Thursday, April 13, 2017

For the Maundy Eucharist at Coventry Cathedral, 13th April 2017

A week is a long time in politics:  a saying that was old long before the arrival of the internet placed us fair and square in a world of instant everything. Certainly most of us seem to travel an unimaginable distance through life in the space of seven days – and a journey  particularly marked in that first Holy Week in Jerusalem almost 2000 years ago

As the crowds formed, dispersed, regrouped around the person of the itinerant preacher from Galilee, the mood of the city changed with them, from joy to anger, from perplexity to frustration (and later from emptiness to incredulous joy). We’ve made that journey too, as together we’ve walked the way of the cross and now we’re reaching the final act of the drama…

It’s Thursday, and so the Triduum, the great Three Days of God’s saving action, is upon us.

Faced with human indifference, with our repeated failure to come and learn God’s way, God has emptied himself, thrown all that he HAS, all that he IS at the problem.

It’s Thursday.

The darkness gathers but there’s light and community as a group meets around a table in an upstairs room.

If you knew this would be your last night on earth, I wonder what you’d do.

Probably, try to contact those you love…maybe attempt reconciliation in broken relationships…no time to finish reading those unopened great works of literature, to learn Hindi or to visit the far away lands you’d always dreamed of…but still, a time for unfinished business - or to enjoy a special meal with your friends?

Jesus had lived a perfect life.

He had only one piece of business left to complete...and so, he did what he had always done.

He sat down at table with his disciples.

He offered hospitality and welcome.

He invited those who loved him; he also invited the man he knew would betray him.

He gathered friends and enemies, righteous and wicked and those in between, and he broke bread with them, and offered them wine.

He ate with them, as he had countless times before.

He celebrated the Passover with them, as he must have done year on year.

When Jesus broke bread, everyone -- the Pharisee and the whore, the rich and the poor, righteous and sinners -- experienced God's welcome at his table.

 When Jesus broke bread, the hungry were fed.

When Jesus broke bread, serving any who came to him, people experienced what REAL power, God's power, the power of love really is and does:

I am among you as one who serves.

In a few moments, we’ll re-live that gesture of service which sums up that self emptying love and profound intimacy.

If I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought also to wash one another’s feet

It’s a privilege to kneel and do just that.

It is harder, perhaps, to accept that our feet need washing.

We all come to God’s table covered with the dust of busy lives, our worries, sorrows, grievances, failures. We come, footsore from our journey…bruised from painful encounters on the way, “guiltie of dust and sin”. But, knowing this, it can still be so hard to accept that we need to sit, with the disciples, and ;et Jesus kneel before us.

Like Peter, we must acknowledge our need, and, once cleansed, we may sit down to the feast.

On this night, as Jesus invites us to his table, he invites us to remember him.

To remember him EVERY time we break bread -- at the altar, certainly, but also in the school canteen, as we grab a sandwich on the run, as we come together with friends or family.

For tonight is very much about Community too…and so there is another invitation, in this breaking of bread. For on this night, this very night on which he was betrayed, Jesus broke bread, and said to those gathered,

"This is my Body."

Not just the bread, but the company who gather to share it: this is Jesus' Body, given for the world.

And whenever we gather with others made in God's image, others for whom Christ gave himself, Jesus invites us to re-member, to bring his broken body together once again, aware of and honouring his presence in one another

It's a solemn charge, and an awesome opportunity, to encounter and receive Christ in everyone we encounter, and to remember that in the Eucharist it is we ourselves who are offered. To live out the words of Augustine

YOU are to be taken, blessed, broken and shared

Taken…called…set apart by God for his purposes.

Blessed…for this grace filled encounter should change each of us forever.

Broken…for the call is to the way of the cross, which we have to take up each and every day,

Shared…because as Christ’s  Body, WE are the ministers of his Kingdom in a needy world.

So that is the invitation we receive tonight, to break bread in the presence of the one who celebrated his last supper as he did every meal, to be the Body of the one whose body was broken for us.

This is my body. Do this in remembrance of me.

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