Thursday, March 24, 2016

Maundy Thursday

1 Corinthians 11.23-26; John 13.1-17, 31b-35

+ I know this isn’t something many priests confess. But…I am a bit of a skeptic. No, not just a bit. I’m actually very much a skeptic. I’m very skeptical of so-called supernatural stories.

Still, even despite that, I am a deep lover of mystery. I love those shows on Discovery Channel or History Channel and other channels about UFOs and ghosts. Oftentimes, I just sit there and roll my eyes at all. But I am deeply entertained by it all. In fact, I can’t stop watching them.

Tonight, we are in the midst of a mystery as well. But this is a mystery at which I don’t roll my eyes. I am not a skeptic about this mystery. Tonight we commemorate God happening to us.   We commemorate an event in our lives as Christians that has changed us and affected us and transformed us and made our spiritual lives better.  

Tonight, we commemorate that incredible and amazing miracle—the institution of the Eucharist.

Tonight, we remember the fact that Jesus took bread, broke it, gave it and said, “This is my body,” and that he did the same with the wine and said, “This is my blood,” And that by doing so, something incredible happened. God happened. God broke through to us. God broke through to us in an incredible and wonderful way.

Every Sunday and Wednesday, we participate in this incredible, holy event.   We come together. We celebrate together this mystery.  We come forward and take this bread and drink from this cup and, in doing so, we take the Body and Blood of Christ. Every Sunday, our congregation celebrates this mystery, this miracle and this incredible conduit in which God still continues to come to us in this tangible, real way.  

In this bread and wine we share, God happens to us.  God is present with us in a unique and wonderful way.  And recognizing this presence, how can we be anything other than in awe of it?  We should be blown away by what is happening on our altar.  

I hear all the time from people who tell me that it was this holy event of the Eucharist that  converted them and changed them and transformed them.  And that amazes me.

I’m sure there are people out there who see what we do as archaic.   There are even some Christians out there who say we don’t need Holy Communion every Sunday. I disagree.  We need Holy Communion every Sunday.  

One of the reasons I came back to Church and have stayed in the Church as long as I have is this one act of the Church.  Even when I wandered away from the Church and journeyed about spiritually, I oftentimes found myself craving what I had always experienced in the Eucharist.  And it was this deep desire for the Eucharist that brought me back to the Church in my twenties.

The reason we come to church is so we can experience God’s presence.  What better way than in in the Bread and the Wine and in one another?  The reason we come to church is to be strengthened in our everyday faith life.  We come to church to be fed spiritually, so that we can be sustained spiritually.  And the amazing fact is, people are still being transformed by this event.

Each of us is transformed by what we do here.  And so is anyone who comes to our altar and experiences God’s Spirit coming to us in this bread and wine.   
 This is why Holy Communion is so important.  This is why we celebrate this miracle every Sunday.  There is nothing else like this kind of worship in the Church.  It is one of the most intimate forms of worship we can know.

God truly comes among us and feeds us with this Holy Bread and Drink. We form a bond with God in Communion that is so strong and so vital to our spiritual lives.

Jesus tells us tonight, on the eve of his death, on the eve of his leaving us, that he will not leave us without something.  Rather, he will leave us with a sign of his love for us.

As John tells us tonight, “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”

He loved us even at the end so that he could leave us something to nourish us and sustain us until he comes to us again.  He leaves us this wonderful and amazing sign of God’s sustaining us. But Holy Communion is more than just being fed in our bodies.  What we learn at this altar of ours, when celebrate the Eucharist together and we share Holy Communion together is that, Jesus is our Bread of Life, our cup of Salvation,  that Jesus is the Body given for us and the Blood shed for us, whenever we are starving or thirsting spiritually.
When we feel empty and lost, God comes to us and refreshes us. God feeds our spirit with that presence of absolute love in our lives.

In other words, what Jesus is saying to us is: this is what will fulfill you.
 This God who feeds us, with Spirit, with food. God then becomes the very staple of our spiritual lives.  God is the One who feeds that hunger we have deep within us, who quenches that seemingly unquenchable thirst that drives us and provokes us.  God fills the voids of our lives with this life-giving Presence.

But it’s more than just a moment. This love that we experience in this Communion, is love that we can’t just hug to ourselves and bask in privately. This love we experience in this Eucharist is a love that is meant, like the Bread and the Cup, to be shared with others.

“Love one another,” is Jesus’ commandment to us in those moments before he is betrayed, in those hours before he is tortured, on the eve of his brutal murder. “Just as I have loved you, you should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Holy Communion—and the love we experience in it—is not just something we do here in church on Sunday mornings or on Maundy Thursday.   It is something we take with us when we go from here. It is something we take out into the world from here. As Christians, we are not only supposed to share the Body and the Blood of Christ wherever we go because we carry those elements within us.  We are to Become the Body and Blood of Christ to those who need Christ. And because we carry those elements within us, we are to feed those who are not just hungry of body, but are hungry of mind and spirit as well.
We are to share and BE the Body and Blood of Jesus with all of those we encounter in the world. 

How do we do this? We do it simply by loving. By loving and accepting fully and completely.  That is how we live this Eucharist in our lives in joyful thanksgiving.

So, as we go from here this evening, during the rest of this Holy Week and especially during the holy season of Easter, let us go out into the world remembering what we carry within us. Let us remember WHO we are carrying within us.  Let us remember what nourishes us, what sustains us, what quenches our own spiritual hunger and thirst.  Let us go out, refreshed and filled with life-giving bread and life-refreshing cup—following Jesus and serving God, who feeds us with his very self.

But let us go out also into the world ready to share that bread and cup that gives such life to us. Let us show it in our actions and show it in our words.  Let us show it by living out that commandment of love to all. Let that Presence of God within us nourish those around us just as it nourishes us.

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