April 17, 2019

2019 April17_MThurs

 

Maundy Thursday

A Sermon Preached by The Rev. Ian M. Delinger

 

Maundy Thursday is when we come to recall the Institution of the Last Supper. The sharing of the Passover meal was, and still is, central to the Jewish faith, recalling their escape from Egypt, led by Moses, which we heard in our first reading. This event is an important link between the Old Testament prophecies and the role Jesus had to play (and still does play) in our salvation. For thousands of years, the Jewish people have gathered on the Passover, sacrificed a lamb and shared it with one another, remembering their freedom from slavery in Egypt under the Pharaoh. Our brothers and sisters at Congregation Beth David will be gathering for Pesach on Saturday to continue a tradition of thousands of years.


During the Last Supper, Jesus told the Disciples of the offering of Himself as the Passover Lamb. Jesus was the sacrifice to end all sacrifices. Because of the first Passover in Egypt, the Jews were no longer salves under Pharaoh. And


because of Jesus’ sacrifice of
Himself as the Passover Lamb,
all believers are no longer slaves
to sin.

 

What the Disciples did not know at the time was the tragedy of that sacrifice, and that the tragedy was imminent. What is common across humanity, though, is that tragedy brings people together and compels people to serve one another.


In all three of the Maundy Thursday readings, there is an element of the gathering of the people around some sort of tragedy or trauma.

 

  • In the story from Exodus, the Israelites are gathering to hear the instruction from God that they will be set free and how that will happen for them.
  • In Corinthians, the people are gathered to hear the letter from Paul to this community that is experiencing great inner turmoil and strife, and also resisting the external pressures in the wider city of Corinth.
  • In John's Gospel, the Disciples are gathered around the Passover table with Jesus, unwittingly participating in the tragedy that is about to happen.

 

In the last month, tragedy has brought people of various faith communities together around the world.

 

  • Between March 26 and April 4, a racially-motivated arsonist destroyed three black churches in St Landry Parish, Louisiana.
  • On Monday, the 850-year-old iconic Paris Roman Catholic Cathedral of Notre Dame suffered a great fire.
  • At the same time, a small fire erupted at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, the city in which tonight’s Maundy Thursday events originally took place.


In each of these tragedies, the communities were drawn together to support one another and to serve one another. While the outpouring of support for the people of Paris and for the repairs to the church are astonishing, they are not wholly inconceivable. The more remarkable story of a community coming together is the financial support for the churches in St Landry Parish after the fire in Paris.


The 149-year-old Seventh District Baptist Association started a GoFundMe campaign a week ago, with the not-so-unexpected limited and local response. When I read that Notre Dame will have enough benefactors and that people should support these poor, rural churches, I donated. The total on GoFundMe on Tuesday at 8pm was just over $50k. Not 24hrs later, the total was $1.5M. They hit their goal last night at 8:30pm. This afternoon, the total was just over $2M, with almost 37k donors from around the world.


What does this have to do with the Last Supper and the Washing of the Disciples Feet?


The ability to sincerely love and
serve your neighbors as Children
of God is at the core of
Jesus’ ministry,


which the nucleus of that core must be your devotion to God, for it is God who demonstrates this depth of love and service to each one of you, shown through the sacrifice of the God-Man Jesus Christ.


All the way up to the Last Supper, Jesus was fostering capacity-building with His Disciples. Capacity building is the process by which individuals and organizations obtain, improve, and retain the skills, knowledge, tools, equipment and other resources needed to do their jobs competently or to a greater capacity (larger scale, larger audience, larger impact, etc). Jesus, the Proto-CEO, or Proto COO, Chief Operations Officer, spent His entire Adult Ministry on Earth trying to build the capacity of the Disciples for a larger scale, larger impact ministry of love and service of and to God’s people.


Jesus spent His ministry giving
the Disciples the skills, giving
them the clues. One last
opportunity was to give them
Himself, His Body and His Blood
in Bread and Wine, and to
demonstrate service with true
humility by washing their feet.


The Disciples failed at their capacity building. It took the tragedy of the arrest and Crucifixion for them to begin to realize all that Jesus had been teaching them. They finally understand His healings, His associations with the marginalized, His parables. But it took the tragedy of the Crucifixion for them to come together and begin to serve the community, and to serve them from their depth of faith in Jesus Christ and His offer of Eternal Life. We will hear about that in the coming weeks. For now, we are to dwell in the pre-tragedy moment in which Jesus gave Himself to us in complete humility.


To the Israelites, Yahweh gave holy food and drink in order to build capacity for their journey out of slavery and into freedom – freedom that came with uncertainty. To the Disciples, Jesus gave holy food and drink in order to build capacity for their journey to serving God’s people and serving God by spreading the Gospel. They are stories of capacity-building to prepare us for lives of coming together as community and serving God’s people with complete humility and selflessness.


Let us not have to wait for a
tragedy to bring us together and
to love and to serve.

© 2019 St. Stephen's Episcopal Church
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