Maundy Thursday- Sermon
4/17/14- Year A
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!
Tonight, the fortieth day of Lent, marks the end of our journey that began on Ash Wednesday. Like this night, so many days ago, we gathered to begin a season of repentance and confession. We we're marked with dust and proclaimed to be like that very ashy substance. We are dust and to dust we shall return was the proclamation of God's judgment upon Adam and Eve for their transgression, eating the forbidden fruit and turning their backs to God and His command. We received our ashes and that same word of judgment upon us. We share Adam’s fate for our own neglect of His word and command, turning our backs to Him for the shiny objects and smooths words, the world uses day by day to lure us away from Him. Lent was given to us to call us to turn back to Him, to repent. Along with the time were given the disciplines to encourage and aid us in drawing closer to our Lord through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. These we have done not for the sake of themselves or for the sake of ourselves, but for the sake of striving ever more to listen to the voice of our Lord and Master who bids us to pick up the cross and follow him. We gave up the things that consume us, so that we might be consumed by Christ, His Holy Word, and His Holy Sacraments.
It has been a time to reflect upon our nature and to lament of it, that we are truly sinful and unclean, just as God's judgment revealed to us in the garden. We began Lent as one begins the Christian life of faith, with confession and the deep need of God’s mercy. Tonight, we will end as we began, with confession and absolution. God's word of forgiveness will be spoken to us, not in a general word of absolution, but personally and individually as hands are placed upon our heads with the word from the pastors as if from Christ himself, "I forgive you all your sins." Our season of confession ends, as God's holy word of forgiveness, grace, mercy, and love is spoken to just as it was foreshadowed on Ash Wednesday by the shape of the life-giving cross upon our brows.
As Lent ends, we begin the Church's commemoration of the last days of our Lord's life, the Great Triduum (three-days) as it is known by tradition; Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil. We mark these remaining days of Holy Week in the shape and pattern of our Lord, conforming our actions to His and His word. As we will hear in a few moments, Jesus on this night of his betrayal, laid aside his garments and grabbed a towel, basin, and water and began to wash the feet of his disciples. Instructing them to do likewise for each other, that they might show true love and humility towards one another. Just as He showed them.
His command to love one another was not just talk, but deed and a ritual action that would communicate the depth of love that binds them togethers as brothers and servants to one another. Another ritual act of His love that will again be displayed as he takes bread and wine, give thanks to the Father and gives to them as His very own body and blood. His love he places in their meager hands as that same body and very same blood is broken and spilt by those who beat him, those who mocked him, and those who put nail and spear to flesh. The depth of Christ’s love for them and for us is on full display before us this night and each of these three nights as we celebrate the power of His love, not in feeling or emotion, but in sacred deeds and solemn acts.
We, who have been loved by our Lord Jesus, washed by Him along with Peter and the rest of the apostles, will spend these three days in one long and continual service. You will notice that tonight there is no final or closing hymn, there is even no postlude, but we depart in silence, because Jesus’ story does not end tonight. We begin by remembering, as the choir sang tonight, remembering His sacred love for us and by following His sacred word, “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” On this night, Jesus’ washed the disciples’ feet, He instituted the New Passover meal that would define His Church, and He commanded them to love one another. And so tonight we have washed feet in remembrance of Christ’s service and humility to those who He came to call and even to those who would deny and betray him. We will once more celebrate the Lord’s Supper, the New Passover meal in remembrance of Him and receive the forgiveness He gives in bread and wine. We will ponder in our hearts His Word, to love one another as He has loved us.
Leaving in silence we will make our way back here tomorrow night, gathering again and come before the life giving cross upon which the savior of the world was hung. We will stand as witnesses like the crowds around Him did, the chief priests, the people, the disciples and confess with the centurion that surely Jesus, is the Son of God. We will weep with Mary her tears, we will be convicted by our own transgressions which have wounded and continue to wound our savior, and we will be embraced by the outstretched arms of God in Jesus Christ who loves us unto death.
Yet as we know the story doesn’t end there, with lifeless corpse, an occupied tomb and the grief that accompanies it. Thus, we will follow Jesus one more night to see again His eternal act of pure unadulterated love as we gather in darkness to keep vigil with the whole Church. Saturday night will once more be filled with those solemn and sacred acts of God, remembering that He is the light of the world, as we hear the story of salvation retold from the beginning, as we reaffirm our baptisms and in great joy we will hear of our salvation as Jesus is risen from the dead and lives and reigns to all eternity.
These Three Days, we set aside—while the world passes by—to commemorate, remember, and give thanks for all that our Lord has done for us and the price that He paid for faults, for our own faults, for our own most grievous faults. Let us enter into these mysteries of our faith, with a heart and mind open to receive our Lord who comes to us through these freely and lovingly given sacred acts of His own goodness, so that we may be shaped by them. So that the command that He gives to His disciples tonight, will be the very command that forms and shapes our hearts and minds for all eternity; to love one another just as He as loved us. To love one another in all humble service and meekness. To stoop down upon our knees and wash each others feet as Christ has washed us in His love and kindness. To offer ourselves as a living sacrifice of love for the sake of our brother and sister. And to love one another even to the point of death. For that is the very length, breadth, height and depth of Jesus’ love for you, not idle talk, but in deed and power. Let us enter into these Three Days with all faith and reverence, with fear and trembling, and with anticipatory joy and watch as God will turn our own tears of grief in to tears of unending joy.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.