Sermon Maundy Thursday April 13, 2017
Exodus 12:1-4, 11-14 Psalm 116:1, 10-17 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 John 13:1-17, 31b-35
May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to you, O Lord, our strength and our Redeemer.
It seems to me that God loves symbolism, prophecy and to foreshadow events, before the Exodus from Egypt God used the simple device of a meal to foreshadow the path of Salvation for all people symbolically and prophetically. Just as the blood of the lamb saved the captive Israelites from evil, three thousand years later the Blood of the Lamb was to save all people who believe in Jesus Christ from the ultimate Evil – everlasting Death. In Egypt God said that a lamb was to be sacrificed and that would be the beginning of the Israelites freedom from the clutches of the Pharaoh. Upon seeing the blood of the lamb, God would save the people living in that house from Death. For sustenance the people were to eat the flesh of the lamb and then immediately begin their journey to the Promised Land. God said pack your bags, load your carts you are on your way; so the Israelites took with them all they would need for the journey to the Promised Land and their former captors, the Egyptians, even gave them gifts to be gone !!
This week in history Jesus, the Lamb of God, had His blood shed and was murdered. On the night before He was arrested and so savagely killed Jesus laid out for us a memorial to Him of the event with all the symbolism of the Exodus shining through. He gave us the token of bread as His Body and wine as the token of His Blood and He commanded us to share them with each other in memory of Him. So that the people of any house having the Blood of the Lamb of God would be saved from Death, this is that house. For spiritual sustenance we eat the Bread the symbol of the Lamb’s flesh, and drink the wine the symbol of the Lamb’s protective Blood. We are then ready to move into a new life.
Jesus revealed all this in what we call the Last Supper. There was only one so we call it now the Lord’s Supper and Holy Communion and the Eucharist as we celebrate it. The meal has so many names because it has so many meanings. It was the Last Supper Jesus was to eat in His earthly body. It is the Lord’s Supper because He commanded that we eat it. It is Holy Communion because we eat the meal together as a community and share the same bread and the same cup of wine. It is the Eucharist because it is a thanksgiving for the new life in Jesus Christ, the new beginning seen first in the freedom from captivity given so long ago to the Israelites.
With all this abundance of God’s action in our lives what are Christ’s expectations of us in this new life ? Certainly to keep the Ten Commandments and don’t forget the two others He added ‘to love God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind’ and ‘love our neighbours as ourselves’ (Luke 10:27). But on this night He added another one it was that we ‘love one another’.
Why do we need another Commandment if we love God and our neighbours isn’t it almost obvious that we do love each other too ? Well no ! From time to time we get so taken up in doing good works for other people, especially in far off lands that we forget the needs that we each have. As someone wrote to me last week ‘we all have our own troubles’. We must not forget that. It’s easy to forget mum while we are busy at the food bank, after all we can’t do everything and we are expected to work in the community. Yet mum, even though she lives in a nice retirement or nursing home, may be crushingly lonely. Taking an hour away from the food bank to read to her for a while may be a godsend in her day. Taking some time to play with an autistic grandchild may be a blessing too because life is extremely difficult for children who don’t feel a part of the world they live in. Visiting a fellow Christian who is having a rough time and needs to let it out, all these things are loving one another. Yes refugees need help but I bet the person in the pew right next to you could use a little tender loving care too.
And at the Last Supper Jesus provided us with a lesson on what all that means. He was don’t forget the Leader of the group and in those days it was customary for foot washing to be a welcoming ritual, after all they didn’t have nice sidewalks, shoes, boots and socks to keep feet safe and dry, and animals roamed everywhere and there was no such thing as ‘poop and scoop’. So after a journey it would be normal to wash one’s feet upon arriving on a visit. Now the ordinary Joseph and Joanna would wash their own feet on arrival but in a richer household a servant would do it for them. It of course was a demeaning task. That’s why Peter was so shocked and said “You’re not washing my feet Lord” ! He immediately saw the significance and abasement in the act. But Jesus to show how much we should care for each other washed His disciples’ feet a complete role reversal and an unforgettable lesson about humility and love for one another. / Going back to symbolism, there was a time when the Israelites did well in Egypt, you remember in the time of Joseph, then they fell into slavery only to be liberated and to live in the Promised Land, a land of milk and honey. We have had vibrant congregations for more than one hundred and fifty years, and more than one hundred and eighty years but we have fallen on hard times with thin attendance today. But that is not the end of the story. We have a future both individually and as a congregation and a parish and we can see how because it is prophesied.
Jesus came into Jerusalem in triumph, welcomed by all – times were good, many people coming together celebrating. Times went bad many people turned their backs on Jesus, and most, not all, of the faithful disciples lost hope and turned away. But they did not lose faith, they clung together for support and found Jesus again, and you know the Church flourished again. We are like that we are in a time when many turn their backs but don’t despair, cling together, we will find Jesus again in our midst and we will flourish again, if we love one another ! Amen.