Notes for a sermon preached by Kevin Bright on Maundy Thursday
John 13 1-17 ; 1 Corinthians 11.23-26
Just two themes for your consideration, each of which gives us a strong personal link to Christ in our actions.….
John doesn’t tell us any detail of the last supper unlike the other 3 Gospels but Paul’s letter to the Corinthians recalls the actions of Christ at this the most famous of meals. Paul is reminding the Corinthians not to lose sight of the purpose of the Supper. They have remembered the tradition but have forgotten (at least practically) the meaning behind it
Martin Luther the 16th century reformer, translator, priest and theologian preached these words on Maundy Thursday 1525:-
‘Therefore it is unchristian to force people under pain of committing mortal sin to commune just at this time; as has been done heretofore, and is still done in many places. For it is not and can not be in keeping with the Lord's Supper to force or compel any one to partake of it; on the contrary, it is intended only for a hungry soul that compels itself and rejoices in being permitted to come; those who must be driven are not desired.
Surely a hungry soul is also one which knows it needs to let others wash its feet and will also do the same for them.
Have you ever considered that if one starts taking holy communion once a week at age ten and continues to do so until age 70, and takes 6 weeks a year on holiday or ill then they will receive 3220 times. Over the years our reasons and needs for receiving it will change.
Perhaps this gets us thinking why we want to regularly take part in a recreation of the last supper.
Why do we come? Out of habit or are we compelled by love, to follow Jesus commandment to ‘do this in remembrance of me’? ‘Do this in remembrance of me’, words of love and hope spoken amidst betrayal, desertion and conspiracy on the eve of his crucifixion.
The instructions do not come from a follower, a theologian or some church committee, the instruction comes directly from Christ. Do we want to reach back to that final meal and celebrate a direct link and continuation with the acts of Christ?
In doing so what do we expect to happen? Are our senses heightened, our minds opened? Might we experience forgiveness, a sense of belonging to the family, hope for our eternal future, energy and strength until we come to be nourished again?
And part two….
In my office this week we had a lady ‘phone in with a query about her property and when my colleague dared to ask who she was she gave her name and was very quick to add ‘I’m a paying client you know’!
There is no doubt that she expected my colleague to jump when she needed something, she wanted her monies worth. I’d say that this country has seen a cultural change; it used to be that if your salad had wilted in a restaurant you didn’t really want to make a fuss but now most don’t hesitate to vent their disappointment insisting on refunds and replacements.
But what about when we are not paying? What do we expect then? Well apart from a few unreasonable people not very much, after all you get what you pay for, right?
So when a school child shares their lunch with a friend who forgot theirs it must be because they haven’t learnt how the world works yet, they need to look down on these poorly organised people, if they let them go hungry they’ll soon learn.
When I was on holiday in Italy I was too stupid to work the parking meter and sensed some young lads watching with amusement while they consumed a few beers at a pavement bar. What happened next, well a couple of them came over, motioned for me to step aside and put their own money in the meter of course, refusing to accept any money from me. Clearly these Italians haven’t yet learnt that foreign visitors are to be treated as outsiders and milked for every Euro they have.
What about the leader who arrives before the meeting to set up and stays behind afterwards to do the washing up and tidy away, have they not learnt that these are tasks for their minions and that they shouldn’t soil their hands with such work.
So we edge towards what Jesus was demonstrating to his disciples when he washed their feet, that loving service to each other, without any expectation of reward is his way. It’s an example to all of his disciples, not just the twelve, but all who claim to follow him thereafter. It’s important to acknowledge that Jesus had each one of us in mind when he did this many years ago.
I know not many would volunteer to have their feet washed now, for all sorts of reasons, but part of the Christ’s message is also that we need to let others serve us otherwise the body of Christ, i.e. our Christian community is weakened due to the fact that talents and skills become under utilised and new skills are not nurtured to new levels of growth.
Words are important, but actions are essential, in serving and showing others how to serve.
Maundy Thursday 2010