“…the doors of the house where [they] met were locked for fear…” This is a description of Jesus’ disciples on that first Easter evening. They were afraid. So afraid! So much so that they were hidden, doors locked. It is a feeling we might find very familiar these days. At some point or another, we find ourselves afraid of what’s out there but recently, we have all found ourselves at home, afraid of what is out there, afraid of picking up or accidentally sharing a new and as yet largely unpredictable virus. Behind locked doors, afraid is a place many people in our world can find themselves, both physically and symbolically, and not only during times of a worldwide pandemic. But today we are keenly aware of how our fears can isolate us from others, leaving us locked up both literally and figuratively……………………
Beloved of God, I join you this day, Maundy Thursday, with no elaborate service and no physical presence but still… all the same… with you.
This night that is different from all other nights is more different for us than I have ever known. But it is not unknown to the Great Cloud of Witnesses, who always surround us, and it is not unknown to Jesus, who promised to be with us always… always… to the end.
This is the night in which Jesus was betrayed. We hear that every week. Or at least, we did before a virus told us we could not let our hands touch, could not come close enough to see the unique brush marks of color in the iris of another’s eye as we passed peace between us, hear laughter and liturgy fill our little sanctuary.
And yet, this night still comes.
This night in which Jesus is betrayed comes without our help, without our taking our places in the pews. Jesus is still washing the feet of those who serve him while we remain at home, loving our neighbors from afar by washing our own hands over and over again.
The night in which Jesus makes a banquet of life out of so little and we fret over getting to the grocery store so we can eat with only those under our roof or eat alone. Again.
The night in which Jesus knows what will happen and how it will end and we continue to wander in this wilderness of curve flattening projections and climbing numbers of loss and grief with no knowledge or sight of the end.
The night in which Jesus is being betrayed into the hands of the Enemy while we know not what we are to do.
This night in which Jesus gave a new commandment, of loving a self-sacrificing love for one another, as we practice this love, even for strangers we will never know, by making masks or giving money or donating food or writing notes of encouragement or giving freely of whatever art or talent we may possess, but most of all not giving in to the need to gather and choosing aloneness this night and this week.
The remarkable life-changing… world-changing thing about our God is that it is when we are furthest away, God comes the closest to us. God does not hover above an altar in a building waiting for us to make our way there. The very hallmark of God, the lynchpin of the entire story of Jesus’ life, is that God comes down from the altar, from a high throne, from a heavenly realm, and crosses an unknowable number of obstacles to get to us.
The night in which he is betrayed is the night in which Jesus, knowing he did not have to kneel to anything in all creation, kneels down because that is where we are. That is where the lost, lonely, broken and afraid are. Jesus comes into our living rooms and kitchen tables and through our computer screens because that, for the moment, is where we must be. And because the truth is, Jesus is always in those places anyway.
Tonight, we move into the holiest part of the year and it may feel like we can do so little to make it truly special. And yet. There is that beautiful phrase that just keeps coming up with God. And yet, this holy week was never ours in the first place.
This is the night Jesus kneels down to us, right where we are, tells us that it is love he really wants us to know and give, and then he goes to do what we can never do.