Maundy Thursday/April 18, 2019/Community Lutheran/Pr. Joe Vought
John 13:1-17, 31b-35
With the Confession and Forgiveness of tonight’s liturgy the season of Lent comes to a close and we enter the Great Thee Days: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday, the Vigil of Easter. While they are three days, they are celebrated as one, reminding Christians around the world of the central event of our faith, the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Throughout the Gospels, we see Jesus ministering to people with healing, forgiveness, casting out demons, and the disciples as witnesses to it all. But on the last night of his earthly life Jesus is focused on the disciples: the ones he called, who followed him, witnessed miracles, those whom he taught and who often misunderstood him. The very ones who would betray and desert him and, after the events of the cross and resurrection, would be his witnesses and apostles to the ends of the earth. For as many years as I have celebrated and preached Maundy Thursday, I am forever struck by the intimacy, the up-close, personal ministry of Jesus with his disciples on the last night of his earthly life.
It reminds me of a story: a group of students were asked to list what they thought were the Seven Wonders of the World. There was some disagreement, but the following got the most votes: 1. Egypt’s Great Pyramids 2. Taj Mahal 3. Grand Canyon 4. Panama Canal 5. Empire State Building 6. St. Peter’s Basilica 7. China’s Great Wall. While gathering the votes, the teacher noticed one quiet student hadn’t turned in her paper. So she asked the student if she was having trouble with her list. The girl replied, “Yes, a little. I couldn’t quite make up my mind because there were so many.” The teacher said, “Tell us what you have, and maybe we can help.” The girl hesitated, then read, “I think the Seven Wonders of the World are: 1. to touch 2. to taste 3. to see 4. to hear 5. to feel 6. to laugh 7. and to love. The room was full of silence.
On the night in which he is betrayed, Jesus loved them to the end with Godly grace and courage. He feeds his disciples, “Take, eat this is my body, Take drink this is my blood for the forgiveness of sins…” In the most intimate act of foot-washing, Jesus stoops to touch and wash the feet of those who would run away.
Our liturgy, every liturgy invites us to take part in the real presence of Jesus. Tonight with the hand of another on our heads, we received God’s forgiveness. In the Passing of the Peace, we touch each other as Christ, receiving and offering God’s Peace. In every Eucharist we don’t feed ourselves, we feed each other with Jesus. Tonight we will give and receive Communion in a way we haven’t done so before, and it may be a little awkward but we do it so we may become what we receive- the Body of Christ. We experience God’s love in the most intimate and sacramental ways. Over a lifetime we pray to be more like Jesus to pass it on. St. Paul says, “I received from the Lord what I hand on to you…. Whenever we gather to receive the Body of Christ, the forgiveness of sins, we do it in the fervent hope that Christ’s life and love will sink into our bones to become part of our lives. It occurred to me that Notre Dame Cathedral may lie in ashes, and will no doubt be rebuilt, but before there were cathedrals, the Word became flesh and lived among us. Before there ever was a Notre Dame Cathedral, Our Lady, Mary the Mother of our Lord, said Yes to God, and in saying Yes to God, she bore Christ and in teaching her Son Jesus to say Yes, we are touched by God, redeemed by Jesus to love one another and pass it on.
On the night of his betrayal, Our Lord Jesus said “Yes” to all that was asked of him, a sacrifice beyond all sacrifice. But that’s what the love of God does, it redeems and forgives even the most scattered, selfish and proud of sinners. Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” Lord, help us all to say yes more often—to love one another as you have loved us.
“Send us now with faith and courage to the hungry lost bereaved in our living and our dying we become what we receive, Christ’s own Body, blessed and broken cup of flowing love out-poured, Given as a living token of our world redeemed restored.” Amen.