Today is Maundy Thursday, the beginning of the Triduum, the holiest time of the year. For these three days, we walk with Jesus as he celebrates the Passover with his closest friends, washes their feet, breaks bread and drinks wine with them, goes to the olive farm to pray so hard that he sweats blood, gets betrayed for cash, gets arrested, is denied by his best friend, goes from trial to trial, gets handed off between Temple authorities and Roman authorities and yet different Roman authorities, is mocked by the mob, gets flogged, carries the heavy crossbeam to Golgotha, is crucified, dies, and is quickly wrapped and buried before the sun sets and the holy Passover Sabbath begins.
We know that Jesus does all of this out of love. God is born into this world as a helpless infant–like all the rest of us–because God loves us. God loves us so much that God gives up God’s godness, to live and breathe and hurt and smile and run and shout and step in donkey shit and kiss babies and love his momma and spend time with his friends. And die. What kind of love is that?!
The famous modern poet and troubadour Pink describes this kind of love, in her song The Truth about Love.
The truth about love is it’s nasty and salty
It’s the regret in the morning, it’s the smelling of armpits
It’s wings, and songs
And trees, and birds
It’s all the poetry that you ever heard
Terror coup d’etat, life line forget-me-nots
It’s the hunt and the kill
The schemes and the plots
God’s love is always perfect and beautiful, life-giving and pure. But in this world, love is messy and imperfect, having rough edges and friction points. Love is simultaneously nasty and salty and wings and songs and trees and birds. Love is patient and love is kind, but God is God and we are not. So love in this world can also be edgy, biting, possessive. Love can bring us to despair, and love can lift us into the clouds.
Twentieth-century musicians Def Leppard also described this paradox and dichotomy.
Love bites, love bleeds
It’s bringin’ me to my knees
Love leaves, love dies
It’s no surprise
Love begs, love pleads
It’s what I need
That last line is the most important: Love is what we need.
Human love betrayed and arrested Jesus. Human love brought him to his knees and made him bleed. Human love begged and pleaded at Gethsemane: oh God, please, I don’t want to have to do this. Is there any other way? God’s love continued that prayer: but I will do it if you need me to.
Then God’s love completed this prayer of Jesus, because God’s love is perfect and beautiful and pure. God’s love nails to the cross the nasty and salty, the smelling of armpits, the bleeding and leaving and dying. The truth about God’s love is it’s the only thing that is not a lie, that is not a good-bye. The truth about God’s love is that it’s what we need. God’s love is wings and songs and trees and birds. God’s love is life itself.
I invite you to a holy Triduum, as on Ash Wednesday we were invited to a holy Lent. These days take us through the bitingest bleedingest nastiest saltiest bring-you-to-your-knees-est time of Jesus’s life. These days take us through Jesus’s death and burial, into a new world. On Saturday night, when we make the first proclamation of Easter–Alleluia! Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!–we proclaim God’s love. We proclaim the victory of God’s love over our flaws, the victory of omelets over armpits, of wings and songs over nasty and salty, of poetry over blood and death. We proclaim that we have indeed found the truth about love.
Love. It’s what I need.
Happy Easter, dear one.
Alleluia! You are loved! The Lord has loved you indeed! Alleluia!