Sermon for March 20, 2008
Sermon for March 20, 2008
"This do in remembrance of me." These are the famous words of Jesus spoken on this night. But what is it we remember? And what is it we do?
Two stories are linked to Maundy Thursday. The first story recalls the Last Supper of Jesus and his disciples. It is a time with friends during difficult days. It is a time of farewell. We sense that this evening is important because it commemorates Jesus’ last day on this earth. It commemorates that great event with a quiet and simple meal among friends. "This do in remembrance of me" is a call for us to break bread with our friends at significant times in our lives. Perhaps this sounds simple, but it is more difficult than it appears. In remembrance of this night, we are called to take time to be with our friends, to break a little bread and to simply be there in the more difficult days and nights when hospitality is needed the most. This is one of the things we do in remembrance of Jesus. Take some time to share a meal with a friend who needs your loving support on a dark night.
"This do in remembrance of me." Also recalls Jesus’ fresh vision of the Jewish Passover. Two thousand years before Jesus, the Hebrew nation was liberated from its slavery under the Egyptian king. Ten plagues were sent by God through Moses to force the evil king into giving the slaves freedom. The tenth plaque was the angel of death moving through the land of Egypt . When the Israelite's followed the divine direction and smeared the blood of a lamb on the posts of their doors, the angel of death passed over their houses and did not enter. So the Israelites were spared death.
For centuries, Passover, a meal celebrated at home, was the festival to mark this liberation. It is an Independence Day celebration, like the fourth of July. Special foods are prepared to mark the event, to recall the burdens and tears of bondage, the haste of departure, and strength for the journey. Lamb, celebrative wine, bitter herbs, and bread without yeast were used.
This night we remember that our Holy Communion is built on this theme of liberation. Holy Communion is a meal of independence. It celebrates our liberation from sin, death, and the power of the king of all evil. When the blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God ( the Agnus Dei), is smeared on the posts of the cross, the angel of death passes over us and we are freed from the evil king forever.
Sometimes at Holy Communion, we cry tears of sorrow as we eat the bread and drink the wine. At other times our hearts are filled with joy as our burdens are lifted. But at its foundation, this is a meal of liberation. Holy Communion compels us to be a liberating people, doing whatever we can to liberate those around us from the various evils that have dominated their lives. In remembrance of liberation we do justice and peace as well as we can.
"This do in remembrance of me." We remember to care for our friends, and we remember to celebrate the freedom that underscores the meal. We remember that this freedom comes to us through the blood of the lamb.
A second story is associated with this night. It is the foot washing in the gospel of John. Unlike the other three gospels which tell the story of Holy Communion, the gospel of John tells a story of loving Christian service.
." In John, "This do in remembrance of me” is a call to love and serve as Jesus stood for love and service. This tradition of St. John puts it this way: No greater love has someone than this – which he lays down his life for his friends. That is the Jesus we remember. That is the Jesus within us, animating us to care for those around us. John’s picture of this night is Jesus humbly serving his friends in the washing of feet, and offering his own life for the saving of many. Tonight we remember Jesus as we humbly wash one of the mattresses from our homeless shelter.
"This do in remembrance of me." People recalling the friendship of this last night together, the freedom of this meal, and humble service are people moved to forgiveness. If we did not forgive, we would be weighed down in anger and sin rather than uplifted by fellowship, freedom, love and service.
So tonight is finally a night of forgiveness. We must forgive and be forgiven – over and over again. The bread and the wine, the body and blood, broken and shared, is the weekly reminder that we are restored in our friendship with God and with each other.
This night we remember this forgiveness, the coming death, the love and service for which Jesus stood, the simple meal with friends, and the call to freedom that undergirds it all.
Join in tonight’s act of humble service. Come to the Lord's Table, the Last Supper, the Holy Communion, and remember this one we know as Jesus.