Thursday, April 17, 2014

Maundy Thursday: Turning

(Caveat lector: I started writing this on the 26th day of Lent and had to leave off. Spring is now even further along than what I describe here......Just to keep it honest.)

Where we live, winter is finally turning into spring. The woods in this area have turned into a glorious celebration of new life. Grass is turning green in some places. People are turning their soil and planting things.

My jars and cups are turning into temporary vases as I bring daffodils into the house from time to time. Which turns walking through the common areas into a scent-uous delight.

I'm turning back to my routine of walking most mornings before anything else, though today we went for a walk together in the afternoon and saw the lovely magnolia pictured below.

And a huge field covered in these precious little purple wildflowers, whose name I still do not know, even though they have been a part of my life since as early as I can remember. (A quick search for "purple wildflowers that bloom in spring" tells me they are quite certainly a nettle, some type of Lamium. It's amazing how you can find things on the Internet....)

But the "turning" that has been on my mind when I'm not caught up in the glory of spring coming, is from another section of the book we've been reading most evenings during Lent, that I've quoted from in recent posts.

Following are excerpts from a sermon by Henry Drummond, of whom I know nothing beyond what the book tells me, that he was a British revivalist and preacher in the last half of the nineteenth century. He writes about the story of Peter and his betrayal of Jesus.

Tonight as I write, it is actually even more appropriate to write of this, rather than on the twenty-sixth day, as this is remembered as the night the betrayal happened. Having just returned home from a Maundy Thursday service, with the washing of feet, the sharing of bread and wine, and the almost surprisingly heartbreaking stripping of the altar--or altars, in the case of the church I was in--the story is even more poignant.

Having one's feet washed by anyone is a humbling and touching experience. Having one's feet washed by Jesus . . . I cannot imagine what it was like for Peter, for any of them. It seems to have evoked deep emotion in the disciples and especially in Peter, a deep sense of belonging, of desire to "have part in" rather than "have no part in me," as Jesus put it.

And yet . . . and yet . . . hours later, he denied knowing him.

Drummond writes,

Those of us who know the heart's deceit would surely find it difficult to judge this man--this man who had lived so long in the inner circle of fellowship with Christ, whose eyes were used to seeing miracles, who witnessed the glory of the transfiguration; this man whose ears were yet full of the most solemn words the world had ever heard, whose heart was warm still with Communion-table thoughts. We understand how he could have turned his back upon his Lord, and, almost ere the sacramental wine was dry upon his lips, curse him to his face. Such things, alas, are not strange to those of us who know the appalling tragedy of sin.

But there is something in Peter's life that is much greater than his sin. It is his repentance. We all to easily relate to Peter in his sin, but few of us grasp the wonder of his repentance. . . The real lesson in Peter's life is one of repentance. His fall is a lesson in sin that requires no teacher, but his repentance is a great lesson in salvation. And it is this great lesson that contains the only true spiritual meaning to those who have personally made Peter's discovery--that they have betrayed our God.

And then what I find especially beautiful--

What then can we learn from Peter's turning around? First, it was not Peter who turned. It was the Lord who turned and looked at Peter. When the cock crew, that might have kept Peter from falling further. But he was just in the very act of sin. And when a person is in the thick of his sin his last thought is to throw down his arms and repent. So Peter never thought of turning, but the Lord turned. And when Peter would rather have looked anywhere else than at the Lord, the Lord looked at Peter. This scarce-noticed fact is the only sermon needed to anyone who sins--that the Lord turns first.

Then he notes that it was not with a loud voice Jesus turned to him, not even with a sound at all.

A look, and that was all. . . God did not threaten . . .We misunderstand God altogether if we think he deals coarsely with our souls. If we consider what has really influenced our lives, we will find that it lies in a few silent voices that have preached to us, the winds which have passed across our soul so gently that we scarce could tell when they were come or gone. [He tells the story of Elijah and the still small voice from I Kings 19:11-12.]

When God speaks he speaks so softly that no one hears the whisper but yourself . . . Stay right where you are. Don't return into the hustle and bustle of life until the Lord has also turned and looked on you again, as he looked at the thief upon the cross, and until you have beheld the "glory of the love of God in the face of Jesus."

As winter turns to spring and hearts turn toward death and resurrection, and even flowers turn toward the sun, I am thankful for this reminder that God, through Christ, turns toward us even before we turn toward Him.


Janet Cupo said...

Purple dead nettle.


Sheila said...

Could it be purple head nettle? Sounds much nicer than dead nettle....

Janet Cupo said...

Well, people call wildflowers all kinds of things, so I suppose you could call it that.

I don't name 'em, I just look at 'em.