Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Tuesday of Holy Week

Yesterday I mentioned that John's gospel dates the crucifixion differently than the other gospels. In John, the crucifixion takes place before the Passover. In the other gospels, it takes place after. Of the two, John's account is actually more likely. It would have been against Jewish law for capital punishment to have been carried out on a "high" religious day. It is more likely that Jesus hosted the last supper with his disciples on a Wednesday, then dies on the Day of Preparation, the day on which lambs would have been ritually slaughtered in preparation for the Passover meal.

It's all rather complicated, but there's one point on which all accounts agree. Jesus died on a Friday before the Sabbath at the time of the Passover.  

So if there is a discrepancy in the dating, this is likely due to the varying purposes of the gospels. Mark's crucifixion takes place on the Passover, at the full moon, to represent a connection to Creation, whereas John's gospel has Christ crucified on the ritual day of slaughter, emphasizing Jesus as the paschal lamb.

I find this tension between the gospels inspiring. It deepens Scripture both in its semantic richness and its historical verisimilitude. It gives the sense of Scripture really coming to us as itself. So too, on this Tuesday of Holy Week, we commit to showing up as we are. Consider this prayer for the day:

Almighty God,
Your name is glorified
even in the anguish of your Son's death.
Grant us the courage
to receive your anointed servant
who embodies a wisdom and love
that is foolishness to the world.
empower us in witness
so that all the world may recognize
in the scandal of the cross the mystery of reconciliation. Amen.

The Lord we meet in the gospels is foolish love and scandalous wisdom. 

Sometimes church feels like this also. Those preparing for baptism at the Vigil Saturday know this especially well, because they are anticipating making commitments that evening.

We ask of them, do you promise to "“...live among God’s faithful people; hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s Supper; proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed; serve all people following the example of Jesus; and strive for justice and peace in all the earth.”

So on Maundy Thursday, the first service of Holy Week, we make sure to serve each other by washing one another's feet, and we absolve one another of sin, confessing our sin to God and one another and announcing the strong word of absolution, forgiveness of sin in the name of Christ.

The Christian sense of "come as you are" includes both an affirmation: We love you as you are, even though the world sometimes rejects you for who you are. It also includes absolution: We forgive you for the ways in which you have fallen short of the image of God established in you through Christ. 

We learn the freedom of this combination of affirmation and absolution through Christ himself, initiated in that meal with his disciples in the upper room and spoken daily the world over.

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