Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Yuck Factor - A Sermon for Maundy Thursday

As a young father, I found myself often repeating this little mantra: “I am not afraid of poop.” At that point in your life, there is nothing quite so real as a dirty diaper. It engages pretty much all your senses, especially if the diaper is still wrapped around a squirming, screaming baby.

If you’ve ever changed one, you know what I mean. You are going to smell, see, and probably hear, and yes, feel that poop. This is the Yuck Factor. I still have nightmares about it.

You might ask yourself, “Why do it if it’s so yucky?” Of course, you would only ask that if you never had children or perhaps if you were my father who grew up in a family where men did not do such things. All other people know why I would change that diaper: Because that is my child, and my child needs my help.

Seriously, am I going to let a little poop stop me from taking care of my child? No. Neither would you. We don’t because we love our children. When you have someone you love, you do whatever is necessary to keep them safe and healthy. When kids get older, sometimes that means letting them make horrendous messes so that they can learn how to do get along in the world.

The point is that the yuck factor does not rule us when we know what we have to do for those we love. Tonight’s lessons are about overcoming the yuck factor for real and big reasons.

Look at the Old Testament – the Passover. Slaughtering lambs, spreading their blood on the doorpost. That’s not normal even for back then. The first born sons all dying? Not normal? It’s beyond yuck – it’s disturbing. But Moses and the people of Israel do it because it is necessary to preserve the lives of their loved ones. They get beyond the grossness. And each year afterward, they reenacted that night, yucky as it might be, to remind them how much God loved them.

The same might be said of the washing of the feet. That’s a little more immediate because we will wash feet tonight. But even then on that night when Jesus wrapped that towel around his waist and washed his disciples’ feet – even then, they were appalled. That was the work of slaves – because it is yucky, gross work. Why should he, the master, do it?

His answer? Because he was showing them how they should live. They should get beyond the yuck factor so they can serve the children of God. They would have to learn to spend time with lepers and the poorest of the poor, to raise the dead and generally spend their lives with those who are looked at in polite society with one hand holding the nose.

Jesus was saying something very simple: You are here to serve. Get used to it. Don’t be squeamish – are you going to let a little dirt and smell stop you from caring for the people God puts in your path? No!

You might consider overcoming your yuck response tonight and have your feet washed. It’s not a soap-and-water thing – just a reminder that we are called to overcome our fears of yuck – and many other things – in order to serve.

There’s just one more thing in tonight’s lessons that can elicit that yuck response in some. While they were at table, Jesus took bread and broke it, and he took the cup and shared it. He said, “Take, Eat, this is my body and blood.” Body and blood? Yuck.

In fact, early Romans used to think Christians were disgusting because of the bread and wine. Today, the yuck factor usually comes from the idea of drinking out of the same cup. Eww. Germs!

But this is different. It is not something we are doing for others but God feeding us. Aside from the studies that show it’s safe, wouldn’t it be a shame to forego such food and drink, such a sign of God’s love for us?

The word for tonight, then, is Yuck. And overcoming. Because when we do, we can not only share God’s love but be fed by it. Amen.