April 14, 2022
John 19: 23-30
One of my memories from my days in Manitoba more than five decades ago, was camping on the shores of Lake Winnipeg.
Back then, my parents and their friends pitched tents on the sandy shoreline on the lake’s southern end.
I don’t recall a lot about that trip … we did a lot of camping back then and it was more than 50 years ago … but I do remember one night in particular.
The wind that came off the water had picked as the evening began and the rain started to come down sideways … which helped keep the mosquitoes and blackflies down.
But anyone who has ever pitched a tent knows that sand doesn’t really provide much of an anchor for tent pegs … especially when it comes to storms.
I watched my parents holding and bracing the tent poles to keep the tent from collapsing in the storm as I hunkered down on my cot,.
At some point, my parents’ friends joined us in the tent and helped with the effort.
It seemed that their tent wasn’t up to the task of providing shelter from the storm.
The wind was powerful enough to open up a seam … which let the rain flood into the tent. So, they came into our tent.
Oddly enough, there was a lot of laughter as the adults kept the canvas propped up through the night.
Seams … it seems … can be the weak points.
They come to mind when I hear this evening’s passage from John.
Jesus is on the cross and the soldiers are divvying up his clothes. John shares that Jesus’ tunic was one piece … woven with no seams … and the soldiers chose not to tear it into four parts.
Rather, the soldiers drew lots to see who would receive the tunic.
Some scholars say that the tunic is symbolic of God’s saving work through Jesus’ ministry on earth … a ministry that should hold no seams … that covers all … a ministry that was “woven with grace and truth.”
Others say that the tunic is symbolic of the church … something that cannot easily be torn apart.
I like to think that the tunic is a symbol of the community that the cross calls into being. It is a covenantal community that is woven together by faith and by a responsibility to one another.
Such a responsibility lies within Jesus’ words from the cross this evening.
Jesus’ mother and the beloved disciple are among those bearing witness to the crucifixion.
Before he dies, Jesus connects Mary and the disciple … weaving them together … the disciple is to bring her into his family and to care for her.
“Woman, here is your son,” he tells her.
“Here is your mother,” he tells the disciple.
These instructions from the cross are significant to John. Even in his suffering, Jesus’ love still abounds … his concern for the vulnerable is still evident.
In Jesus’ time, it was believed that women needed to be protected and to have someone to provide for their needs. This responsibility fell to the oldest and closest living male relative … such as a father, a brother, a son or even a grandfather.
Without this protection, a woman could find herself living on the street and relying on the charity of strangers to survive.
In these two statements, Jesus fosters a community … a family of faith … making each of us responsible for the well-being of others. Making such caring and service an earmark of discipleship.
It is a community that could only come into being because of the cross. It is a community that gathers here tonight.
It is Maundy Thursday … a time when we recall Jesus’ final meal with the disciples before he is taken and interrogated.
It is also a time when we wash our feet or hands as part of this service … something we do as an affirmation of our discipleship … of our commitment to serving others.
It is a time when we are one.
Tonight, we are invited to wash our feet as an acknowledgement of the long Lenten journey we have been on … in a sense the journey has lasted for more than two years. But the foot-washing also serves to join us as members of a humble, loving community.
It is the relationship of mutual care that Jesus formed at the cross and it is one we are each called to practice today.
Jesus’ final action is to weave an abiding family … a faithful community of love … that will nurture the children of God … healing the brokenness and rejection that is present at the foot of the cross and in the world.
The interesting thing about fabric with no seams is that it is resilient … it stretches more than a piece of cloth that is hindered by the presence of a seam.
Jesus’ declaration and the relationship they created calls us to stretch out that same love … to stretch out the grace we have received through Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection … to stretch it out into the world.
As a community, we stretch out by comforting … protecting … healing … welcoming … advocating … drawing those oppressed or marginalized into a relationship … into a community … based on love.
Such love and respect make a community whole … it’s a community where … even in the shadow of the cross … love still abounds and unifies us all.