Thursday, 1 April 2010

Day 38 - The upside down kingdom

Maundy Thursday - for me its today, more than any other day in the year, that reminds me of the essence of our Christian faith. It might be personality (or enneagram type) but the incident in the gospels which sums up ministry most for me is Jesus washing the disciples feet. Here is the Messiah, the King of kings not lauding it over everyone, but willingly taking on the role of the servant. Here he demonstrates, and we begin to further see, some of the tools of the upside down kingdom - the basin and towel. The drama is unfolding, not quite as expected, in the most unlikely way.

Today too is the day that priests and deacons gather at the cathedral to corporately renew the vows we made at ordination - for some recently, for others a long time ago. It's a time during Holy Week especially for those who usually serve others in the church, to renew that vow of service and rededicate our lives to serve Jesus Christ.

One of the most important books for me as I began to explore vocation was The Upside Down Kingdom by Donald Kraybill. It explores the whole theme of a social gospel, a new order inaugurated by Christ, in which the last become first, the weak become strong and the King became a servant. Even more so it is out of death that comes life, out of community (not individuality) comes strength and out of the least comes the greatest.

This is not a calling for us all to become doormats, and to be walked over by everyone else, but instead a beckoning to see that power is made perfect in weakness, and the natural ways of the world are often the opposite to the calling of the gospel. It's a calling for us all to go the extra mile, be willing to undertake the menial of tasks and give and not count the cost.

Looking back at church history, there are many examples of those who walked this way of the cross, yet there are still times when I find it hard to believe how the Church got it so wrong. Times (not so long ago) when priests were set on pedestals, motivated by power and control who expected others to wash their feet (or worse). As I begin Maundy Thursday this year I am very aware of all those who have been damanged by priests who have abused their power. It may have been in a very different context but nonetheless acts as a sobering reminder of the power we do hold as we are called to serve others.

Then today as bread is broken and wine outpoured we come face to face with the ultimate cost of service - the reality of Christ's love and self-sacrifice. And some very real questions come into my mind - How far am I willing to follow? What cost is too great for me? Is my idea of service the air brushed version after all? that is when what I say and sing over these next two days becomes so risky.....

Not only:
So let us learn how to serve
And in our lives enthrone Him
Each other's needs to prefer
For it is Christ we're serving

but also:

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were an offering far too small;
love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.

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