April 17, 2014 – Holy Thursday

Holy Thursday 2014

Exodus 12:1-14

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over the fire, with its head, legs, and inner organs. You shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the Lord. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.

Luke 22:7, 14-20

Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed….          When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

John 13:1-17, 31b-35

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.” After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them”….

Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

***

Passover is the celebration of Israel’s liberation from slavery in Egypt. Celebration that happens every year in the dark of night, beginning while still in Egypt…

Israel repeatedly asks freedom to go out from Egypt to worship God in the wilderness. Pharaoh, king of Egypt, repeatedly refuses. God sends a series of plagues on Egypt. Pharaoh relents and reconsiders, briefly… Then after each plague subsides, Pharaoh again hardens his heart. Nine plagues happen, with no apparent effect. Now as the tenth and last plague, death of the firstborn, is about to be released – God commands Israel to celebrate freedom, even while still in the land of slavery.

This too is our pattern. When we worship God (with heart, soul, mind, strength) God who made the earth and heavens and all that fills them also sets us free from bondage… Bondage to ritual and routine… Slavery to sin and addiction… Whatever the details of our slavery, God wants to free us, as we commit our lives to true worship… Not waiting till we find ourselves in just the right circumstances… But starting here and now wherever we are…

Israel is commanded to keep the Passover in perpetuity – always as if we ourselves are the ones who have just been made free. Worship is the heart of Passover…. And worship according to the traditions of Israel and Jesus, always involves community…

When we join with Jesus and one another, remembering what Jesus teaches, we are able to pass over otherwise insurmountable obstacles… and become Passover people.

Jesus is the Messiah of Israel who fulfills all the law and prophets. Jesus becomes for us now the unblemished Passover Lamb of God – the bread of life, free from the leaven of slavery…

Now instead of applying the blood of an ordinary lamb on windows and door frames, we drink the blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God, wine of the new covenant. We eat the bread of heaven… remembering Jesus.

As Jesus fulfills and transforms sacred scripture, and the sacred traditions of his people, so now we continue… Fulfilling and being fulfilled… Transforming and being transformed…. Re-made, by God, together, to be the body of Christ… Re-made, together, to be the New Creation in Christ…

As Jesus has told us to do, now we remember him in the breaking of bread and the sharing of the cup… Made new by his Word, we are now the re-membered body of Christ, members of one another…charged with remembering everything Jesus has taught us by word and deed… The work of a lifetime, and yet…

On his last night on earth, Jesus gives his cliff-notes version of all he has taught us, as he shares Passover with friends and followers… Blessing bread and wine, sharing with his friends… and telling us to do the same… Washing the feet of his followers, telling us to do likewise for each other… Wash each other’s feet, literally and symbolically, waiting on one another in lowliness, from the ground-up, practicing the true freedom that comes only in serving God and neighbor…

When there’s not time enough left to say everything that needs to be said one more time, Jesus gives his short list of things we must remember to do…

Eat my body – my life broken and shared for you… drink my blood, the wine of the new covenant, poured out for you and for many… Get Jesus not just into our hearts and minds, but also into our muscle and bloodstream… Wash each other’s feet…

Love one another… Love one another… love one another, as I have loved you…

And so we do this, best we can…by his grace…

Thanks be to God.