A sermon for 2 April 2015 – Maundy Thursday
John 13:1-17, 31b-35
Click here to read scripture first: http://www.biblestudytools.com/nrsa/john/passage/?q=john+13:1-35
As we get ready to enact that most amazing meal which our Lord and Savior shared with his disciples even on the night when they would betray, scatter, and deny; it is fitting for us to spend a few minutes remembering our own experiences of meals. Meals around this table. Meals around the tables in the fellowship hall. Meals shared in homes and restaurants and at picnic tables. Meals shared on days when it felt like the world was falling apart. And meals shared in great joy when we wanted to gather all those important to us to celebrate together. . . . Every day at least once, and better if it’s two or three times, our bodies require that we stop. Hopefully to sit down at a table for sustenance. Sometimes it’s just for the fuel we thoughtlessly shovel in. But hopefully, if not every day, then at least once or so a week, we sit down, like Jesus, with those we dearly love. Whether we talk about the really important things of life or just laugh together about nonsense, what we do together around tables is significant. Not only for the nutrients our bodies crave to keep us active however we need to be for God in this world; but also for what happens between us when at last we sit down to eat. . . . I once heard it said that the surest way to make a friend – even out of an enemy – is to invite them home for a shared meal. Try it sometime with someone you’re struggling with. See if you can stay bitter at someone with whom you’ve broken bread. . . . What is it about sitting down to delight in the bounty of this world that changes things between us? Maybe the act of eating itself reminds us of our frailty. Our mortal bodies were made to stop. Hunger and thirst tell us so. Our hearts have been made to connect – overflowing freely with love that is not to be withheld – that, without great violence to ourselves. You know: building that rock solid wall around our heart which we presume will protect us. That’s the only way love can be stifled as we break bread with one another. . . . Meals are the perfect place for us together to be a little bit more of who God has made us to be. Creatures who know our dependence on one another, on this beautiful world, and on the Mystery that dances all in between – the Mystery we call the Holy One. God.
It was no ordinary meal Jesus sat down to enjoy on this night so long ago. His people were in the midst of the festival culminating in the meal we heard instituted at the Exodus. The celebration of the Mighty One passing over all of their households on the way to giving them something that had been taken from them: their freedom. . . . The meal of Passover was a Sabbath unlike all the others of the year – it was THE meal that reminded them of who they were, to whom they belong, and for what purpose the great act of Passover was done. . . . That night together was a most holy meal, deepened further in meaning as the Lamb that was about to be slain for the Passover feast sat among those first disciples.
According to the gospel of John, he went a bit overboard in the symbols that night at the meal on the night before Passover. He took off his outer garments, got down in the dust at their feet, and humbly washed each one. . . . Foot by foot, did he remember all the steps they had taken together over the years? As he held each person’s feet in his hands, did he recall the day he first called that one? When he told them to love as he had loved, could he see all of the places their feet yet would take them in proclamation of the most amazing love they had come to know in him? . . . Ah, what holy moments around the table of that holy meal.
In the bread and in the fruit of the vine we are about to partake at his command, we are challenged to remember. To wonder what the Christ would be thinking as he held our feet in his hands, then broke the bread and poured out the cup that we might taste the gifts that change us forever: the bread of heaven and the cup of salvation for us! . . . That meal; a holy, holy meal that charges us to go to live likewise.
In the silence now, let us be readied to receive such an amazing gift! Amen.
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