Crows Nest Uniting Church
Maundy Thursday • 2 April 2015


Rev. Chris Udy



Reflection – Intimacy
 
Readings:
Mark 14:1‑11 ‑ True discipleship
John 13:1‑15 ‑ Jesus washes his Disciples' Feet
 
Each year, in the days leading up to Good Friday,
we read these two stories
of Jesus with his disciples.
In both of them we sense
that something significant is happening;
there’s a charged atmosphere
of embarrassment and awkwardness.
In both of them there’s a meal,
and during the meal there’s an intrusion:
in the first, the meal is at Bethany
Mark says in the home of Simon the leper.
Even that detail is intriguing;
you could imagine that the disciples
were already a little on edge,
keeping themselves tightly to themselves,
reluctant to touch and be touched,
wondering what they were eating,
not wanting to expose themselves to infection.
But suddenly a woman - whose name we do not know -

broke in to the room,

broke open a jar of perfumed ointment
and poured it over Jesus’ head.
 
Judas masks his horror and embarrassment
with outrage -
accusing the woman of wastefulness,
demanding to know why the perfume hadn’t been sold
and the money given away -
but, deep down, we know
that Judas is terrified -
not of the waste of money,
but of the generosity, the tenderness,
the vulnerability and costliness of love
and the price of intimacy.
 
Jesus isn’t frightened.
He knows what it costs
to open up your heart
and to let these fearful and damaged people -
his disciples, his followers, ordinary human beings -
lepers and tax collectors,
prostitutes, Pharisees, soldiers and scribes -
to let people come close enough to wound him.
 
He not only defends the woman,
he says she’s the only one who understands.
She’s the true disciple -
she believes him when he says he’ll die -
she’s ready with her perfume to anoint him for burial -
and she also trust that he will rise -
so she anoints him now, while he’s there,
during the meal,
because no other time will present itself.

This unnamed and unknown woman

is the true disciple -
not only because she believes and trusts -
but because she serves.
She does what Jesus says - in John’s gospel -
is the way the world will know
who the disciples of Jesus are -
she serves - she cares, she loves,
she anoints, she feels, she comforts, she heals.
 
In John’s gospel it’s Jesus
who breaks into the meal
and horrifies and scandalises those around the table.
He takes off his robe,
ties a servant’s towel at his waist
and washes the feet
of all of his disciples.
There it is again -
that awkwardness, that embarrassment,
that touching and holding
and serving and tenderness.
 
This time it’s Peter who objects -
“You’re not touching me!” he says at first -
and then, when Jesus insists,
“Touch me all over!” - he says -
utterly unable to sense and to see
what’s welcome and what’s wanted
and what’s needed.
 
True intimacy isn’t all-or-nothing.
It’s dynamic, responsive, changing;
it involves sensitivity and openness,
risk and forgiveness,

it needs to read subtleties

and be aware that feelings change -
and that what’s appropriate in one place
and with one person
may not be what’s needed somewhere else.
Intimacy recognises something sacred
in the trust another person gives us -
and honours it, respects it,
understands it as a precious gift.
 
"Do you know what I have done to you?” Jesus said.
“You call me Teacher and Lord‑‑
and you are right, for that is what I am.
So if I, your Lord and Teacher,
have washed your feet,
you also ought to wash one another's feet.
I’ve have set you an example,
that you should also do as I have done to you.”
 
Tonight, together, we share a meal -
holy communion.
That name by itself
invites us into something intimate and costly -
and as we come to the table
we’re invited - not obliged, but invited -
to think about true discipleship,
and be open
to a deeper communion
with the body of Christ -
and to offer service to the rest of Jesus’ disciples.
 
If you’d like to,
you’re invited to an anointing.
Come to the front,

and receive some perfumed ointment for your hands,

and be ready -
if someone comes out with you -
to anoint the hands of someone else.
If you’d prefer to stay in your seat
and reflect on what the stories mean -
that’s absolutely fine.
And as the perfume spreads around the Church
we remember that Jesus calls us
to be ready to give our lives -
maybe not in crucifixion -
but certainly in sacrifice and service -
and also to be ready for resurrection.

 
 
Tenebrae Reflection
 
Judas betrayed Jesus.
We don’t really know why, or what he hoped to gain.
But maybe he was impatient,
and wanted things to move more quickly;
maybe he disagreed with what Jesus was doing,
and thought that if he placed Jesus in danger,
forced him into a tight corner,
Jesus might take action;
maybe he was disappointed about something,
and in his bitterness he wanted to get back at Jesus.
But we really don’t know.
What we do know,
is that we have acted in ways just like this.
We’ve been impatient, we’ve forced issues,
and we’ve let bitterness lead us to betrayal.
Whenever we’ve abused someone else’s confidence,
made use of their weakness,
or manipulated someone’s trust and love for us,
We’ve been just like Judas.
 
Peter had made such loud claims,

and promised so much loyalty and service to Jesus

but when it came to the test,
Peter denied he even knew Jesus.
 
When he denied knowing Jesus
it was as if the last 3 years had not existed;
Jesus had never called him,
he’d never seen and heard
all that Jesus had said and done,
everything that had happened was wiped away.
When he denied knowing Jesus
Peter was also denying that Jesus had any power
to help him when he was in trouble.
Maybe our denial isn’t as obvious as Peter’s;
but whenever we’re ashamed
of our Christian calling,
whenever we listen to our friends
or being slandered and stay silent,
whenever we refuse to do something
we know to be right and good
because we don’t believe God can help us,
then we deny Jesus too.
 
(Desertion) You remember the story Jesus told,
about the wedding feast where the people waiting
let their lights go out?
Discipleship is like that -
we need endurance and perseverance to follow Jesus.
But the disciples fell asleep, and Jesus was left alone.
They ran away when the soldiers came,
and Jesus was left alone.
They hid themselves while he faced a crooked trial,
was condemned by an angry mob,
and was killed with a brutality we can hardly imagine,

and through it all, Jesus was left alone.

We desert people
when our disinterest leaves people isolated,
when our fear makes us back away
from a difficult confrontation,
and when we hide ourselves away
from the horrible things
that we know are going on all around us,
because we’re scared we might get drawn in.
 
Betrayal and Desertion and Denial
are three ways we can fail in our discipleship.
In each failure we recognise
how little we are like Jesus,
and we see that what we do
often leaves other people open
to suffering and loneliness and harm,
just as the disciples left Jesus.