Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, saying, This is my body, which is broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me.
Isn’t it just like Jesus to take the time to give us the incredible gift of his sacramental presence on the very evening of his agony in the garden, and of his arrest at his very Last Supper, on the eve of his death? Jesus never seemed to bother with his own concerns and needs, but always with ours.
It was customary for the one who presides at a Jewish Passover Meal to bless a cup of wine, and then pass it to someone that the person wanted to specially honor. The cup wouldn’t be passed to just anyone, but to someone whom the host wanted to single out on that occasion as being worthy of receiving the same blessing that was said over the cup.
Everyone else at the table would normally drink from their own cups.
But Jesus, in his true fashion of treating all people with love, acceptance and compassion, says the blessing over his cup, and then passes it around the table to ALL present at the table.
Jesus was willing to pass the blessed cup to people who would betray him, deny him, and desert him.
Jesus Christ intended the cup of God’s blessing to be shared without regard for merit, or steadfastness of faith, or moral righteousness or personal achievement. Jesus wanted to show that God communes with everyone.
But it isn’t enough to stop there. If this night commemorates a ritual that was meant only to make those who take part in the ritual feel good, then it would be an empty ritual indeed.
One of the reasons that our now 32-year-old, “new” Prayer Book gives the option to stand through the Great Thanksgiving, the great Communion prayer, instead of kneeling is to allow us to assume a posture that shows that the Eucharist was never meant to be a private moment, but a moment when we stand as a community, a moment when we stand ready to run out into the world and bring God’s Bread of Life and Cup of Blessing to those who might never gather around this table with us on Maundy Thursday, or on Sundays or any other time!
Jesus purposely modeled this new Passover meal after the original Passover which was described in the first reading as follows:
This 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.
Passover, was perhaps the first recorded instance of fast food.
Our New Passover that we celebrate as Holy Eucharist should be eaten in the same manner, as a meal on the go! We should be in a hurry to get to those all-important words proclaimed from the back of the church, close to the exits:
Go Forth to love and serve the Lord.
In many churches at the close of the Maundy Thursday service, the members of the Altar Guild will strip bare what otherwise is the most beautiful and meaningful part of any Anglican church, the altar. The purpose of this stripping is to visually re-enact the desolation Jesus felt as he prayed in the Garden while his closest friends napped. . . to visually re-enact the barrenness of Good Friday and Calvary, but I think it carries one more symbol for us:
That we are to be God’s sanctuary. . . that we are to take that beauty out into the desolate and barren parts of our world, that WE are to be Communion for the world beyond our doors. . . that we are to pass on the blessing said over the cup to those who stand in line waiting to feed their families at various food banks. . .
to those lined up waiting for used and even tattered jackets for their children, so they can make their way to school in the cold of winter. . . to those shut-ins who are aching inside with loneliness.
Jesus put a towel around his waist and acted out the parable of The Washing of the Disciples Feet in order to demonstrate that there are many ways of washing the feet of God’s people.
We would also do well on this holy night, to remember that our Communion table is as big as the world itself, that Jesus never met a border that he didn’t like to cross, and that our Communion cup is also meant to be poured out for the starving throughout the world. Sometimes we need to be reminded that Jesus never used the word local.
Therefore, as we gather around the table with our congregations on this night, I pray we that come to see that there is an intimate link between Communion and Justice.
Likewise, after supper, Jesus took the cup, said the blessing and gave it to all of us. Now we become the hosts, and we are called to pass on that same cup of blessing to a thirsty world.
For by this, Jesus said, everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
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Sheryl Haase says
Thank you for this beautiful Blessing of Maunday Thursday!