Video Link For Maundy Thursday reflection: https://youtu.be/3kvxVdC6krU
Via this page you can access Church of England online worship for Holy Week – There will be services on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Day
1 Cor 11:23-26, John 13 1-17, 31-35
In the name of the God, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, Amen
Tonight is a very special night in the Church year. It is one of dramatic contrasts – we begin joyful, upbeat and expectant as we re-enact once more, our commitment to sharing bread as Jesus did. To remember, as Jesus asked us, the ‘new covenant’ or promise he made with us and the power he left with us through his Holy Spirit. We end by preparing to go into the night to watch with Jesus in the garden with the words of Psalm 88 bidding us go and pointing to the realities of Good Friday ahead.
For most of us, sharing in communion is a staple and intimate part of our relationship with God – and one we deeply cherish. Something we know is all the more special now as we have had long periods without communion or relying on spiritual communion online! This is in our hearts as we gather specially round the table this night like the first disciples. Well almost, I admit we are socially distanced and can’t do it exactly as we might want this evening.
But we can do what we are doing – and I am so thankful for that. Last year, I remember on Maundy Thursday being particularly sad because we were unable to do what we are doing tonight. In my Christian journey Maundy Thursday has always been significant… My first encounter with it left a deep impression on the teenage me. Over the years I have found many different ways of marking and sharing this feast, which speaks of the faith, hope, love and promise of the Christian way.
Let’s immerse ourselves in the story. We gather tonight knowing the undercurrents of what is to come for Jesus, the importance of these moments, but also the tragedy built into this hour. That deceit and treachery are also at the table along with the coming pain and suffering in the morning. Let’s look deeper for the faith, hope, love and the promise of God that I just talked about.
Where is the faith in the last supper?
For starters in the disciples who prepared for the feast who followed Jesus’ instructions of the when, where and the how given in the other gospel accounts. This is faith to follow where we are guided (even if we can’t explain it or rationalise it). There is also, of course, faith in the words and importantly the actions of Jesus. Jesus acting as the least of all – washing the disciples’ feet. Of this act – Jesus said – I have set you an example – that you should do as I have done for you.
Does our faith serve others in our words and our deeds? Does it carry the extra load, does it serve others before it serves itself? There is also faith in Jesus demonstrated by his willingness to pay the ultimate price for all. This is my body, that is for you he said – from our passage from 1 Corinthians. For some this line should be translated – this is my body – that is broken for you. Breaking the bread, symbolises how Jesus body would be broken by the cross. This was faith that literally moved mountains, broke down the barriers and opened our hearts to God’s unfailing love for us.
Moving on from faith to hope – where is the hope?
The monk and theologian Timothy Radcliffe defined hope in a talk I heard in 2011 – As living in the moment because that is the only thing that really exists. Here we have the ultimate example of living in the moment. Jesus knowing what is to come – has the presence of mind to wash the disciples’ feet and to share bread and wine to lay the foundations we rely on today to give us hope for eternity. Hope for lives beyond this mortal life. This is all at a point of great crisis for him and one where falling to pieces was also a real option – all in face of the suffering, cruelty and desertion Jesus was to endure for us.
In my life experience of crises and endurance (which like all of us has increased in the past year), I have not always managed to live as hopefully as Jesus did in this pivotal moment for him, but I have found strength in taking each moment on its merits – living simply for that day. Not making things too complicated as we are wont to do! Concentrating on what is possible, rather than what isn’t. We cannot manage the future via anxiety. We need to let it go, and let God be God to us and live as hopefully as we can in each moment we have as Jesus so clearly did on this special night.
Moving on from hope to love – where is the love?
The love is obviously evident in virtually every action of Jesus – from washing feet, to breaking bread. Also in his words – Jesus said A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
There was a seventies Christian song – which some of us may remember(!) which had the chorus – They will know we are Christians, by our love, by our love. They will know we are Christians by our love. When people look at the Church and look at Christians – Is love what they see? This is difficult with the press the church gets to see how love is at the forefront, with some of the painful divisions and woeful safeguarding scandals to the fore! Brokenness is not just limited to bread this evening but in the church’s representation of God’s love for us. We can’t change that readily other than by prayer, but we can work on how we are the church in our communities. How we are seen and how we respond in love to those around us. Are people warmly welcomed and supported as they are (and as much as we can in the current circumstances)? Are we letting our love of God flourish within us and bubble over into all our lives? This Lent we have particularly concentrated on our acts of love in sharing the best news we have ever had with those around us – however we can and only as we can.
Moving on from love to promise – where is the promise?
The promise is firmly and completely wrapped up in the new covenant Jesus brings in this bread and this wine. His body broken on the cross and his blood shed for us. The new covenant Jesus won for us through his death on the cross, which brought us the promise of God’s love through this life and eternally. The power of the Holy Spirit that dwells in each and everyone of us. That as Jeremiah said and as we thought about on Passion Sunday – The sense that we would all know God (and we would not have to be told about knowing God any more). This is a pretty incredible and awesome shift in how God related to his people and we related to God which was brought through the saving love of Jesus – as we eat this bread and when we can drink this cup. We and countless Christians over 2000 years, are still proclaiming the Lord’s death and the end of death until he comes.
So to conclude in the last supper – we have located faith, hope, love and God’s promise to us in the feet washed, in the bread broken and shared, and the wine outpoured. This is Jesus Christ for us, for yesterday, today and forever. For us in this moment, pandemic or no pandemic, in 2021 with all its suffering, doubts and uncertainties. And yet we still do this in full knowledge of the faith, hope, love and promise God has for us.
We do this in remembrance of him who died for us Jesus Christ. Amen
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995