Saturday, April 15, 2017

For You

In the Hebrew calendar, the new day begins as the sun sets, as we prepare for rest. In this way, God’s people remember that the first thing we do each day is sleep—put ourselves in God’s hands to be powerless, dependent, vulnerable, and hopefully renewed, refreshed, and readied for the work of the day to come.

On Saturday, God rested. That’s part of the story of creation. After all the events of Maundy Thursday (footwashing, the Last Supper, the garden of Gethsemane, the arrest) and Friday (trial and crucifixion, death and burial), beginning at sundown and throughout Saturday, it was quiet. But I imagine that like us, they remembered.

Maybe they remembered how Jesus taught them again the stories they knew so well—stories of Creation and God’s saving power, the story of the Exodus, the stories of prophets who saw God breathe life into the dead and who escaped even a fiery furnace unharmed. They remembered because in the face of terrible things, it’s easy to forget. Then and now, it’s easy to forget. When we are deep in grief, it’s easy to forget.

Along the road to Emmaus, Cleopas and his companion were deep in grief when a stranger joined them and asked them why they were sad. “Are you the only stranger around here that doesn’t know what happened yesterday?” And then Jesus (the stranger walking with them) began to tell the story all over again. They were so interested, they invited Jesus into their home, and then, when he broke the bread, they recognized him. In the broken bread, there was the risen Christ. We’re reminded of the same thing in the bread we share—that here in the broken gifts we share, the risen Christ is present.

I read this week, “It is terrible how much has been forgotten, which is why, I suppose, remembering is a holy thing.”[1] When we come to the table, we remember more than a night when Jesus shared a supper and then went to his death. We remember God’s history of remembering us. In Jesus, we are re-membered: our broken stories, our broken selves are reassembled into the One who holds us and sees us as so much more whole and holy than we do.

That’s why on this night, we gather around Eric who has been baptized. In grace-filled water and God’s word, you have received a “bath of the new birth in the Holy Spirit.” Baptism reminds us that daily, we die and are raised, we repent and are forgiven, we fail and we begin again.

That’s why on this night, we share Holy Communion, so that we can hear the words, “Given for you,” and know the risen Christ is present, offering new life in God to everyone gathered.

Luther often used the word treasure when describing Holy Communion. Like a hidden treasure, this gift comes to us whether we know about it or seek it. “How we feel about Jesus or how close we feel to God is meaningless next to how God acts upon us. How God [actually] enters into our messy lives and loves us through them, whether we want God’s help or not.”[2]

If we had to have a certain level of faith before receiving, we’d never come. If we had to make sure everything in us was correct before our relationships could begin, we’d be alone in life. Instead, in our doubts, we ask God to awaken faith.[3] We come to the table in faith… but we also receive faith by coming to the table, in hearing those words, “for you.”

We hope for the risen Christ to walk with us as Christ walked with weary travelers on the road to Emmaus… and to be somehow ignited to recognize Jesus here with us, here, now… as we hear God’s words and share a meal… just like they did.

And then, if Jesus disappears from our sight (because we can never pin God down, can we?), instead of going back to a state of hopelessness… maybe instead we can practice hopeful remembering.

As we leave, maybe we’ll think back on tonight… remember how our hearts were burning within us? Remember how we tasted something new in the breaking of the bread? God’s beloved was really here, is really here, among us. And that is such good news as we enter evening and go to our rest.

As we come to the table tonight, we remember the beginning and the end of the story. From creation, God is with us. God offers water poured over us in love. God offers a meal where there is always something “for you.” God offers resurrection and new life. Alleluia!

Let us pray,
In those words we hear with the bread, with the cup, in the words “for you,” let us hear your love outpoured, your love changing everything. Amen.[4]

[1] Anita Diamant, The Red Tent, quoted in Free Indeed: Devotions for Lent 2017, p. 76-77.
[2] Nadia Bolz-Weber, Pastrix as quoted in Free Indeed: Devotions for Lent, page 82.
[3] Jennifer Baker-Trinity, Free Indeed: Devotions for Lent, page 83.
[4] Jennifer Baker-Trinity, Free Indeed: Devotions for Lent, page 79.

No comments: