Maundy Thursday Thoughts
It's easy, within the Christian-y context that I inhabit, to forget the reason why Jesus was gathering with his disciples in that particular moment. Like a lot of Christians I tend to focus on the parts of the story that affect me, and as a result lose some of the rich meaning Jesus seemed to embed in each teaching moment with his followers.
First of all, the occasion for the meal was the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread--Passover. This was a commemoration of the night when God freed the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt and set them on the path to the Promised land. On that night, the Angel of Death passed over the houses of all those who had taken the blood from the Paschal Lamb (sacrificial lamb) and smeared it on the doorposts.
The bread, meat and all of the other symbolic aspects of the Passover meal were signs and symbols meant to remind generation after generation of Jews what God had done for them. This meal was meant to prepare the Jews for their journey--for their Exodus... for freedom.
When Jesus gathers with his disciples and shares the Passover meal with them this last time---everything he does is highly symbolic and meant for them to remember long after his physical presence is removed from their sight. He offers them bread and drink, but then he specifically connects the meal to his own body, his own blood. These are strange words, and in the early days of Christianity, nonChristians struggled to understand what they meant, often accusing Christians of cannibalism!
Jesus presents himself to the disciples as the Paschal Lamb. It is his blood that will be shed, his body that will be "consumed." The meal that they are eating will serve from that moment forward as a reminder that they need sustenance if they are to follow him---if we are to follow him. They come to the table broken and poured out, so to speak, and discover the meal prepared for them by the One (Jesus) who was broken and poured out. This spiritual meal prepares them to be faithful, it reminds them that they have been made new because of Christ, united because of Christ, sent because of Christ.
They came together where there was no servant or master---where all divisions fell away and their unity was a sign and symbol of the very kingdom of God.
They all ate of the meal, each of the disciples... even Judas.
I have often wondered why the Apostle Paul was so adamant in his letter to the Corinthians that they not take of the Lord's Supper "unworthily." I wonder if Paul's reasoning had something to do with the way that Judas received the gifts of the Eucharist, but did so with bitterness, fear, doubt and betrayal in his heart.
Sure, Paul was talking about how the Corinthian church was divided by class, how the rich were sticking it to the poor... But it stands to reason that if you are full of bitterness, fear, doubt and betrayal---you might also not have a heart bent on reconciliation and inclusion. You must might mistreat your brothers and sisters in Christ who you think are beneath you, or at the very least simply ignore their needs.
Paul challenged the believers to test the attitude of their own heart, actions and awareness of the significance of the Supper as a glimpse of the world as it should be---a kingdom vision.
On this Maundy Thursday, I challenge us all to do just that before we journey to our churches, worship gathering, services, etc. Test your heart. Test your attitude. Test your actions. This is a holy feast. A sign and a symbol of the grace of God and a foretaste of the kingdom Jesus initiated. We would all do well to ensure that we are partaking of it with hearts bent toward repentance, and spirits willing to be led with Christ down the path first to Gethsemane and then to Calvary.
And when you do come to the Table today, remember that you were once in bondage, but now you are set free.
Remember that Jesus invites you to the Table and feeds you, sustains you and prepares you for freedom.
Remember that you are invited to the meal, not when you are at your best, when you have all the answers, when you are full of faith, but when you are at your most vulnerable and broken.
Come and be fed.