ST. Paul’s. – Maundy Thursday – April 9, 2020
When I was growing up, my grandfather had one of those small, cheap Kodak Instamatic cameras. I would use one of those flash bulbs that looked like ice cubes, and got those little square pictures back from the drug store when I had them developed. My grandfather had. Taken hundreds of pictures with that camera on our many walks. I never appreciated them until years later, after I was grown, when both my grandparents died and we were going through their things and we found all those pictures. Boxes of them, curled and faded. But there they were—life captured by Kodak Memories you can put in a shoebox.
We need that. That is why the camera function on our phones is so important. We want something of the person in the picture to outlast them, and stay with us.
We want to remember them.
Remembrance is at the very heart of what we celebrate this evening. And we all know, Jesus did not leave us photos in a shoebox.
He actually left us something better.
He left us himself.
Paul’s letter to the people of Corinth is the earliest account ever written of the Last Supper. It pre-dates even the gospels. It is so close to the original event that its words are part of our Eucharistic prayer, spoken at every Eucharist around every altar, around the world. The words that created the Eucharist are the beating heart of our Episcopal Christian belief.
And through it all, one word leaps out at us:
Do this in remembrance of me.
Jesus is saying: This is how I want to be remembered.
In the gospel, John doesn’t even mention the. Meal, or the institution of the Eucharist. But John finds something else for us to remember: Christ, the servant.
You ought to wash one another’s feet, Jesus says. I have given you a model to follow, so that I have done for you, you should also do.
In other words, remember what I have done. And do this, too, in remembrance of me. We are people of remembrance.So were the Jews. It’s there in the first reading, from Exodus, describing the institution of the Passover Meal–the Seder–the very meal that Christ was celebrating when he gave us the Eucharist. One of the interesting aspects of this reading is that the entire passage is, really, a monolog.
And the one who speaks…is God.
And God tells the chosen people: This day shall be a memorial feast for you, which all your generations shall celebrate with pilgrimage to the Lord, as a perpetual institution.
It is an occasion for calling to mind all that God has done for His people. And He is calling on them, in a very particular way: Do this in remembrance of me.
Do not forget.
It is no secret, at least in my case, that the older I get, the more I forget. Every day becomes a challenge for. Me to try and recall where I put something. I think many times Susan would like whatever it is I am trying to find to have been clipped to my sleeves, the way I did with my mittens when I was a kid.
It is easier to forget than to remember.
Which makes tonight’s remembrance all the more remarkable.
For five thousand years humans have re-enacted somehow the great Passover feast which Jesus grew up with. This memorial feast has continued.
For two thousand years we have gathered around this table and repeated Paul’s beautiful words–the words the Corinthians heard and took to heart.
For uncounted generations we have knelt and watched as the body and blood of Christ have been raised to God—and watched as we, too, have been raised with them, as offerings to God.
And down through history, we have knelt and washed one another’s feet with a profound charity and sense of purpose that made Christian love the most powerful force on the planet. Even unbelievers were moved to say,See how these Christians love one another.
Think what has been done in remembrance of Christ.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. All the pictures my grandfather took over the years tell a story, and come with emotions attached—happiness, nostalgia, sadness.
I would suggest that the next few days will be worth aa thousand emotions. From the wonder of tonight, to the sorrow of Good Friday, and the loneliness of Saturday.
AND THEN there is Sunday!
This night our journey toward Calvary begins in earnest as does our journey toward Easter.
Holy Communion is often referred to as viaticum, or food for the journey. These days it is a journey of struggle as well as faith.
Something happens when bread is broken and wine is shared. Somehow they become assimilated. They take on a greater life than they had before, and in their turn enliven the bodies they enter. Bread gives life and wine gives joy, and this is what life in Jesus Christ is all about: giving life, giving joy.
We put ourselves into Christ’s hands when we put ourselves into one another’s hands–to be taken advantage of, to be used, to share life and joys especially as we struggle with the limitations we are experiencing. And by that very giving…even at a safe distance, we grow. We are no longer merely ourselves. We are bread taken into the Body of Christ. All that we are is transformed by the electrifying aliveness of God.
Christ is saying to us: Take me. Use me. I am the Body of Christ for you.
And by virtue of our baptisms and the love of God we are saying to others: Take me. Use me. I am the Body of Christ for you.
It was a night of hope
as they gathered so long ago,
God who rescues people
from despair and oppression.
You offered grace without blemish
as they left behind the years
of loneliness, grief, and bullying,
daring to follow you
into a future known only to you.
It was a night when salvation drew near
as they gathered so long ago,
Lord who kneels to serve us,
as you tried to ready your friends
for all that would happen.
In humility, you washed their feet
so they might follow you down
the dusty road of death;
in love, you transformed a simple meal
into moments of grace and comfort.
On a night like this, we gather
to draw near to one another and you,
Spirit who shares these stories with us.
Here, is the basin with the living water
which washes away our fears and foolishness;
here is the towel we can us
to wipe the tears of all who weep
from grief, oppression, and loneliness;
here, we find that bread,
which, though broken and dropping crumbs,
feeds us with hope, fills us with strength
to serve our sisters and brothers;
here, we are offered the cup
which causes us to thirst for justice.
On this night, with these people,
with these symbols and gifts.
may we dare to follow, hesitantly and hopefully,
God in Community, Holy in One,
as we pray as our Servant, Jesus Christ, AMEN+