my miscellany

Maundy Thursday, 2019 — 18 Apr 19

Maundy Thursday, 2019

image source: http://www.turnbacktogod.com

RCL Maundy Thursday
Exodus 12:1-14, Psalm 116:1 and 10-17, I Corinthians 11:23-26,
Saint John 13:1-17 and 31b-35

The canvas tonight is bigger than any I know. It’s bigger than Rembrandt’s The Night Watch, almost twelve feet by fourteen and one-third feet. Tonight’s canvas enlarges every Feast and Fast in the Church’s calendar, but there is one thing in it to remember above all the others. And through it all, there is the marvelous which is not only possible but always potential and which finally occurs in the Resurrection of the Lord.

Tonight’s canvas includes the Institution of the Lord’s Supper which you heard in the Epistle, itself the earliest written account of the Last Supper in the New Testament. And behind it is its prototype, the Institution of the Passover which you heard in the Old Testament Reading. The Passover and the Lord’s Supper are meals celebrating the end of bondage, the release from captivity, actual and figurative, as well as liberty, and the gift of freedom to be what God intends us to be. We Christians believe that the Lord’s Supper fulfills and completes the Passover, for in it we pass over from slavery to sin, to ultimate freedom in the Resurrection of humanity.

All of this lives on tonight’s canvas. But the main thing, the most important thing, is what Jesus teaches his disciples in the Gospel. He takes off his outer robe and puts on a towel, and he washes their feet. You need to know that in Jesus’ culture, the lowliest slave could not be compelled to wash another’s feet.

In this symbolic act, Jesus transforms himself into someone lower than the lowliest. He is willing to do for them what no one could be forced to do for them. He teaches them that doing for each other such things perpetuates his presence among them. And then he commands them to “love one another” just as he has loved them.[1]

As God is my witness, I have rarely seen that love in Christian communities in over three decades of Priesthood. But I have seen it here, in this parish. I have seen it in the people here tonight in the most awful of circumstances. I have received that love here. And when people share the Lord’s love, when they become lower than the low for each other, they stand, in every good sense, in the doorway of the marvelous and in the doorway of the supernatural. They stand in the doorway of eternity.

Tonight’s canvas is huge, but when we study it, we find that Jesus has given us a sacramental means to ensure his presence. But he has also given us a moral and ethical means to ensure his presence, and he has commanded and enabled us to do both. Insofar as we truly identify with him, we shall do both.

[1] Saint John 13:34.

Maundy Thursday, 2018 — 29 Mar 18

Maundy Thursday, 2018

RCL Holy Thursday
Exodus 12:1-14, Psalm 116:1 and 10-17, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, St John 13:1-17 and 31b-35

On Sunday, Palm Sunday, waving our palms and gathered with the children of the parish, we once again chose Barabbas. Even the shorter form of the Passion requires us to make that choice. Saints Matthew, Mark, and Luke, compel us to choose a murderer and an insurrectionist over the Savior and Redeemer of the world. The wisdom of the Gospels stands in stark contrast to how we view ourselves. Will we ever get it right?

The answer, sadly, is No. What we can never get completely right is how to live, how to live so that we do not need a Savior. We will never get that completely right though we have our Savior’s example and we have our Savior’s Sacrament to show us the way and to nourish us along that way. If we follow his example and if we feed on him through his Sacrament, we shall not stray too far. We shall not stray as far, say, as Judas who betrayed him and who took money for his trouble. Even if we don’t stray that far, still we need a Savior. For Christ can show us how to live and feed us along the way, but still we need him, because our ability, our might, simply runs out before we live perfectly and live so that we do not need a Savior. Our humanity runs out before his divinity begins.

And so year after year we choose Barabbas. We choose Barabbas because our humanity simply can’t reach as far as choosing Jesus requires. We might as well try to fly unaided from the Empire State Building to the Eiffel Tower.

So, what are we to do? We keep the Feasts when they roll around, seemingly interminably, as best we can, knowing that God who made us knows us and loves us, loves us while knowing our humanity can only stretch so far. For this reason we follow the Anglican or Episcopal understanding of the glory Christ displays when he institutes the Sacrament of his Body and Blood. We wear white, and we sing the Gloria in excelsis Deo. We sing the best hymn of praise we know to thank God for not letting our shortcomings interfere with his love for us. We keep the color white for the purity and perfection of our Lord whose divinity supplies to us what our humanity can’t reach. We remember the words “in remembrance of me” because they were the words he used when he gave us himself, gave us the Sacrament to help us along, to help the very limitation we have which holds us back from growing up fully like him.

And, finally, we accept his commandment to love one another. We do this, because it’s what he did, and it’s what he told us to do. But also we love each other because that’s what our humanity would do if it could reach his divinity—we would be the servant of each other, for that is the way to keep our communion and our community in tact. We could never have found this out on our own. Having his example and the gift of his Sacrament, can we not get that right? Can we not get it right that our bearing one to another, our being the servant of each other, will keep our community in tact and even cause it to grow? We should be able to get that right. The Savior who dies for us wills us to give ourselves to each other. He was willing to die to set us free to do those things that we need to do to bring others into this community. He was willing to die to set us free to do what we can to keep this community in tact.

Maundy Thursday, 2017 — 13 Apr 17

Maundy Thursday, 2017

RCL Maundy Thursday
Exodus 12:1-14, Psalm 116:1 and 10-17, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, Saint John 13:1-17 and

You heard it in the Passover Charter Narrative from Exodus: “Throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.”[1] But tonight for us Christians is a different night. We celebrate the Institution of the Blessed Sacrament given to us not as a “perpetual ordinance,” but as a “pledge of eternal life,”[2] according to the Collect of the Day.

For me, the difference is tremendous. The Passover looks back at a saving act of God, when the Almighty brought the children of Israel out of Egypt, out of the land of bondage, and set them free, actually and figuratively. The Passover is a perpetual ordinance remembering an act of liberation.

In the Eucharist, instituted by the Lord Jesus within a Passover meal, according to the Synoptic Gospels, we for all time look back to the Offering of the Lord on the Cross, the breaking of his Body and the shedding of his Blood, but also—and this is the tremendous difference—we look forward for all time to the promised gift of eternal life. Whenever we celebrate the Eucharist, we kneel at Calvary even as we look forward to eternal life given to us by the Lord in his self-offering of himself at Calvary. We look back to the gift of his self-offering, and we look forward to the inheritance we have eternally in virtue of that gift.

Of all people, dearly beloved, we are most blessed. We are given in the Eucharist the forgiveness of our sins, the strengthening of our union with Christ and one another, and the foretaste of the heavenly banquet which is our nourishment in eternal life.”[3]

I encourage you, therefore, to receive the Sacrament tonight, tomorrow, Sunday, and for the rest of your lives with thankfulness and with humility, that so great a gift has been given to us for the salvation of our souls. With the gift of the Eucharist, we are free to write our own stories, stories of life and of hope, of faith and of charity, and of thanksgiving to God, who became like us so that we might be like God. That freedom has been given to each of us, sealed in the never-ending Sacrament, for time and for eternity.

[1] Exodus 12:14.

[2] BCP, page 221.

[3] BCP, pages 859-860.

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