Provisions for Pilgrims

A Guest Post by Barb Constable

This is the eleventh  in a series of posts engaging with the sermons in Leaps of Faith: Sermons from the Edge.  This post is a reflection upon a Maundy Thursday sermon entitled “Provisions for Pilgrims” (pp. 111-115). The Scriptural texts for the sermon were Matthew 26:26-29; Luke 22:39-46; John 13:1-17.

The evangelical church generally has given short shrift to the observance of the special days between Palm Sunday and Resurrection Sunday.  Somehow it may seem easier to concentrate on Christ’s resurrection without getting too bogged down in the contemplation of the events of the week leading up to it.  Yes, we’ll give due attention to Good Friday, but what do we do with the other days?

Observance of the Triduum Sacrum, the Great Three Days, is not only an historic practice; it provides ground for significant enrichment and fuller understanding of what Christ endured, accomplished and taught in those days.  It has been my privilege for some years to be a part of this observance at Good Shepherd Community Church where Robert Dean preached this Maundy Thursday sermon.  How rich it is to live through and process the events celebrated in the church year, revisiting them anew each year, assisted by insightful preaching!

Virtually everything that occurs in the story of Christ’s Passover and what we are called to in response is counter-cultural.  This is true of the entire Lenten season, beginning with having our foreheads marked with ashes on Ash Wednesday.  It is again true with the practice of foot-washing, challenging “our deeply-held goals and aspirations by replacing popular conceptions of success with a vision of radical downward mobility.”  As Rob says, “through the practice of foot-washing or, more accurately, having our feet washed, we receive training in being a forgiven people, who in turn are freed to offer to one another the gift of humble service, whose pinnacle is forgiveness.”

“The washing of feet, the breaking of bread and the ministry of prayer are each gifts from the Lord through which the Spirit makes us holy.”  They are all counter-cultural, but “they serve as a means for helping us to locate our story in Jesus’ story and to recognize that our lives are taken up in his.”  James K. A. Smith, in You Are What You Love, speaks of the fact that many things that we do actually do something to us.  Thus, these physical practices themselves have the power to form us; “the most powerful liturgies are attuned to our embodiment.”

Let us, the people of God, by the means he has provided, have the same attitude as Christ himself, locate our story in his and take upon  ourselves the nature of a servant, to the glory of God.

Barbara Constable is Minister of Music and Worship at Good Shepherd Community Church, in Scarborough, Ontario.  She also helped to prepare the manuscript of Leaps of Faith for publication.

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