Maundy Thursday 17 April 2014
(Exodus 12:1-14 Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 John 13:31-35
“Do This In Remembrance of Me!”
When I was growing up, my Dad had one of those small, cheap Kodak Instamatic cameras. Remember you used those little square flash bulbs that looked like ice cubes, and you got those little square pictures back from the drug store when you had them developed. We had all taken hundreds of pictures with that camera. I think I never appreciated those little square pictures until years later, when my parents had died and we were going through their things and we found many of those pictures all over again—so many of them, faded, yellow and curled. But there they were—life, captured by Kodak. Memories in a shoebox.
We need that. We want something of a person we love to outlast them and stay with us. We want to remember them.
Remembering is at the very heart of all we do here this evening. But Jesus did not leave us photographs in a shoebox. He left us something better.
Paul’s Letter to the people of Corinth is the earliest account ever written of the Last Supper. It pre-dates even the Gospel accounts. It is so close to the original event that its words are part of our words of institution, spoken at the table of Holy Communion, spoken around the world.
It is at the table of the Lord, where God nourishes faith, forgives sin, and calls us to be witnesses to the Gospel. And through it all, one word leaps out at us: remembering! “Do this for the remembrance of me!”
Jesus is saying: This is how I want to be remembered.
But in the John’s account of the Last Supper, John barely mentions the meal. He finds something else for us to remember: the commandment of love! “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”
In other words, remember how I have lived my life. Remember how I loved others. Remember how I forgave others. Remember how I included all others. Remember how I healed others. Remember how I told others of God’s love! Now you do all this as a way of remembering me!
I find it striking that these are the words Jesus leaves with his disciples. I mean, he could have said, “Go out and die with me.” Or “keep the faith!” Or, “when I am gone go out and teach and preach to all the world.” Or, well, any number of things. But instead, Jesus offered this simple and challenging word, “love one another.” Remember that old camp song, where Jesus agrees that the whole world will know we are Christians, not by our sermons or our sacraments, not by our singing or our sanctuaries, not even by our pot-luck dinners or our jello salads…..the world will know you are my followers by your love! It is simply that important!
So, here’s my confession: it is no secret that the older we get, the more we forget. Every day becomes a battle to remember where we put our glasses, or our keys or what day it is. It is easier to forget than to remember.
Which makes tonight’s remembrance all the more remarkable.
For five thousand years humankind has re-enacted somehow the great Passover feast of Jesus and all those who came before him.
For two thousand years Christians have gathered around this table and repeated the words recorded by Paul—the words the Corinthians heard and took to heart.
And down through history, we have knelt and washed one another’s feet with a profound sense of purpose that made Christian love the most powerful force on the planet.
On this evening, we remember that in our receiving of Holy Communion, we learn more deeply that this is a sacrament of love. And so, as love and support are given to us, we are commanded to render love and support to Christ in his needy ones. We are commanded to be united and responsive to all the unjust suffering of the innocent throughout the world.
Now before I end this sermon, I want to remind you that you actually can and do love one another. I know you do! And while we may not love perfectly, we do love. Sometimes one of the most powerful things we need to hear in relation to a command is the affirmation of one’s ability to keep that same command. Please hear the affirmation of your love this evening!
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Just as all the pictures my father took over the years tell a story, finally, let’s go back to the actual picture of what we remember this night. I want us to remember that above and beyond Jesus’ command to love is his actual act of love. Jesus goes to the cross to demonstrate that, in fact, “God so loved the world.” Jesus goes to the cross to show in word and deed that God is love and that we, as God’s children, are loved.
So whether we succeed or fail in our attempts to love one another, God in Jesus loves us more than we can possibly imagine. And remembering such a picture of deep love, I pray that each one of you may be set free and sent forth, again and again, to love every other person more deeply! Amen.