Yoga, Pizza, and the Hubble Telescope: A Maundy Thursday Sermon in 5 Parts

Yoga, Pizza, and the Hubble Telescope: A Maundy Thursday Sermon in 5 Parts March 30, 2016
A Maundy Thursday Eucharist as Bread & Wine dinner party
A Maundy Thursday Eucharist as Bread & Wine dinner party

(click above to listen along)

  1. Yoga class

About 4 months ago I stopped doing Crossfit and started doing yoga in what basically amounts to the world’s most uninteresting mid-life crisis. And I’m not even very good at Yoga. You can tell because just saying “I’m not good at yoga” tells you I don’t “get” yoga. But I know I’m not good because I can see the women next to me who are all bendy and peaceful and compared to them, come on…any impartial observer would say I’m not good at yoga. Plus there is that whole mindfulness thing. And Breathing, and being present, blah blah blah. Last week when I was giving a talk at the University of Virginia during the Q and A someone said “Nadia, what are your hopes and dreams” and I was like, “I guess mainly right now I hope that I can get through a yoga class someday without getting angry.”

  1. Brussels

Two days ago we all awoke to the news of yet another terrorist attack – this time in Brussels. Another senseless loss of human life piled up with all the others in Ankara, Nigeria, South Sudan.

I started thinking about the people who were killed. And I found myself wondering about their lives and their loves.

When was the last time they said I love you to someone? When was the last time someone said it to them? What was the last piece of music they heard? What was the last thing they ate?

One thing I feel pretty certain of: when the victims of Tuesday’s bombing ate dinner on Monday night, I bet none of them thought “this is my last supper”. And I bet whoever they ate with didn’t think “this is my friend’s last supper. My Mom’s last supper. My husband’s last supper”

That’s the thing about the story we call the Last Supper. I bet (with the exception of Jesus) no one present that night thought of it that way. It was just supper.

But this life is so fragile and we simply never know when something is going to be the last one. And yet as fragile as this life is, so many things get in the way of me being fully present in my life. Which brings me to:

 

  1. The Hubble Telescope

 

Maybe I’m not alone in this, but images from the Hubble Space telescope completely freak me out. Especially those films that show a place on earth and then pan out and you see what continent it’s on and then pan out more and you see the planet and then pan out more and you see our solar system and then pan out more and you see our galaxy and then again and you see our galaxy as just one of many galaxies and then again and our system of galaxies is a tiny speck in this unfathomably vast universe.

It’s too much. I mean, I’m good with like, our solar system. But that other stuff? No thanks. Totally freaks me out to think how small we are and how big the universe is and the fact that we’ve yet to discover life outside of this Earth, our tiny little blue ball of water and rock.

 

Which brings me to:

  1. The Ego Problem

I think what is disturbed by and would rather not even know about the vastness of the universe is my ego. And by ego I mean, the part of me that wants to be recognized, the part that takes things personally, the part that gets hurt and offended, the part that wants to be good at yoga – well, that part of me isn’t too fond of reminders of how insignificant and small I really am. After all, as Father Richard Rohr says, “the ego only knows itself by comparison”

And since I walk through most of my life distracted by what my ego wants and thinks it’s not getting, I struggle with being in the present moment.

Even though this moment is all we have. The air we are breathing right now, the room we are in right now, the people we are with right now. This is it. This is what is actually real.

Which brings me to:

  1. The Worst Guest at the Last Supper (it’s not who you think…)

I often wonder what it would be like to have actually been one of Jesus’ friends. If I was granted one wish it would be teleport me back to those years in Palestine to be in his presence…. although honestly I’d worry that this would freak him out since I would likely be the whitest, tallest woman he’d ever seen. That all seems so romantic, to be in the presence of Jesus back in the day….but in reality, knowing myself, even if I were there that night of his last supper I’d likely have missed it all.

I mean, if I were in that room that night and we’d just settled in after a long day and I was hungry, well I just know for a fact that I wouldn’t have been thrilled when instead of just blessing the meal and letting us get on with it, Jesus started in on that whole foot washing thing first. I don’t care WHO you are, if you delay a meal of mine, it’s gonna be an issue.

I imagine being distracted by things that had happened earlier that day. Like how Peter said that one thing to me while we were walking on the road and you know, like, what did he MEAN by that?

I imagine being distracted by how it seemed like he washed Andrew’s feet for like, a long time and that he seems to be taking less and less time with each person and I’m like totally last so obviously I’m not going to get the attention everyone else did.

So, yeah, even if I could have been there that night, I’m not super optimistic that I would have “gotten it” any more than I “get it” now. I doubt I would have been in the moment.

But you know what? It doesn’t matter.

Jesus was about to be betrayed and then killed and yet he spent his final hours with a bunch of disciples who in all likelihood also did not get it.

I mean, when Jesus says I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another It’s not likely the disciples understood what he was saying, you know, given how they acted in the hours to come. In other words, I suspect they were also “not good at yoga”.

But that’s why the story doesn’t end here. That’s why Jesus had to go all the way to the cross, because it was the only way we could even catch a glimpse of what this love means.

So, if you’re confused by absolution and foot washing and Jesus’ commandment to love, stick with it. Sure, You won’t be present. You won’t understand, but that’s okay. There’s more. Jesus doesn’t give up on us when we don’t get it. Jesus finishes the work of salvation on the cross so that we know we will be with him, in him, forever. This means, while we might not be totally present in our lives, God is. God always is.

Maybe you are sitting here unable to pay attention to this sermon – maybe over the next 3 days you will doze in and out of awareness of the present moment, maybe your ego will take over thinking “man, Good Friday last year was just better”. Just know that you are not unlike everyone else including those first disciples who couldn’t even stay awake in the Garden when Jesus was praying. And yet, the love of the same God who created this terrifyingly vast universe and chose to become human and walk on this speck of stardust is the love which is present to us in this very moment. And one of the gifts of this ever-present love of the God who created this universe and gave us life, is that it provides a blessed respite from our addiction to comparison. All the things our egos are obsessed with quiet down in the face of agape love. It all melts down.

 

Which brings me to:

  1. More Stuff About the Universe, but also Pizza.

All of this made me think that if it’s true that the only life that exists in a universe billions of light years across is on this tiny dust mite of a planet – then how unspeakably beautiful and magnificent is life itself given what a rare thing it is? I mean, against all the odds in the universe, we get to breath air and think thoughts and love people, and shovel snow, and eat pizza. Yes, life is fragile. Yes, we aren’t present all the time. But life is also rare and yet we get to be alive.

And we are allowed to return over and over as many times as we need to – to the knowledge that God is right here, in this present moment. We get to be here, breathing this air, sitting in this room, being with these people. Returning again and again to the gift that is our fragile, beautiful, God-given lives. It’s all that is real. And it’s all in this very moment. Welcome to it.

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