10 April 2006

holy thursday

It is not quite time to be sad yet. Maundy Thursday is not yet the day to be sad.

Sometimes I think we get ready to be sad . . . we prepare ourselves. We can get so ready to be sad or upset that we’re sad or upset before anything has happened. Sometimes even as we come together for an occasion of joy, celebrating the Eucharist or Lord’s Supper, and on this Thursday celebrating the first time this meal occurred, we are less focused on joy and more mindful of the fact that Peter would deny Jesus. Sometimes we are more focused on the fact that Judas would sell Jesus to the Roman authorities, betraying him with a kiss. We are already looking at the most difficult parts, not coming to this meal in celebration for the grace that God gives us, this wonderful gift. We come wondering how we have betrayed, how we have denied Jesus.

It is human nature . . . and it is our nature to focus on what we have done instead of what God has done for us. But many of us hear words of invitation every time we come to this meal, “Christ invites us . . . all of us!” This is the Lord’s Table, and it is God who issues the invitation to this meal. And God has invited you . . .

You see, in the world we think that you get invited to this party or that party based on who you are . . . or maybe what you have done. And most of the time that is true for this world . . . but Jesus shows us another way . . . a new commandment.

This night that we read about in John 13, Jesus, the Son of God, took off his robe and made himself a servant to his disciples. He put a towel around himself, poured water into a bowl, and began going around to each disciple and washing their feet. When he was done washing them, he would dry them with the towel that was wrapped around his waist. Sometimes actions speak louder than words. Jesus did something that it was the job of the servants of that home to do. Jesus took the role of a servant, humbling himself, the very Son of God . . . in order to wash the disciples feet. Then he says to them, “You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you should do the same. Servants are not better than their master. Messengers are not greater than the one who sent them.”

Jesus was always doing things like this. Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinner, with prostitutes and drunks, with people that you and I have a hard time imagining Jesus with. Jesus fed five thousand, not based on who had sinned and who hadn’t; Jesus just said, “Come. Come to me.”

But it is hard for us to believe because we get so focused on how we don’t measure up, on how we are not the kind of person we wish that we were, or the kind of person that the world, or the television, or whatever voice it is that tells you, “You aren’t there yet.”

But it doesn’t matter where you are when you sit before the table of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We confess ours sins before we come to this table so that we can truly come to this table in joy, knowing that it is Christ who desires us; it is Christ who loves us; it is Christ who has saved us. And it is this meal that sustains us.

So let us go to that table again this Thursday of Holy Week. There is more than enough time for sorrow. There is more than enough death, destruction, poverty, hunger, and sin in this world.

We know that Good Friday is coming, that Jesus will be betrayed and denied.

But on Maundy Thursday we lay the sin and suffering of the whole world down, leaving it behind us, as we come to this table, to share this bread, to share this wine . . . in joy and thanksgiving.

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