29 March 2018 – Maundy Thursday

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Rev’d Jonathan Gale

I am always full of ideas when it comes to communicating what I believe God wants me to share with my fellow parishioners, and may that sense of overflowing always be there!

However as I sat down to prepare this particular homily (something I love doing, by the way) I read through the one I shared in 2017 and had the distinct sense that we needed to hear it again.

So I’ve edited – taken away and added slightly – and share what of it I believe God wants me to, with you this evening.

The last Supper was Jesus’ Passover meal with his disciples. We all know Paul’s 1 Corinthians 10 reference which has had people over the ages drawing a parallel between:

  • the Passover slaughter of an unblemished lamb with the crucifixion of Jesus.
  • the subsequent crossing of the Red Sea with baptism.
  • the following of the cloud on the way to the Promised Land with the presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit.

This is a valid and powerful use of Old Testament imagery to throw light on events in the New Testament. But it is not what we focus upon today.

The first Passover instituted a celebration that was based around each family, each household.

  • It was a family occasion.
  • It anticipated a common liberation with other families
  • It was to be observed as a perpetual ordinance.

We know Jesus was the fulfilment of the Law and when he celebrated the Passover meal with his disciples, he reinforced that sense of family community and enhanced its customs with three things:

  • The washing of feet (which we do all too seldom)
  • Breaking of bread in memory of his giving his body
  • Drinking of wine in memory of his shed blood for the forgiveness of sins

One of the most striking things anyone who marries into a healthy family notices (particularly if theirs has not been exemplary) is that people love one another. People trust one another. People put the desires of others above their own.

If the washing of feet ceremony tells us anything, it is that we (the church) are that intimate thing called a family.

And it is a family that not only sees Jesus as its head, but one that in Holy Communion understands a powerful symbol of ingesting the very life of Jesus.

We give thanks today for that first Maundy Thursday meal which we understand as a perpetual ordinance, and which gives us access to a family life that is fired by the very nature of God in Christ.

But here’s a final thought: 11This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. The Israelites were ready to move! They were saved to serve. They were not simply coming together to celebrate an escape from the angel of death. They were getting out of Egypt and heading for the Promised Land. They were a people with a mission.

In our celebrations we share Communion, are blessed and dismissed with the words, “Go now to love and serve the Lord.”

As we wash one another’s feet before heading into Good Friday and Easter Day, let’s recall that the Last Supper, and all subsequent Communion services, are there to strengthen us for service.