Tag Archives: The Upper Room

Holy Meals

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

The Upper Room, Jerusalem.

The Upper Room, Jerusalem.

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.

source unknown; but I LOVE this view of that Holy Meal!

Source unknown; but I LOVE this view of that Holy Meal!

In the silence now, let us be readied to receive such an amazing gift! Amen.

© Copyright JMN – 2015  (All rights reserved.)

Holy Land Pilgrimage Remembrance # 6 (#5 is yet to be posted!)

Friday, March 14, 2014: Jerusalem.

View of the Old Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives.

Old Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives.

Wow!  Friday, our first day in Jerusalem, was exhausting! Lots of walking for our pilgrimage sites, followed by heading back out to the Wailing Wall at sundown to begin Sabbath in Jerusalem. I LOVED being on the Mount of Olives. We were taking the walk down the Palm Sunday Road into Gethsemane.

The Palm Sunday Road from the Mount of Olives into Old Jerusalem.

The Palm Sunday Road from the Mount of Olives into Old Jerusalem.

Of course, we know that’s not entirely how it happened – he didn’t go down from the Mount of Olives right into the fateful night in Gethsemane. Even if the story was being experienced a bit out of order, I could imagine his followers super excited. Making a big deal out of his entry into Jerusalem! Maybe lots of them thought he’d come out of it all triumphant. Over-turned all of Judaism and Rome before he even got there. Certainly his closest friends knew otherwise: Peter, James, John, his mother, Mary Magdalene. I’m not sure they would have been all that excited about his entry into Jerusalem the week of the Passover Festival.

We had lunch Friday somewhere that seemed like an upper room – a beautiful space to relax and reflect and rest after the hustle and bustle of the busy Jerusalem streets. I found the Via Dolorosa more moving than expected. But before that part of the story and of our pilgrimage was that rock of agony in Gethsemane.

The Rock of Agony in the Church of All Nations, Gethsemane.

The Rock of Agony in the Church of All Nations, Gethsemane.

What a beautiful sanctuary there – the Church of All Nations! And in it, what an immense rock upon which Jesus most probably threw himself trying to come to terms with the road ahead! I’m sure it was a struggle because he certainly knew Rome’s power. He knew how upset the other Jewish teachers were becoming with him. You can feel it when the pressure’s building and folks are ready to get you. And yet, he knelt on that rock . . . I like that it was a rock: the foundation. The solid base upon which we can stand. He was able to get up from that spot trusting his father would get him up from another rock just a few days thereafter.

From that rock of agony, he was taken to a place we saw on Saturday (the day I’m actually writing this reflection). To the house of Caiaphas, the Chief Priest. We saw the stairs. The Golden Stairs they are called, which he walked down in order to get from the Upper Room of Maundy Thursday through the Kidron Valley to the garden of Gethsemane.

The Garden of Gethsemane.

The Garden of Gethsemane.

As they snatched him out of the garden that night, they led him bound back up those stairs. Then down them again in the morning as they tossed him between Pilate and Herod in the city. By that point of his last day, he’d been in that pit – another rock. A pit in a massive rock where they would have lowered him for the duration of that one last night after binding him in the garden. The way the archeology tells the story there, the free Spirit of God-in-flesh was tied up. Locked down and lowered into the earth to await all that would happen. Our pilgrimage leader read Psalm 88 while we all were in that pit. When he was waiting there, I can imagine him wondering if Peter was out in the courtyard. In those very moments, three times denying him. Three times saying he never knew him. As I sat in both places today – the courtyard and the pit – I felt sympathy for Peter. At least he had the courage to follow his bound Lord there. Even if he said NO when asked his allegiance to him.

The Golden Stairs near Caiaphas' House.

The Golden Stairs near Caiaphas’ House.

And in that pit. I can imagine it dark. Cold. Terrifying waiting for it all to unfold. Pain in his body. Trouble in his soul. I hope that rock reminded him of all the other rocks. The place on which his soul was strengthened just a few minutes prior in Gethsemane. The rocks all over Galilee upon which he promised Peter he’d build his church. The rocks and falling waters of Caesarea Philippi: the Source from which he was to draw strength. In those moments, I hope he trusted that the rock of the tomb upon which his broken, life-less body would be placed, would NOT be his end! I hope he was able to lay aside any of his fear to hope and trust and be assured of the miracle that lie ahead!


The Pit at Caiaphas' House.

The Pit at Caiaphas’ House.

From that pit he was dragged to the site of his conviction and flagellation under Pontius Pilate. BTW: We couldn’t go into that first site on the Via Dolorosa. But how I wish we could have. To see and feel it for a moment: the passive work of our Lord – letting it all happen to him.

Bound Lord up the Golden Stairs.

The bound Lord being taken up the Golden Stairs.


His ego was a true, whole self. For he was willing to let it all come. No stopping it. And each of those spots along that road, until, at last, the Skull.

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Stations of the Via Dolorosa.

Stations of the Via Dolorosa.


It ended at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher – though I find The Garden Tomb and Place of the Skull behind the old religious stoning site just outside the Damascus Gate much more probable. The Garden Tomb was the kind of holy place I need yet today: a simple, yet abundant garden. He was killed, not for religious reasons, but politically motivated – at least according to the Jewish law we were reminded of today.

Site of the Crucifixion at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

Site of the Crucifixion at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

According to our pilgrimage guide, execution for religious reasons in those days required four things: no arrest at night, 24 hours held in prison, witness before the entire Sanhedrin (of 71), and no religious execution on a Holy Day. It certainly seems as if the plan from the start was to get Rome to do the dirty work.

The Servant of the LORD,

     The Servant of the LORD.

Whatever the scheme, as the statute of The Servant of the LORD in Caiaphas’ House reads: “He surrendered himself to death . . .” (Is. 53:12b). Down deep in that pit on the grounds of Caiaphas’ House there no longer was anyway out. Now that’s commitment. . . .  A total surrender of self that somehow would change all the world.

The Place of the Skull at the Garden Tomb.

The Place of the Skull at the Garden Tomb.



© Copyright JMN – 2015 (All rights reserved.)