This evening we re-enact the last meal Jesus ate with his community, right before he died. We’ll circle around a big table in the parish hall, with sack dinners we’ve brought from home, maybe sharing the choicest morsels with new folks and old friends. We’ll talk about what the last 50 days of Lent have meant to us, the habits we’ve taken up or tried to put down, any growth we may have experienced, any insight or healing that’s come. At a certain point, we’ll gather up some of the bread and wine on the table, ask God to bless it and to give us eyes to see it as Holy, and to let it be Christ’s body and blood.
If this is play-acting, then it is a drama that reveals what is most true about humankind: that God has made us, that relationships with each other are what most deeply nourish us, and that we are bread for a world which is hungry for justice and reconciliation, for compassion and peace. The real miracle is that by practicing these acts of kindness and mercy, we will become merciful and kind.
Frederick Buechner writes, “It is called Holy Communion because, when feeding at this implausible table, Christians believe that they are communing with the Holy One himself, his spirit enlivening their spirits, heating the blood, and gladdening the heart just the way wine, as spirits, can.
They are also, of course, communing with each other. To eat any meal together is to meet at the level of our most basic need. It is hard to preserve your dignity with butter on your chin, or to keep your distance when asking for the tomato ketchup.
To eat this particular meal together is to meet at the level of our most basic humanness, which involves our need not just for food but for each other. I need you to help fill my emptiness just as you need me to help fill yours. As for the emptiness that’s still left over, well, we’re in it together, or it in us. Maybe it’s most of what makes us human and makes us brothers and sisters.” (Wishful Thinking)
When we are done eating, we’ll follow Jesus’ model and wash each other’s feet, or hands if you would prefer. It is scandalous and humbling, but that is the point: to care for each other in some necessary and intimate way, to put the other person first, to bow to the Spirit that lives in each one of us. This is the action that gives the day its name. Jesus says in the Gospel of John, “I command (mandatum in Latin = Maundy) you to love one another as I have loved you.”
The final act in the Maundy Thursday play takes place in the church, where we will strip the altar and wash it, preparing it as a sepulcher to receive Jesus’ body on Good Friday. We move into and out of the space in silence, because at this point, there is not a lot more to say.
Join us this evening at 6:30 pm if you can, with something to eat and something to share. The brief action of stripping the altar will take place about 7:30. On Good Friday we’ll meet back in the church at 1:00 pm, for a dark and beautiful liturgy. A contemporary walk through the Stations of the Cross follows at about 2:15.