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Maundy Thursday

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Maundy Thursday                                       COTA

Exodus 12:1-14a                                 Preaching Group

I Corinthians 11:23-26(27-32)                      03/27/2007

John 13:1-15

On Saturday morning I had my toes in the sand.  My family and I left this mountain for a portion of our Spring Break.  We had the great blessing that Becky’s parents splurged on us…they rented us a little condo for four nights in Destin, Florida.  We were on the fourth floor and we had a balcony overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.

We didn’t go anywhere during the day, except out our door, and 75 paces to our designated spot at the water’s edge.  It was at our umbrella with two lounge chairs that we set up shop.  Cold drinks and snacks, towels, shovels and buckets…it was a good old-fashioned vacation.

Sitting underneath the umbrella, I was overcome with a deep remembrance: a remembrance brought on by sensory images; the smells of the hot sand, tanning lotions, salty sea air; the sounds of the waves crashing on the shore, children laughing and calling out to their siblings and parents; on the day we had red flags flying denoting rougher seas, girls screamed as waves thrust them forward and collapsed onto them; the feel of the almost powdery sand, and how when you push your feet into it only a few inches, the sand got cooler and wetter; the sights of dark brown tanned skin tones, the greens and blues of the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the collision at the horizon of the blue sky with the darker deep blue sea water; at dusk, the violets, oranges, reds, and yellows of the sunsets were extraordinary; and the seemingly infinite number of twinkling stars and the crescent moon in the black sky.  As I sat on the beach and took walks along the shore, these sensory images evoked remembrance of my childhood days when my parents would take us to the beach.  These are powerful emotions (we can even get lumps in our throats & tears may well up), they are provocative scenes – so real, almost tangible; it’s a dream-like state of vivid remembrance to the point that I am almost “there” again in that time and that place.  Isn’t it amazing that change occurs at such rapid pace in our world, yet some things don’t change?  There is a “constancy” in the creation – a perpetual creation that states, “It is good!” – and so, God likes it, and so God creates more of it everyday.  And we, God’s creatures, praise God for the gift of having more of this world of wonder.

This celebration of powerful remembrance is the first theme from the scripture readings that captures my attention today.  The writer of the Exodus passage that institutes the First Passover is not a writing about the past… it is more than that.  The writer is making an offering to the people of the event that makes them a people…events like these should be celebrated and relived.  One commentary writer points out the little dialogues that occur later in this chapter of Exodus between child and parent; he states that the parents stress to the children that by “celebration, a people can keep memory alive and recreate the saving and founding act of their God.  As this passage is the climax of the story of deliverance, it is natural that the idea of observance should be concentrated here.”  In the observance of the celebration of the Passover, the devout Jew believes he or she was actually coming out of Egypt with his or her ancestors.

We also read today where Paul wanted the Corinthians to observe correctly, to remember, and to celebrate who they were and from where they came, too.  He told them…

“For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes…”

This is the only incident in the life of Jesus that Paul recounted, other than the Crucifixion; and the Passover becomes fixed very early as a founding narrative for an important Christian rite…the Eucharist...a celebration of the once-for-all event of salvation. 

With regard to the Eucharist, we could talk transubstantiation, consubstantiation, or even transignification, but then, maybe we shouldn’t…these doctrinal subjects have been the source of debate and division within the Church & the distinctions between them can make your head spin.  And anyway, as it has been said, “Almost immediately upon any doctrine in history is generally accepted – strands of that belief begin….(pause) Also, for me, it would be conjecture to interpret how Paul understood the identification of the bread with the body, and the cup with the blood.  No, today, I would rather shine a light on the significance of the analogy of the remembrance theme in the Exodus passage with what Christ did once-and-for-all…the Eucharist is a way for us Christians to “proclaim the Lord’s death.”  For me, what happens inside my body, my very soul, my heart, is what really matters.  When I enter into a state of deep remembrance along the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, I can feel my past, I can see who I am, and I can taste from where I came.  Paul wanted the Corinthians to stop the self-centered nature of how they approached the Lord’s Supper in their congregations.  A socially more elite hierarchy had become prejudiced against the poor and the “have not’s” of Corinth.  This was totally unacceptable to Paul, and he called them out, saying…

“20 When you come together, it is not really to eat the Lord’s Supper. 21 For when the time comes to eat, each of you goes ahead with your own supper, and one goes hungry and another becomes drunk. 22 What! Do you not have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you show contempt for the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?”

Paul held back no punches…drastic times call for drastic measures.  We are sinful creatures that, just like the Corinthians, get a little sidetracked sometimes.

Jesus also took drastic measures into His hands in the Gospel passage today.  He was facing His fate…and He was with his followers, his sinful disciples…and they were known to get sidetracked, too.

The other theme from the today’s passages that gets my attention today is the “how” question.  How does Jesus plan to get the attention of His disciples at this, His Last Supper?  Is He going to perform some incredible miracle?  Is He going to do something that will be remembered for all time?  No, not really…because the task of washing feet was for the lesser people, in this context of this Gospel…that would be servants.  It was a demeaning task.  Can you imagine what washing feet would have been like?  Back in Palestine, people walked everywhere.  They got dirty, and their feet would be caked in mud due to the dust, sand, and perspiration.  When people went into a home, the first thing the host would do is have the servants wash their feet.  And here, Jesus is washing the disciples’ feet.  Wow!

The author of John’s gospel knew what Jesus was doing.  Jesus was teaching his disciples a lesson on the way they should live their lives…that hospitality towards our fellow creatures is how to live a Godly life.

Today is Maundy Thursday, and the word Maundy comes from the Latin word “mandatum” for “command”… Jesus commands the disciples…and through active remembrance His command is the Good News for us today (it’s something we can and should do!)… Jesus commands…

14 So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.

        We are just like the Corinthians…God’s people haven’t changed over the past 2,000 years…. (pause) We must put our agendas aside; we must remember…go into a state of deep remembrance when you approach the altar today, and always.  Remember that Jesus taught that a hospitable attitude and brotherly compassion is Godly.  It is in this state of remembrance that you will be fed and your heart and soul will be changed.  And we can have hope in the Kingdom of God and the dominion of it’s priesthood of all believers.  Amen.

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