls might be cleansed.

Today we celebrate the gift of the most Holy Eucharist. The symbolism of the washing of the feet points to the washing of our souls, and it is the answer to our cry, “Wash me, Lord. Wash me and I will be whiter than snow.”

Sermon: Christmas Day

Candle burn

The first words of the bible are “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” then follows in very poetic words the account of the work of creation: light and darkness, sun, moon and stars, earth, land and sea, plants, animals, and finally humankind.  God’s creation.

The Gospel of John has an opening that sounds similar, “In the beginning…”  It is not the creation account that follows, but what was before even that, “In the beginning was the Word.”  Then follows another poetic passage about who the Word is and what he does.

But why is it that these verses are heard today?   It becomes clear when we read, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”  These words are talking about the child in the manger.  They tell who this newborn child really is, a human child, but not only that.  His origins go back further and deeper than our own.  We are people begotten of men, but Jesus is “God from God, Light from Light” as the Nicene Creed tells us.  He is God’s own Son, who has become man, has taken on flesh, our mortal humanity, and has become one of us.

God became man – that is what we say about the Christ Child in the manger.  That is what today’s Gospel is talking about.  God becoming man and when he did, he brought with him the divine light that shines in the darkness, a light that turns every shadow and dark corner as bright as the noonday sun.

Why?  Because He knows that so often we wander around in darkness.  A darkness of sin, death, sickness, war, and much more.  That we can become lost in a world that is harsh and we don’t understand.  We look for answers when we don’t even know the questions.  This is why the Word became flesh.  Why God became man.  So that he might shine his divine light into the darkness of this world and into the darkness of our hearts, so that we might know joy and so that we all might find our way home to Him.

History records for us an interesting footnote.  It was during the dark winter of 1864.  At Petersburg, Virginia, the Confederate army of Robert E. Lee faced the Union divisions of General Ulysses S. Grant.  The war was now three and a half years old and the glorious charge had long since given way to the muck and mud of trench warfare.  Late one evening one of Lee’s generals, Major General George Pickett, received word that his wife had given birth to a beautiful baby boy.  Up and down the line the Southerners began building huge bonfires in celebration of the event.  These fires did not go unnoticed in the Northern camps and soon a nervous Grant sent out a reconnaissance patrol to see what was going on.  The scouts returned with the message that Pickett had had a son and these were celebratory fires.  It so happened that Grant and Pickett had been contemporaries at West Point and knew one another well, so to honor the occasion Grant, too, ordered that bonfires should be built.

What a peculiar night it was.  For miles on both sides of the lines fires burned.  No shots fired.  No yelling back and forth. No war fought.  Only light, celebrating the birth of a child.  But it didn’t last forever.  Soon the fires burned down and once again the darkness took over. The darkness of the night and the darkness of war.

The good news of Christmas is that in the midst of a great darkness there came a light, and the darkness was not able to overcome the light.  It was not just a temporary flicker.  It was an eternal flame.  We need to remember that.  There are times, in the events of the world and in the events of our own personal lives, that we feel that the light of the world will be snuffed out.  But the Christmas story affirms that whatever happens, the light still shines.

The theologian Robert Alden wrote, “There is not enough darkness in all the world to put out the light of even one small candle.”  That being true, then the divine light that was born in a manger in Bethlehem is more than adequate to eternally dispel the darkness of this world.

%d bloggers like this: