Thursday, April 13, 2017

Meditation for Maundy Thursday 2017

The good, says the Psalmist, is ‘to draw near to God’. He does not say that those near to God are good. But he does call the bad ‘those who are far from God’. In the language of modern thought that means that there are men who have no share in existence, but there are no men who possess existence. Existence cannot be possessed, but only shared in. One does not rest in the lap of existence, but one draws near to it. ‘Nearness’ is nothing but such a drawing and coming near continually and as long as the human person lives.

--Martin Buber

Psalm 73, KJV

Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart.

2 But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped.

3 For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

4 For there are no bands in their death: but their strength is firm.

5 They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men.

6 Therefore pride compasseth them about as a chain; violence covereth them as a garment.

7 Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more than heart could wish.

8 They are corrupt, and speak wickedly concerning oppression: they speak loftily.

9 They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walketh through the earth.

10 Therefore his people return hither: and waters of a full cup are wrung out to them.

11 And they say, How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the most High?

12 Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches.

13 Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency.

14 For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning.

15 If I say, I will speak thus; behold, I should offend against the generation of thy children.

16 When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me;

17 Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.

18 Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction.

19 How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors.

20 As a dream when one awaketh; so, O Lord, when thou awakest, thou shalt despise their image.

21 Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins.

22 So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee.

23 Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand.

24 Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.

25 Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.

26 My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.

27 For, lo, they that are far from thee shall perish: thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee.

28 But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all thy works.

Process, is how I read Buber.  Life is a process.  One does not possess life, one has it.  Call it "existence" if you want to distinguish from simply being able to breathe and have a heartbeat.  Life is not just physical processes, not merely material.  We do not possess existence, we only share it.

Before the Passover celebration Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and return to the Father.  He had loved his own in the world and would love them to the end.  Now that the devil had planted it in the mind of Judas, Simon Iscariot's son, to turn him in, at supper Jesus could tell that the Father had left everything up to him and that he had come from God and was going back to God.  So he got up from the meal, took off his clothing, put it aside, and wrapped a towel around himself.  Then he put water in a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them off with the towel around his waist.  He comes to Simon Peter.

Peter says to him "Master, you're going to wash my feet?"

Jesus replied, "Right now you don't understand what I'm doing, but later you will."

"You'll never, ever wash my feet," Peter says.

Jesus answered him, "Unless I wash you, you won't have anything in common with me."
"In that case, Master," Peter says, "[wash] not only my feet but my hands and my head too."

Jesus says, "People who have bathed need only to wash their feet; nevertheless, they're clean all over. And you are clean--but not quite all of you."

(He knew, of course, who was going to turn him in; that's why he said "You're not all clean.")

When he had washed their feet, he put his clothes back on and sat down at the table again.  "Do you realize what I've done?" he asked.  "You call me Teacher and Master, and you're right; that's who I am. So if I am your master and teacher and have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other's feet.  In other words, I've set you an example:  you are to do as I've done to you.  

John 13:1-15, SV

"‘Nearness’ is nothing but such a drawing and coming near continually and as long as the human person lives."  And is that nearness just an abstract ideal, a nice thought that you can be proud to have? Or is it some deliberate action, or daily deliberate actions, actions we should do even though they make us uncomfortable?  Is there a purpose to "nearness"?  Is there a purpose to existence, to faith?  Is existence comforting?  Or is existence real?

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