Maundy Thursday – Narrative Lectionary 4
March 29, 2018
Grace, Mankato, MN
“Woman here is your son. [Son], here is your mother.”
It seems like an eternity since Jesus had his final meal with his followers, what we know as the Last Supper. We read a portion of this story on the First Sunday in Lent. In reality, however, and narratively speaking only a few hours have passed since he delivered his “Farewell Discourse,” that long body of instructions for his closest friends ending with what is known as the “High Priestly Prayer.” Jesus knew that they would feel lost and alone without him and no doubt be scattered, so he gave them assurances that the Holy Spirit would be guiding them, keeping them together. Here, at the cross, Jesus continues that work of community building in some of his last words.
“Woman here is your son. [Son], here is your mother,” Jesus tells his mother Mary and the follower known as the “Beloved Disciple.” Much ink has been spilled trying to tease out the symbolism of Jesus’ words, and frankly some or it is quite fanciful. But at its basic level, I think Jesus’ actions demonstrate his desire to provide a future for those who believe in him, a future that creates a united community who support and care for each other. The community that is formed is not just any community; it is a community formed both at the cross and by the cross. Because of cruciform community, in the midst of the worst that life can throw at us we come together and not get blown apart.
To illustrate an important part of that cruciform community, I want you to take a moment and think about a really memorable meal you’ve had and make it a good one. Like many of you, it might be hard to choose, but I think back to when I was growing up and my family would always get together with the Fleming Family twice a year. We were neighbors for the first five years of my life and most my siblings were the same age as theirs. The meal I remember most was when I first got to sit at the “adult table” instead of the “kids table.” I don’t remember what we ate, but it was wonderful.
Now, as you think about your memorable meal, I’m betting that you weren’t alone when you ate it. I’ll bet that you were with someone or several some ones, and if you weren’t I’m pretty sure you wish you had been. It is almost a law that good community involves good food and good food involves good community.
Today is Maundy Thursday, that time we usually celebrate the commandment that Jesus gives us at the Last Supper, to love one another as he has loved us. (The word Maundy comes from the Latin word mandatum, which means “command.”) As such, it is an opportunity to celebrate the gift of Holy Communion, the gift of God’s grace whereby God gives his very self to us in, with and through the elements of bread and wine. But for tonight, I want to call it “Holy Community” because just as we come to the table by faith, trusting in God’s goodness, for faith, we also come to the table in community, for community.
There are a lot of ways to connect with God, but the very best of them are done with others. You see, there is no way you can do this sacrament alone, nor should you. And I must say that you’d have to work awfully hard to come to the table mad at someone and leave the same way. That’s why it’s so important we gather at least weekly and offer “Holy Community” every time. Now, one last instruction: look at those around you. (You don’t have to make eye contact, but just look.) “Brothers and sisters, here are your sisters and brothers in Christ,” your “Holy Community.” Amen.