4/17/2014 Maundy Thursday The text for today’s sermon is I Corinthians 11:23-26.
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
This evening, we gather as the family of God to share a good meal. This good meal that we will share is sparse by human standards – a taste of bread and a sip of wine – but in this good meal, we receive the blessings of God and sustenance of Christ.
Breaking bread together is something we do as family. The taste and smells of this meal stay with us. I still remember the first time that I came to the Lord’s Table and received this food. The bread seemed to taste a lot like cardboard and the wine was stronger than I expected it to be. I remember that my glasses fogged and my face flushed as wine was not a customary drink for me. By human standards, this meal was sparse, yet it was sufficient, for in it I received God’s good gifts. And God’s good gifts made it a feast – a meal of love – shared with my brothers and sisters in Christ.
The taste and smell of good meals shared with our family and friends can form indelible memories. I can still taste my Gramma Connery’s pancakes, even though I haven’t had any in my mouth for over 50 years. I can remember the taste of my mother’s cooking, and in my mind, I can savor my father’s specialties. Family traditions often involve meals. If you are Scandinavian, those memories may surround a smorgasbord, Swedish meatballs or lutefisk. When I was a child, Memorial Day and the Fourth of July meant a cook-out with my Aunt Marion and Uncle Rod. I can still taste my dad’s BBQ chicken and ribs. On Thanksgiving and Christmas, my father would create his “everything but the kitchen sink” sausage stuffing. And on Easter, we had ham – not because ham was the thing to eat on Easter, but because ham was one of my father’s favorite foods. Yet, on Easter and on Christmas, too, the traditional family meal took place after the real feast of the day. For, you see, there was always another meal, a more important meal, one that was eaten in the morning as we gathered around the altar as the family of God.
On the night in which he was betrayed, our Lord sat at the table with his disciples to eat a meal. It was a meal that encompasses both family and God as it was a meal of remembrance that involved special foods, connected to special words. It was a meal of tradition, and a meal prescribed by God for his people. It was the primary Seder of the Passover.
The disciples had no idea that this meal would be different from all other Seders. The food was the same. The bread was on the table and the wine was abundant. What made this night different from all other nights is what Jesus did with these common foods. On this night, our Lord Jesus Christ took the bread and wine and he blessed them and he gave them to his disciples with new words and new meaning. As Jesus took the bread and broke it, he gave it to his disciples saying, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me,” and he took the cup and passed it to them saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” In this act of consecration, these foods became a vision of the future, when our Lord would willingly lay down his life as the paschal lamb. It pointed to the cross and beyond that cross to the forgiveness and oneness we all would and will share in Christ Jesus.
With those words, Jesus transformed the bread and wine into something more than a reminder of what God had done in the past to deliver his people out of bondage. With those words, Jesus was doing a new thing. In the eating of this good meal, he was promising to be present with his people in the here and now and in all times to come. In the bread and wine, the people of all generations are to find Christ and to feast on the good meal of his grace and salvation.
You and I have a close connection with these words and with this bread and wine. We’ve heard the words often. They convey to us the mystery of God’s presence with us. You and I have a close connection to the bread and wine of this meal, for we have tasted it and its memory is indelibly set in our minds. As we eat the bread and drink the cup, we do more than remember what God has done for us in Christ Jesus. As we partake in this meal, we are participating in our Lord’s death in order that we may also share in the new life he offers. As we eat the bread and drink the cup, we become full participants in our Lord’s death in order that we may also become full participants in his resurrection. As we eat the bread and drink the cup, we are challenged to become “little christs,” the people of God who serve as we have been served, a chosen people who live out Christ’s love as we share the good news with others.
The stuff of which this Maundy Thursday is made is not unusual. The meal is sparse by human standards, but the blessings are great. In and through this morsel of bread and wine, we receive God and his blessings of life and forgiveness. God is with us and becomes part of us as we struggle to live out our faith and make the best of each day. This is not a meal which is stuck in the past. For, in our eating and drinking, we rejoice in receiving God’s help in the present, and we anticipate the salvation promised to us through Jesus.
In some ways, this good meal is like a rehearsal dinner. It is celebrated in anticipation of what is to come, the marriage feast of our Lord. Jesus, the bridegroom, has sacrificed himself for his bride, the church. On the night in which he is betrayed, we celebrate the meal provided to us by the bridegroom. In doing so, we proclaim Christ’s death, and we celebrate the meal of life. We come together as a family, joining with our brothers and sisters from the past, the present and the future. We join in celebration of the good meal given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ as a remembrance, a presence, and a promise to come.
So, come, my friends! Come as you are – come and feast at the table. Receive the gifts of God for the people of God. And may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.