Maundy Thursday Service - April 9th, 2020
Coming to Love Imperfections
MAUNDY THURSDAY – APRIL 9, 2020
Title: “Coming to Love Imperfections”
As I sit here, writing this meditation, I’m looking at my left hand. Specifically, the ball of my left hand, just below the thumb. There’s a deep scar there. It happened when I was about 7 or 8 years old. My parents had hired a carpenter for some work around the house. Being a curious youngster, I got into his tool chest and started playing with a wood chisel. Of course, as all good carpenters do, it was quite sharp. I used it to whittle down a piece of scrap wood, having great fun – but then it slipped, and the ball of my left hand was split wide open. It wasn’t life threatening, but it was off to the doctor for the requisite stiches. I learned 2 things from the experience. The first was that tools are not toys. And, much later, I would never make a living as a hand model! Yes, there are people who do! So, for almost 60 years, those lessons remain – all because of an “imperfection” in my hand.
Let me leave no doubt to this testimony – this is first and foremost a spiritual lesson, but it is also a political, economic, and social lesson. Given the times. You see, I’ve never had a “perfect” meeting. I’ve never had a “perfect” phone call. I’ve never had a “perfect” relationship. Much less a “perfect” sermon. And certainly, never a “perfect” prayer. Our human condition prevents all worldly standards of “perfect” from ever happening.
So now all of humanity is faced with the imperfect – COVID-19. As I see it, nature is imperfect. The human condition is imperfect. How does this inform our spiritual life?
This is Holy Week. Don’t be distracted, read about it in the Gospels. It’s a week full of the imperfect. The disciples sleeping instead of keeping a watchful prayer vigil. The crowd wanting revolution versus redemption. Jesus weeping over Jerusalem. Betrayed by a beloved at the Last Supper, the final memorial of his death. Herod, with the Pharisees and Sadducees, scheming in his arrest. The crowd shouting “Free Barabbas”. Pilate, proclaiming Jesus’ innocence, yet washing his hands of the matter. Mocked by soldiers, derided on the cross, the disciples fled, and Peter’s thrice denial! All imperfect! Yet God used what was imperfect to bring about the only perfect thing that mattered then – and the only perfect thing that matters now – the one, Holy Perfect sacrifice – the Lamb without blemish – the atonement for the sins of the world. As our confessions say – “not for ours alone, but for the sins of the whole world”.
The atonement is about the human condition – and the world’s condition. All of us, all of the natural order, are imperfect. This thing we do in our Christian tradition of Easter isn’t about our Perfection – it’s about God’s act in an imperfect world. Not to do away with the imperfect, but rather to transform it. Transformed into another worldly spiritual reality – that of absolute forgiveness.
BUT less we forget, tools are not toys! This tool is perfectly and precisely engineered for our benefit – for our very salvation. Not some kind of “mystic” nor “happily ever after” kind of benefit. Rather, THIS TOOL IS TO BE USED NOW! As Theodore Roosevelt said well, “in the arena”. These are the places where sacrifices are made, hardships endured, challenges accepted – all with uncertain outcomes. Embrace one another’s imperfections, for in that is life itself. Live by the commandment to love one another. This is what that means – LOVE THE IMPERFECTIONS! Do not judge, leave that to God alone. In the meantime, you just might find some small part of the peace that passes understanding.
My prayer for us all is that we find the truth hidden in the imperfections of Easter Week and in the imperfections of us all. Because if we do, then “Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”.