March 29, 2018

2018 March29

Maundy Thursday - Year B

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 share it with one another, remembering their freedom from slavery in Egypt under the Pharaoh.

 

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 people were no longer slaves to sin.


Last Saturday, millions of people across the United States participated in the March For Our Lives that was organized in part to remember the sacrifice of 17 students and teachers who were killed last month at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL.

 

  • The march was also to remember the sacrifices of hundreds of other children, students and teachers across the United States who have been killed at their schools as victims of gun violence.
  • The march was also to remember the sacrifices of the tens-of-thousands of people who are killed by gun violence each year.


When we hear the words of the Old Testament Lesson from Exodus, we hear the pain and suffering of children.


“For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals.”


Imagine having lost a loved one in a school shooting, or being a survivor, coming to the Maundy Thursday Service and hearing that. “I will strike down every firstborn in the land.” Surely these words will open many wounds, wounds that were not yet healed, and may never be healed.

 

The violence we read about in The Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, is borne in part from the violence of what it means to be human. There has been violence between humans since the sons of Adam and Eve, when Cain killed Abel for no stated reason.

 

That violence is repeated in the Passion Story. Jesus knows that His death will include some violence, and the language of violence is part and parcel to Jewish Temple worship. from the time of The Passover in Exodus until the destruction of the Temple is 70AD, the sacrifice of animals was the main offering to God. It is what the Jewish priest did for the people: he would take the animal from the giver and slaughter it on the altar. On Yom Kippur, the High Priest would make the offering in the inner-sanctum of the Temple: in the Holy of Holies, for the atonement of the sins of Israel.

 

Jesus, at the Last Supper,

presents Himself as one of the

offerings, the Passover offering.

 

But Jesus wasn’t just another animal. Jesus represented the sacrifice of the First Passover, whose blood signifies our freedom. “This is my blood of the New Covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.” By His obedience, even to suffering and death, Jesus made the offering which we could not make; in Him we are freed from the power of sin and reconciled to God.

 

Because of that sacrifice, no one

else should be a sacrifice. And

even though the millions of

victims of gun violence were not

offerings in a religious

ceremony, their deaths are

useless sacrifices borne out of

our inability to appropriately

control senseless violence. It

makes it hard to believe that, in

Jesus, “we are freed from the

power of sin and reconciled to

God” when everyday we hear of

more gun violence.


Maundy Thursday derives its name from the Latin “mandatum” meaning “mandate” or “commandment”.


Jesus said to His Disciples:


“I give you a new commandment [mandatum novum], that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”


Let us build upon that mandate to love one another, and foster love across the nation so that not another student, teacher, parent or any Child of God has to be sacrificed through senseless violence. Jesus’ full and sufficient sacrifice was for once and for all.

© 2018 St. Stephen's Episcopal Church
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