Eat this dream (part one, Maundy Thursday)

SERMON

Maundy Thursday                                                                                      Good Friday

Exodus 12:1-4, 11-14                                                                               Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12

Psalm 116.1-2, 11-18                                                                               Psalm 22.1-20

1 Corinthians 11:23-26                                                                            1 Corinthians 1:18-31

John 13.1-17, 31b-35                                                                               John 18.1-19.42

Eat this dream (part one, Maundy Thursday)                                        ©Suzanne Grimmett

He blessed it and broke open his dream,

one part in each hand.

To those on his left and those on his right,

he said the same thing as he handed them his dream, “Eat this dream,

and it will kill the dream that kills.”

Hands trembling, they wondered which of their dreams

would die and which would grow stronger.

Willie James Jennings, from After Whiteness: An Education in Belonging (Theological Education between the Times) Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

I wonder if you allow yourself to dream? Maybe your dreams have become subdued or reduced of late. Maybe you see that as cutting your cloth to fit your life as it is now, or perhaps you believe you are being realistic. Perhaps because of that, or because maybe it feels selfish, you haven’t picked up and examined your dreams for some time.

We tend to think of dreams as good things, but are they always? Do we take seriously what we desire…seriously enough to consider what the outcomes of our most tenacious dreams would be, both for the world and for ourselves? Unexamined dreams are potentially more influential than we may realise. Perhaps when we look at society as it is, what we are seeing is the product of our dreams.

I am sure those disciples gathered with Jesus in the upper room were full of dreams. We can only guess at how they understood Jesus’ ministry and presence with them. The Gospels made it clear that they spent a lot of time missing the point. From the reading we have heard tonight, we can trace the misalignment of the dreams of Peter and of Judas with the heart of Jesus’ message. For Judas, there is apparently a sense of being a part of the wrong dream…or else the dream that he thought they shared is heading in a direction that to him feels so far wrong that he makes the decision to hand Jesus over to the chief priests.

Peter seems to be clutching his dreams fervently…and when Jesus asks him to surrender himself and all his aching desire to a bowl of water, a towel, and a Saviour who kneels before him and gently eases the dust from between his toes, it is too much.

“You will never wash my feet!”

When our dreams are broken, which ones will live?

For Peter, desiring to look up and worship his Lord, it was a struggle to find he had instead to look down upon a Saviour on his knees. Who knows what Peter imagined Jesus would do and become and what he, Peter, would do and become in Jesus’ company….but this act of tenderness and humility clearly didn’t fit expectations. Can you imagine yourself as Peter? Can you imagine the breaking open of not only his perception of Jesus but also of himself as he cries, “Lord, not my feet but also my hands and my head!” What has to change when you find God cleaning the muck of the road from dirty bodies?

Maybe, if this is God, we too need to cease trying to be the kind of person everyone looks up to. Which of our dreams need to die? How much of our desire and ambition has been shaped by the dream of becoming greater and would come undone at the sight of God kneeling with a towel and basin?

Judas cannot find a way across to that kind of Saviour. We can only guess at what moment the final decision was made- was a Lord who washed feet the final catalyst that sent him running into the night into conspiracies that looked more like his idea of salvation?

Does our human struggle with a foot-washing God reveal our dreams to be too exalted…or too small? Are we in fact quietly relinquishing the life, peace and love that is possible as we strive for greatness or power or security, heedless of the way our dreams divide and separate us from one another…that they are dreams that kill?

We cannot know what desires that rose up in the hearts of the disciples that night, but we can imagine that the dream of God would have seemed lost to them in the bewilderment and horror of the day that followed.

Take…eat this dream..and it will kill the dream that kills.

This Jesus who kneels at their feet and calls them friends invites them into something far grander than any of them, nor indeed any of us, can imagine. We are so easily enticed into small dreams that pit us against one another and see us running blindly into the night after answers that lead us away from the life that sets us free. While we began the readings tonight with the story of the Passover meal which led to the liberation of the Israelites from slavery, we end the readings with the story of Jesus breaking the bread that offers a different kind of liberation- a liberation from the relentless human capacity for rivalry and competition. Jesus the Christ who washes feet, breaks bread, and then surrenders himself to be consumed by human violence that our dreaming may fly free from all that make us want to be the slave masters in the first place. We are given back to one another, and our fear of never being enough can die.

So let us surrender to the God who would wash out feet that we may go and wash each other’s feet. Let us take and eat, that we too may be broken, blessed and given.

And let us wait and watch.

Which of our dreams can we let die? Which of our dreams will grow stronger?

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