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Thursday of Holy Week 2008

March 20, 2008

Hello, church family…

One of today’s passages is 1 Corinthians 11:23-26…

“For I pass on to you what I received from the Lord himself. On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.” In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this to remember me as often as you drink it.” For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again.”

Today is Maundy Thursday, and many of you may not be familiar with the term. It’s the day in the liturgical calendar to remember the “last supper.” I’ve had lots of good conversations about remembering the supper since coming to CiB. We all share a host of various backgrounds… some of grew up celebrating the supper weekly, some monthly, some almost daily. Some of us passed trays, some received it from a priest, some practiced intinction (dipping), and still others drank from a single shared cup.

The great thing about all these traditions is that the reasons for each are almost always identical. Some celebrate the supper weekly to keep the meaning safe-guarded from obscuration, while others celebrate monthly to safe-guard the meaning from redundant emptiness: the intent being to safe-guard. Some pass trays to feel community involvement, while others want to walk and hand it to one another to have community involvement. It’s similar to Buddhist monks shaving their heads to avoid pride and Eastern Orthodox priests never cutting their hair to avoid pride. Who’s right? Yes. That particular question doesn’t work in that instance. It’s not that “right” doesn’t exist, it’s just that it doesn’t grab onto the situation and demand any kind of uniformity. Still, isn’t it amazing how we all want the same thing? Our values are identical even though our methods differ.

One of the funniest supper controversies I heard about was when a particular congregation switched to white grape juice to protect their new carpet. They had a church split.

The passage for today highlights two important elements in our sharing of the supper tradition: remembering and announcing. Both those elements focus on Jesus. We are recalling to mind, each time we join the supper (either weekly, daily or monthly) that Jesus has made our reconciliation a priority over all his other personal concerns. We remember a great price paid by One to assure the salvation of many.

We also announce. Now, that’s a little more difficult for me to wrap my mind around. When I was growing up we talked about remembering a lot. But announcing? That’s what the preacher does! That’s what door-knockers do on weekends! Yes, both preachers and evangelists announce, but so does the whole of the community when we gather at the table. The table is our pulpit and the gifts of God are the welcoming fare. The message is that we share the moment, share the faith, share the Lord, share the sacrifice and love of such a One.

I’ve shared the supper in many different contexts with many different Christians. I have been with folks who celebrated quarterly, monthly, weekly and daily. I’ve passed trays. I’ve received the wafer on my right, up-turned palm and drank from the chalice. I’ve celebrated with watered down Coke and vanilla cookies in Africa, and I’ve celebrated with saltines and Welch’s in Texas. I’ve stood with Episcopals and sat with Baptists. I’ve celebrated the supper with Altar Wine and with Black Currant juice. I know that many of you have celebrated the supper in times of war, on peaceful vacations, and lots of places in between.

May we always be a remembering and an announcing people. Let the traditions come and go, to be remembered and forgotten. Let’s raise many cups and one cup. But whatever we do, let’s keep the focus on Jesus. After all, he’s the one who has invited us the table.

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