Thursday, April 09, 2009

Homily for the Eucharist of the Lord's Supper, Maundy Thursday 2009

During our Lent course this year, we took one session to explore how we learn & grow in our faith…We realised that we all learn in different ways – some by reading, some by watching or listening, some by doing.
Often in church it seems we expect only to learn by hearing but not in Holy Week. As we’ve travelled through the week together, so we’ve tried to enter into the experience of Christ’s Passion, to make those once for all events live again in our own lives.
And tonight we are told to remember

Clearly Jesus knew all about our different learning styles, because when he wanted us to understand what he was really about, what God is really about, he didn’t tell us, in a 3 point sermon, or in a Lent course. He didn’t, on this most important point, even tell us stories.

No…he showed us, and he involved us.
He both showed us, as he knelt to wash his disciples feet.
And he involved us in the action, when he gifted us with the Sacrament.

Hugely subversive behaviour…Not the stuff of after dinner speeches at all. I guess we’re used to the concept of foot-washing as a radical gesture– and its impact was brought dramatically up to date by the Bishop of Birmingham, who last year spent Holy Week busily cleaning shoes outside his own Cathedral. Think of the shoe shine boys of the depression…. Think city pavements and dog mess...and then imagine someone, anyone you place on a pedestal getting to grips with all that.
That’s what’s going on here, as Jesus kneels at the feet of his friends.
That’s what God’s love is like…the love at the very heart of the Kingdom.
Jesus turns himself into a parable to demonstrate once again the self-giving love that has service written into every action, every thought, every moment. He shows his disciples, and through their eyes we too see, and together we have remembered…

But this alone is not enough… Jesus also gave us something to do.
I received from the Lord what I handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread and when he had given thanks he broke it and said “This is my body that is for you. DO THIS in remembrance of me”
Here too Jesus is upsetting the natural order. Blessing and breaking are reserved for the Master of the feast, the head of the household. Taking the loaf to the table and giving out the pieces afterwards, - this task belongs to servants, or (in homes too poor for servants) to women.
So Jesus involves each of us in something that exists to change the world as it currently is. At supper with his friends he made it clear that the coming Kingdom is for everyone, men women and children, slaves and masters…for all are called to follow the servant king in lives of loving service.
He tells us to do this…to take and bless, to break and share and as we do so to remember – and he will be with us.
Whatever your theology of Eucharist, there’s no getting round those actions and those words.
This, this fragment of bread and sip of wine, is Christ’s body – offered to us.
All that we bring to the table is our feeble, damaged selves..
But as we offer those selves, wounded by life, dented by disappointment, we find ourselves taking part afresh in the drama of our redemption. Because as we bring ourselves to his table, Jesus exchanges those poor offerings for his own self, - the life of God contained in bread and wine.

So, whenever we gather the meal continues, with places ready for each of us.
Here in bread and wine is all the sustenance we need to enable us to live for God and to serve God's people.
Here is the life of God offered to us.
Christ in us, so we may recognise and love him in everyone around us, and serve them as we are served.
Let us do so…and as we do so, let us pray that we may understand

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