Rose Park Sunday School (Adults and Children) at 8:45 a.m. / Worship at 9:45 a.m.

Madison Sunday School (Adults and Children) 10:15 a.m. / Worship at 11:15 a.m.

El Camino

Based on John 13:1-17, 1Corinthians 11:23-26, Exodus 12:1-14

          The singer Jimmy Buffet warns people to be nice or they just might end up in his song!  The same is true when you talk to preachers – often what you say just might end up in a sermon.  That is true this evening for my neighbor, Lou Messa.  Lou is a car fanatic; he is always tinkering with some type of motor vehicle.  His latest acquisition is a 1984 Chevrolet El Camino Super Sport painted bright red.  I was admiring it one day recently and he asked if I knew what the name “El Camino” meant?  Having taken German instead of Spanish in school I was clueless.  He said, “El Camino means The Way…pretty cool huh?!”

          It was pretty cool, because along with being a car nut, Lou is also an observant Christian and part of The Flock faith community.  He knew full well that the early Christians were called followers of “The Way”.  He was pleased with himself for now being able to drive the “El Camino” to church to follow “The Way” of Jesus.  Life offers some crazy synchronicity now and then…doesn’t it?  It made me smile and it stuck in my brain to use at just the right time.  That time happens to be our reflection for Maundy Thursday.

          You see, our scriptures for this Holy Thursday point us to the way of God.  We begin thousands of years ago in Exodus with the first Passover and God’s detailed instructions for what they were to do to avoid the last plague on Egypt.  The Apostle Paul writes to the Corinthian believers about how it was that Jesus took this Passover meal and created from it a new way to be in connection with God.  Finally, Jesus, on the night in which he would be betrayed, took the Passover meal with all 12 of his Disciples and showed them the way that they should be with one another.  Before we go any farther in our reflection, let us go to God now in prayer and thanksgiving that God is always showing us the way…

          The climax of the struggle to free the Hebrew people from Pharaoh was fast approaching.  God through Moses tells the people what they needed to do to be protected from the final and most awful plague.  Detailed instructions of what and how to eat, what to wear, how to use the lamb’s blood on the doorways of their homes – everything in place so that the way to freedom could be opened to them.  God tells them to be dressed and ready to leave – taking only what they need and leaving no remnants of their Passover meal behind.

          The Apostle Paul focuses the believers in Corinth on the right way to share the Eucharist meal.  The Corinthians had been using the Eucharist as any secular gathering of friends over a meal.  They had eaten it before all were gathered and then the late arriving folks had no Eucharist to share.  Some had taken to drinking the sacrificial wine to the point that they had become drunk in church!  Paul admonished their behavior and called them to examine what they were doing and whether or not it followed the way that they had been taught.  Our scripture verses for tonight have Paul reminding them of what the Eucharist meal is meant to do – it is not to be a full meal for the body, rather it is the way for the soul to reunite with God.

          Jesus is coming rapidly to the final showdown with the Temple leaders.  He takes the opportunity for one last Passover meal with his close friends and students.  Once all are reclined at table, Jesus assumes the position of servant and humbly washes all of the Disciples’ feet.  Peter tries to argue with Jesus and switch places with him, but Jesus gently tells Peter that this is the way that things must be done for now.  The way of the humble servant is the way that Jesus needs all the Disciples – perhaps especially Peter, to behave.  Love each other enough to wash each other’s dirty feet and you will love enough to welcome anyone to table – this welcoming love will change the world, teaches Jesus.

          I was reminded by a friend this week of a pilgrimage path in Europe which passes through France, Spain and/or Portugal.  It is called “El Camino de Santiago”, the way of St. James in English.  It has been a popular walking and now biking route to arrive at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.  The longest portion of the Way of St. James is the better part of 500 miles long.  A pilgrim doesn’t have to walk the whole 500 miles, but in order to be considered a true pilgrim of El Camino de Santiago, one must cover at least the final 60 miles.  Back in the Middle Ages, pilgrims would undertake this arduous journey as a penance – something that they could do to reduce their time in Purgatory (Roman Catholic teachings).  This resulted in one of the largest movements of people across Europe, some 250,000 pilgrims a year in the 12th and 13th Centuries alone.

          Pilgrims would make the journey, then and now, in order to visit the beautiful cathedral which is the purported burial site of the bones of St. James the Apostle.  James, the brother of John the Evangelist, is a revered saint in the Roman Catholic panoply.  They would walk for themselves, and sometimes hire themselves to walk for another who was rich.  To walk the better part of 500 miles is to undertake a spiritual journey as well as a physical one.  Interacting with other pilgrims, experiencing the culture of the towns along the way, slowing down (at least when walking El Camino de Santiago) to spend time being present to the world around the hiker are all reasons to undertake such a journey.  Many seem to be seeking insight into El Camino de Jesus.

          That is the reason we gather together this night.  To consider the humble servant that was Jesus of Nazareth.  Jesus could have just reclined at table along with the twelve, but instead, he used the event for another teaching moment.  The washing of feet would have been the job of a slave – or the lowest servant of the household.  Jesus tells the incredulous Disciples that though he is Lord and Teacher (as they rightly name Him) he is first and foremost a humble servant sent by God.  He reminds them all that as great as they think He is, He is not as great as the one who sent Him – and therefore, neither are any of them.  It is a good teaching point for us to remember as well when we get too big for our britches!

          The El Camino de Jesus is the path of simplicity, the path of humility, the path of unconditional love and self-sacrifice.  It is the way of the truth according to God and the way that leads to life eternal.  It is the only way that we can know salvation this side of heaven – by traveling the downward way to living into the mind and heart of Jesus.  This is a pilgrimage that all baptized believers are called to make – yet many never choose to begin the journey – or they stop before reaching the goal. 

          Jesus calls us all to follow in his way – the way of the humble servant.  Jesus knew that he would be betrayed, and it is my opinion that he knew that much pain and suffering would accompany that betrayal.  Yet, he also knew that he was following the way of His Master – the God of all Creation.  He knew, as John’s Gospel tells us, “…that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father….”  Jesus knew that His way led through the Cross back to God.  It can be true for us as well if we choose to follow the same humble way as Jesus.  The world has many paths but only one, the El Camino de Jesus, leads us in the way, truth and life.  I pray that we might all choose that way…amen!