Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sermon, Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday never ceases to amaze me.  We, disciples all, gather for a simple meal together.  In one sense this is yet another potluck in a long line of potlucks.  But this one always has a different feel to it.  It has the feeling you get when you meet with someone for the very last time.  It has that feeling because it's kind of true.  We've read the script ahead of time and we know how this ends.  We know that, once we part ways, we will never see this person again.  We know what's coming, but we try not to talk of such things, thinking maybe this time will be different.  And it amazes me that even though we know the script, we still come.

After the meal we hear Scripture readings and move into the ceremony of foot washing.  Many people don't like this, and I would ask you to examine why you don't like it.  Is it because you don't want to swallow your pride, humble yourself and wash the feet of a friend or stranger?  Is it because you are overly self-conscious about what St. Paul referred to as a “lesser member” and don't want to publicly expose your feet?  Is it because you don't want to swallow your pride, humble yourself and submit to having another serve you in a very intimate way?  Or maybe it's your way of keeping Jesus at arm's length, insisting that I don't need to fully submit?  It amazes me at how humbling this experience can be.

From there we move into the church for the week's final Communion.  This is the day when this act coincides most closely with the Last Supper.  Bread is taken, blessed, broken and given.  Wine is taken, blessed and given.  The meaning and remembrance of the Passover is given a new meaning through these acts of Jesus.  I am amazed at this, and I am amazed that Jesus is present with us in the bread and wine, making them something more than bread and wine.

After Communion, while the choir recites Psalm 22, the altar is stripped.  Everything that we hold dear as symbols of our faith and symbols of the Eucharist is removed from our sight: candles & crosses, flags & banners, patens & chalices, prayer books & hymnals, linens & veil.  The last of the remaining consecrated bread and wine are consumed and the candle is extinguished.  I am amazed at how easily we remove the presence of God from our lives.

When it's all over, I sit in an empty church that I have helped strip bare; and I am amazed.  I sit in an empty church where all our precious symbols of God have been taken away and none of you made a move to stop us; and I am amazed.  I sit in an empty church and admit that this stripping, this rejection, is what I, what we, wanted; and I am amazed.

I sit in an empty church that I helped strip bare, remembering that I, too, said, “Crucify him!”  I sit in an empty church knowing it was I who rejected and abandoned Jesus.  I sit in an empty church feeling his eyes upon me; and I am amazed.

Even with all that – with the cries to crucify him, with rejecting him, with willingly removing everything about him from my life, with knowing life might be easier without him – there is still a small voice that speaks to me saying, “I did it for you.”  And I am amazed.

As we enter the Triduum, as we move through the drama and playing our part from rejection to crucifixion, death and beyond, how will this night and these events amaze you?


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