We have begun the annual marking of the Paschal Triduum, the Great Three Days.
We are beginning one story in three acts. One liturgy with many parts, beginning tonight and culminating in the glorious Easter celebration.
During these three days, there is a wild combination of stories and images that really shouldn’t go together.
There’s hospitality and betrayal. Servanthood and leadership. Even life and death.
During these three days we will tell stories, sing songs, pray prayers, and keep vigils that we tell, sing, pray, and keep only once a year.
This story has so many ups and downs: the joyous feast and the bitterness of betrayal; the shame and agony of crucifixion and an unbelievable promise of life beyond the grave.
And we heard some stories tonight that help set the stage…
In the story of the Exodus, we hear that God has reorganized time for God’s Chosen People: this month shall mark for you the beginning of months. And a festive meal is given as the marker of this new telling of time.
But if you know how Exodus goes after this reading, you know the story isn’t over.
There’s the crossing of the Red Sea, there’s 40 years in the wilderness, and there’s a golden calf. The first Passover meal certainly was a highlight, but there were hard days to come.
In First Corinthians Paul tells the story of that first supper, or that last supper, whatever you want to call it. When Jesus gathered with his friends one last time, shared a meal, shared the bread and wine.
And in our Gospel we hear more of the story of that night, after supper when Jesus took out a bowl and a towel and washed his friends’ feet.
But if you know how the next few days play out, you know that story isn’t over, either.
There’s Jesus praying when the disciples can’t stay awake. There’s Jesus’ arrest, torture, and execution. There’s betrayal and denial by some of his closest friends along the way.
The last supper meal certainly was a highlight, but there were hard days to come.
Before all that happened, Jesus washed the disciples’ feet. Before the betrayal and denial, there was love. In this washing of their feet, Jesus was preparing the disciples. Because he had something better in store for them.
If you were here Sunday, you heard me talk about our lives like these bowls. These bowls are our guide through Holy Week, and especially through these three days.
Here they are. Chipped. Cracked. Broken.
Tonight Jesus washes those chipped and cracked and broken pieces. He’s lovingly preparing these chipped and cracked and broken pieces, because Jesus has something better in store for them.
And Jesus is lovingly preparing us, too. Because Jesus has something better in store for us.
Tonight we’ve entered the story, and together we’ll travel from here to the garden to the cross to the tomb.
Through the wilderness, through the heartache, through the pain.
Through the chips, through the cracks, through the brokenness.
And in these next few days, we’re being prepared for something beautiful.