April 13, 2009
Monday in Easter Week,
Church of the Holy Family
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Pray with me.
Let these words be to your glory. Amen.
I am preaching from the baptismal font and the Tenth Station…
Time is different today. The air is different.
I feel like I can take a fuller breath. Soak in God’s created order.
The colors are a bit brighter.
The tastes are a bit sweeter.
For six Fridays in a row, it did not feel like a deeper breath, a richer hue, or a taste that I might seek again and again. I told time in a mournful and lamenting way. For many of those Fridays, I gathered here and prepared for Christ’s death.
The other night, Lent culminated for me in the Garden of Gethsemane, holding Vigil with the sacrament while we watched over our Lord between Maundy Thursday and the service on Good Friday. I was thinking how difficult it is to plan for an Easter sermon in the midst of lament, sorrow and death. It pulls the soul in two directions, but such is the way God would have us be pulled. Remembering sorrows and never forgetting, yet always living Resurrection.
At the tenth station, Jesus was stripped of the clothes that he wore: from Stations.
And they divided his garments among them by casting lots. This was to fulfill the scripture which says, “They divided my garments among them; they cast lots for my clothing.” (from The Way of the Cross).
He was humiliated. Made naked.
If I were preaching naked, you would all be embarrassed for me—for my inability to know better. Adam and Eve, they knew to cover themselves, but not Jesus.
No, he comes naked before us to fulfill the righteousness that he promised since the beginning of time.
It’s not shameful that he was made to strip. Nope, it is one more beautiful irony dramatized by the very God whom we call Jesus on his way through the Cross, into the tomb, resurrected yesterday, and ascended to the right hand of God.
How you say? What’s ironic about the humiliation of our Lord being stripped of his garments?
The irony is that when we baptize new believers, they come naked, pure—for a moment free from sin, as they die to their old way of life and are born all new in Christ Jesus.
I love it. I’ll never walk over this stone the same way again. I’ll never forget that Jesus’ humiliation is my redemption. Jesus’ uncloaking is my very salvation. He washes me daily in the blood of his cross and at the tenth station he took off the rag which would become the very bathing cloth which scrubs each and every one of us.
You are washed and I am washed by the blood of a Lamb who loves us so much that no human words will ever do this love justice.
We know it in baptism, and we know in it these words:
To fulfill all righteousness, Jesus is subjected to the humiliation of nakedness. His tormentors cannot know, however, that in removing his earthly clothes, they are preparing him for his glorification, his heavenly triumph, and an everlasting exaltation (from Meditations on the Stations of the Cross, Belmont Abbey College, Dr. Ron Thomas).
Today we are clothed in a white robe and cuddled by the Shepherd who will always come and find us. Today we are far from lost, we are found, naked and proud to be found and worthy of a white robe. It has gold lace and it is made of a linen so fine, it is on the one hand see-through, and on the other so thick and warm, it might have a thread count of a million. Can you feel it, can you smell it, can you soak in its hue, yet only for a moment because the light is so dazzling white as to blind you? I’m risking blindness, today and all of my days. Amen.