21 April 2011


Mark 14: 22-31

Maundy Thursday/ 21 April 2011

I don’t think any of them could have imagined what the next 24 hours would be like – and how their lives would be forever changed in 36 hours.  They broke the bread, shared the cup, heard Jesus give a sermon – which they didn’t really get, especially Peter (he had his own agenda) – and then they left. They sang a hymn as they went, a well-known familiar hymn, I’m sure, sung without hymnals or a power point presentation displaying words on a large screen.  They knew their faith by heart.  But their faith, their religion, their spiritual practices were just as firmly in place after the meal as they were before the meal, without the slightest hint that the meaning of their faith was about to be radicalized.

            They knew something was about to happen, but they’re all a little oblivious to what’s going on right in front of their eyes. They didn’t know that night just how little time they had left with him.  By that same time the following night, he would be gone.

            One of my favorite contemporary writers is Anne Lamott.   She’s funny, quirky, wonderfully irreverent, edgy, smart, been to hell and back, in love with Jesus – and not afraid to tell you so.  She wrote a wonderful book on writing itself, two memoirs about her journey of faith (she was raised in an atheist household) and her son, Sam, a book about parenting, along with several novels.  She’s nurtured by St. Andrew Presbyterian Church situated in Sausalito, along San Francisco Bay. On Monday (April 18), Michele Norris from NPR talked with Anne about what Easter means, in a segment entitled, “Beyond Bunnies:  The Real Meaning of Easter.”   

            Norris asked her how the seasons of Lent and Easter have changed for her.  Anne said her life was changed when she was 38 when her best friend, Pammy, died.  They went shopping two weeks before she died.  Pammy was wearing a wig and in a wheelchair.  Anne said she was out looking for a new dress to impress a boyfriend she was seeing at the time. She tried the dress on and asked Pammy what she thought. She wanted to know if it made her hips look big.  To which she said, calmly, “Annie, you don’t have that kind of time.”

            Lent and Easter – this night – are about being real, honest, and authentic about time and about the state of our lives in this marvelous, yet scary universe.  It exposes things we would rather not face or acknowledge, so we get lost in bunnies and bonnets and chocolate and tulips and spring-time renewal, which, we must admit have little to do with what we’re talking about here to night, which is death and resurrection.

            That’s what changed Annie life, she said, that moment:  “You don’t have that kind of time.”  Lamott said,  when she really stops all the zaniness of contemporary life, stops all the diversions and avoidances that hide the truth, when she sets aside her own agenda, she remembers and hears, “…you don’t have that kind of time.”  Instead, Lamott says to herself, “you have time only to cultivate presence and authenticity and service, praying against all odd, [you] get your sense of humor back.”[1]

            So what do we have time for?  To cultivate presence, authenticity, service, laughter.  To discover what a life is for and why we live it.[2]  To learn or relearn, discover or rediscover that our lives mean something and—what is more—that the very sinews of our being, the very thing that allows us to be and sustains us with every breath, every second in existence is participating in the very being of God.  It’s too much to all take in in the moment.  In time the disciples came to the realization who he really was—and remains to be. That the one who breaks bread with us and shares a cup with us, who shares this table with us this night, who gives us his presence in this meal, is the same one in whom the entire universe coheres and has being and meaning.[3]  It’s a staggering, mind-boggling thing we do here tonight and every time we gather like this.  It’s too much to take in.

            That’s why Jesus gives us this meal – to help us grasp these things, so that we make time for the things that matter.   Cultivate presence. Authenticity. Service. Laughter.

            At the end of the interview Norris asked Lamott what she will do on Easter.  Go to her little church for worship, which will have “a huge crowd that day of 60,” for worship, help with church school, and, she said, “cry out of joy that this is the truth of our life together. And then I will go home,” she said, “and I will have 25 people—about 15 relatives and 10 riffraff, i.e. my closest friends—and we sill sit down, and we will eat, the most sacred thing we do.”

[1] Hear or read the full interview with Anne Lamott at the NPR website: http://www.npr.org/2011/04/18/135517274/beyond-bunnies-the-real-meaning-of-easter-season.
[2] James E. Loder, The Logic of the Spirit:  Human Development in Theological Perspective (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1998).  These are the two critical questions that Loder explores in this text.
[3] James E. Loder, The Transforming Moment (Colorado Springs:  Helmers & Howard, 1989): “Perhaps only those who have been partially blinded by the Truth—whether suddenly or gradually—come to the breath-taking realization that the One who sits at table and breaks bread and drinks wine with us is the One through whom and for whom all ten billion light years of creation, including our own come-lately, here-and-now existence, have their being.”

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