“This is the day . . .” Begins our liturgy tonight. This is the day where we receive from Christ three important teachings. Three teachings that have forever shaped and formed our Faith. On this day Jesus takes a towel and basin to wash the disciples’ feet. A simple, yet profound action that demonstrates for us what it truly means to live a life of servant ministry. Servant ministry means to be able to identify with others. God came into this world/our world to identify with us to understand and experience fully the human form. Washing feet is unpleasant and messy and that is the point. Because life is messy.
This is also the day we receive from Christ this Holy Feast that we call the Eucharist which we celebrate week in and week out. This is how Jesus asks us to remember him. By inviting the stranger, breaking bread, pouring wine and in so doing forming community with one another. We have been doing so ever since.
The third teaching we receive this day is a new commandment to love one another as God loves us. This commandment and commitment to love one another is what sustains and enables us to live a life of servant ministry and to celebrate the Eucharist together well. Because without love, that deep radical and unconditional love that God has for us, we simply go through the motions and we will never be able to identify with our neighbour at home or abroad. Without love, God’s love, we lose the meaning of this Holy Feast, and we wonder why we bother with all of this anyway. Our daily lives become routine without purpose or meaning and we lose the thread of the bigger picture. The bigger picture that we are all God’s beloved people.
Last year I had the opportunity to visit Windsor Castle and attend a course of study at St. George’s College. One of our plenary sessions was on poetry and we had poet, Michael Symmons Roberts as our guest speaker. I will confess that it was one of the sessions I was least looking forward to. I mean the changing of the Guard a few feet away really seemed more appealing than sitting in a lecture hall listening to poetry. But as it turns out, this was one of the sessions that resonated with me the most. Here is one of Michael Roberts poems from his book, “Selected Poems” that I would like to share with you tonight. Cause sometimes it is the poets in our lives that can capture the deeper essence and meaning of things more clearly. The poem is called: “Orison.”
“Each rescue has its list, as painters knew:
Annunciation never simply girl in a garden,
Winged man on his knees, it needed
Comb and needle, lily, apple, mirror, moon.
Beyond the garden, darkest forest,
Leaves and branches curling in the heat.
For some, accoutrements are telephones or sun,
A touch, kiss, drink. It may be hard
To pick a moment when you crossed the line.
Yet always away offstage is that roar
Of flame, the fuselage of all that’s past,
Torn open like a blackened wound.
O pilot, cast as smithereens, navigator lost
In pine straw. God of rescue, withhold not.
O come. We are waiting for our future.
(Michael Symmons Roberts, 2016, p. 128).
Tonight, we experience and enter the drama where our Lord is touched, kissed and drink is poured. But it is here in the darkest forest that there is a promise of life beyond the garden.
When did you cross the line and leave the garden? When did you, like Mary, like so many say “yes” to God? Because this is the day when the author of our life takes a comb and needle and begins to do something new with us.
The new, like all things new, begins tonight in the garden as we keep watch and wait with Jesus and the disciples for our future.