Sermon - Maundy Thursday
In the Name…
An engineer was developing a high speed plane but, in testing, the wings kept falling off. An old rabbi friend of his heard about this and told him to drill a row of small holes in the wings where they met the fuselage. He did and to his amazement, the wings stayed on. “Of course”, the rabbi said, “For over eighty years I have seen Passover and not once have I seen the matzo break at the perforation.”
Have you ever gone for a walk in the woods, following a trail that at times was difficult, with steep climbs that left you exhausted? In other places, the trail was overgrown and the tree roots and holes cause you to stumble. And just when you were about to give up and head for home you came across some magnificent scene of nature where you could have spent hours soaking in the beauty and the peaceful atmosphere.
When we look at the events of Maundy Thursday, the night Jesus ate the Passover meal with his disciples, we see something a bit like that walk. There, in the most unlikely place; there, where you wouldn't expect to find such beauty; you find Jesus saying to his disciples and to us, the church down through the ages, “This is my body. This is my blood.”
When Jesus sat down with his disciples that night, this was not some high and triumphant moment of his life. In fact, quite the opposite. Judas had already put in motion the betrayal. The disciples were feeling tense and argumentative. In a few hours, Jesus would be arrested and dragged off. Peter would deny three times that he had ever known him. The other disciples would flee and hide.
A more unlikely time and setting could hardly have been found for such a sublime act as the institution of the Holy Eucharist. "Do this in remembrance of me."
No command, before or since, has ever been obeyed so well. "This" has been done every day for twenty centuries among every race on every continent. "This" has been done for kings at their crowning and for murderers at their execution; for soldiers before battle and for those setting out on journeys; for couples exchanging wedding vows and for the souls of the faithful departed. And why? Because it is in "this", the breaking of the bread and sharing of the cup, that we experience, as in no other way, the living presence of God in our lives, and that experience is what this New Covenant is all about.
So it was then. So it is still today. Holy Communion is not found in antiseptic conditions. Holy Communion is not there for holy and righteous people who feel they have got it all together in their spiritual lives.
Holy Communion has its place right in the thick of everything that happens in our lives in the world that we know so well with its conflicts, stains, shame and betrayal. Jesus takes bread and wine and gives them to us as his Body and Blood right where we are, in spite of what we are; what we have done, and what we have failed to do. He gives his Body and Blood to the guilty and to those who have in some way betrayed him as Lord of their lives. He gives us a meal sharing himself with us.
You see, Jesus does not remove us from us our weaknesses and sin to give us his Communion. Rather, he comes to us in the midst of our weakness and shares our sorrows, joins us in our troubles, sympathises with our sadness as we struggle and in this Blessed Sacrament he gives us victory over it all.
So, we need the Lord's Supper to strengthen us to do God's will in our lives. We need the Lord's Supper to strengthen our faith and our love for the journey ahead of us. We need the Lord's Supper for the reassurance that we are the Lords’ and that his love for us is unlimited.
For, the food that Jesus gives us to eat and drink guarantees that we are still loved by him and we come to this Supper trusting that through this meal we receive forgiveness and salvation.
Going back to the imagery of the walk in the woods, after we have taken in that wonderful scene we have stumbled upon for a while - the waterfall, the quiet creek, the mossy rocks and logs, the sunlight streaming through the trees - you feel you could stay there forever and bask in the peace and beauty, but, you have to go back into the real world, back to your home, your work, etc.
It's like that with Holy Communion too. We come here, we are refreshed and feel reassured, revived, but then we are sent from here back into our everyday lives, back to our homes, our work, our neighbourhood, etc. And, we take with us the peace we have received from hearing again that our sins are forgiven, that we have a loving Saviour, and that we have a heavenly Father who watches over us in our daily journeys.
We return and we are sent out as Christ's ambassadors and disciples to carry out his mission and ministry among the people we come across during the next week. We are commissioned to love as he has loved us. And it is just as we go about our tasks that we can find that journey heavy going, very painful, and very distressing.
It is just for these times he has given us himself and he urges us to return to him, again and again, so that he can keep up our strength and that we may dwell in him as he dwells in us.
Before great cathedrals were built; before great theology was thought; indeed, even before one word of the New Testament was written down, there was the breaking of bread, there was the Holy Eucharist. It is the centre of our being as the Church, the people of God, the community of faith, because it, the Eucharist, is God and He is the centre of everything.
May we know that centre within us and celebrate, glad that we have made the journey, glad that we have found this spot of beauty, glad that now we have the strength to carry on.
In the Name…