Maundy Thursday, April 2, 2015

Maundy Thursday 2015

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

April 2, 2015

Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Manasquan, NJ

            St. Paul certainly wasn’t at the Last Supper.  Paul probably never met Jesus until he was blinded by a flash of light and fell to the ground on the road to Damascus.  He was on his way to visit synagogues there, hoping to root out followers of the Way (with a capital W) who believed that Jesus of Nazareth, who had been crucified, had also risen and was the Messiah.  Deprived of sight, the downed traveler clearly heard a voice asking him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?”  That was the first time Saul, who became Paul, met the  Lord Jesus.

            So isn’t it interesting that Paul who was not present at that Last Supper gave us the lead-in to the words of institution used at the celebration of the Lord’s Supper?  “In the night in which he was betrayed”: this is the night, the betrayal, the Gift of our Lord’s Self that we remember tonight.  

            Jesus went seriously off-script at the Passover seder that Paul and the evangelists Matthew, Mark and Luke describe.  The unleavened bread was no longer the reminder of the hastily baked bread that had no time to rise the night before the Israelite slaves fled in their Exodus from Egypt.  Our Lord Jesus took, blessed, broke the bread and announced:

“This is my body that is for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.”  [“Eat it in memory of me,” says the Message paraphrase.]

“Remember Me, friends.”  How could we forget, Lord?  Did our friend Paul Starke ever forget that another man’s heart beat in his chest, after he received his transplant?  Did our friend ever forget the generosity of that other man’s family, who, in the midst of their grief, chose to donate his organs to those who would have died without them?    “Remember Me, friends” seems like an unnecessary reminder, Lord!  The Gift Given of Your Life and saving death is so immense: How could we forget, Lord?   

And yet… You gave Your all and we have a hard time giving back to You a small amount of the time, treasure, talent, which come from You.  You gave Your all and yet we would often rather be at the mall or sunbathing on the beach or playing, even working, anywhere rather than in Your house.  

What do we read about God’s remembrance of us in the Book of the Prophet Isaiah? 

“Can a woman forget her nursing child,

      or show no compassion for the child of her womb?

Even these may forget,

      yet I will not forget you.

See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands….”

                              Isaiah 49:15-16a

The nail marks in Your hands and feet, the wound the lance opened in Your side, are inscriptions of Your love for us, Lord.  “Remember Me, friends.”   How could we forget, Lord?  

But we know we do.  You washed Your disciples’ feet and commanded us to wash each others’.   But we find the humbler jobs of the Kingdom beneath us.  We find it inconvenient to serve, especially on the spur of the moment.  We’re like spiritual accountants, counting the cost to us before we say “Yes” to You.  You told us, “Whenever you did it to one of the least of these, who are members of My family, you did it to Me.”  But we weigh in our own minds whether the needy are truly deserving and we withhold or meagerly parse out the blessings You give us to share.   “Remember Me, friends.”   How could we forget, Lord?   If only You didn’t disguise Yourself so cleverly, we’d recognize and serve You better, more predictably.

We do remember You, Lord, when see the bread and wine lifted up at the altar, when we hear the words,

“This is my body given for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.

This cup is the new covenant in my blood, shed for you and for all people, for the forgiveness of sins.   Do this in remembrance of me.”

But maybe You didn’tonly mean that we should remember You when we’re worshiping in this sanctuary.  Maybe You want us to remember You – whenever.  Wherever.

            Maybe You want us to remember, Lord, as St. Paul said, that we have been bought with a price.  The price of our ransom was Your life, Your body not just contained in bread at the Last Supper, but crucified on Calvary; Your blood not just present in the cup of wine, but shed on the wood of the cross. 

“…[D]o you not know that… you are not your own?  For you were bought with a price…”

(1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

            “Remember Me, friends.”   How could we forget, Lord?   Does the soldier whose buddy fell on the grenade forget the friend who preserved his life?  Does the patient forget the doctor who provided the cure?  Does the pregnant woman forget the baby who kicks within?  Does the beloved forget the beloved?

            We are the beloved, Lord, Your beloved.  Not just during Holy Week, not just on Maundy Thursday, not just when we’re present at Eucharist, may You be our Beloved, as well.  Heaven forbid that we should forget to remember our Friend.  Heaven forbid that we should refuse to wash each other’s feet.  Heaven forbid that we should fail to recognize and serve You in the least of these, who are members of Your family.  “Remember us, Lord, when You come into Your kingdom.”  Amen

Pastor Mary Virginia Farnham