Wednesday, April 16, 2014

To Begin the Three Days: Eat Standing Up

Tomorrow is Maundy Thursday, the beginning of the Great Three Days leading to Easter.  As usual, I am not ready, despite forty days warning, although I will say that I'm doing better tonight than I was this morning.  I am preaching on Maundy Thursday, which will also be first communion for a few of our fifth graders this year.  I have my sermon all written, or, more precisely, mostly written, and Holy Communion is a theme:  bread and wine, body and blood, room at the table.

Despite this, I couldn't help taking some illicit glances over at the Exodus reading, the instructions for preparing the passover feast.  There is the year-old lamb, or goat, and there is the unleavened bread, and there are the instructions for spreading the blood on the doorposts.  And then there is the curious instruction to eat with your staff in hand, your sandals on your feet, your 'loins girded' -- as if you are about to take flight, according to Exodus.

Of course, this makes a certain sort of sense, in the context of the story.  They had to be ready to go as soon as the word came down that Pharaoh had given in to the demand:  "Let my people go."  They were on full alert, waiting and listening for the word that would set them free.

Of course, it is fascinating to me because in our day and time, we eat 'on the go' more often than is healthy for us.  We are urged to sit down and eat together more often, to take more time, to not be in such a hurry.

But this meal was meant to be eaten in a hurry, by a people who were setting out from slavery to freedom.  They were waiting for a word that would set them free, but also set them into a future they knew almost nothing about.

There is something profoundly disorienting about this.  This particular story of eating-in-a-hurry is not about meeting our own deadlines and setting our own agendas:  it is about waiting for a Word from outside ourselves to call us to action.

There is something profoundly disorienting about Lent, and the Three Days.  I never feel ready, even when I am prepared.  I never feel prepared for the bread, the body and blood, placed in my hand, the violence of the cross and all that it means.  I never feel ready for the empty tomb, the stone rolled away, the Word I have waited for, that calls me to action, to travel a way not my own.

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