By Rev. Jeff Lackie On Apr 08 2020
17 On the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?’ 18He said, ‘Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, “The Teacher says, My time is near; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.” ’ 19So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover meal.
20 When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve; 21and while they were eating, he said, ‘Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.’ 22And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, ‘Surely not I, Lord?’ 23He answered, ‘The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.’ 25Judas, who betrayed him, said, ‘Surely not I, Rabbi?’ He replied, ‘You have said so.’
26 While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ 27Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you; 28for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.’
30 When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
31 Then Jesus said to them, ‘You will all become deserters because of me this night; for it is written,
“I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.”
32But after I am raised up, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.’ 33Peter said to him, ‘Though all become deserters because of you, I will never desert you.’ 34Jesus said to him, ‘Truly I tell you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.’ 35Peter said to him, ‘Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.’ And so said all the disciples.
This is the night. The Passover meal - a final shared moment of relative calm. ‘Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, “The Teacher says, My time is near; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.” Jesus can see this coming - he’s been talking about little else along the way to Jerusalem. Time is running short, and he would make the most of it. So they gather in this borrowed room, and share the great feast of remembrance. Remember that our ancestors were a people enslaved. Remember that God set us free by many signs and wonders. Remember that God accompanied us in our generations of wandering and exile. Remember that God will set us free.
The Passover meal stands - even now - as a reminder to all the senses of the power of God’s liberating love. And Jesus chooses this meal to tell his story again. This is my body broken for you…this is my blood of the covenant.
We capture this moment in the sacrament of communion, and it has been our habit on Holy Thursday to gather for food and worship as we follow Jesus to his Holy end.
At the end of the Jewish Seder meal, the refrain is often ‘Next year in Jerusalem.’ This expresses the hope that Messiah may yet come and gather the faithful in the Holy City. And This year many Christian communities will gather with the cry ‘soon in one another’s company,’ for while we acknowledge that Messiah has come (and though we wait for his promised return) our memorial meals are not happening, and our sense of community has been radically altered.
This is not the Thursday we hoped to have - one spent in virtual solitude. These are not the celebrations we’ve waited for. Conversations are awkward, and tempers are frayed, and the promises of peace, justice and mercy ring hollow when placed next to projected fatalities and the thought of isolation lasting into May or even June.
This is NOT the Thursday we wanted, but this is the Thursday we have been given; a time of intentional re-examination. An opportunity to live the reality of those scattered sheep, anxiously waiting on the shepherd. It might feel like we have turned our backs on the things we once treasured - that our empty houses of worship somehow cheapen the legacy of faith that our ancestors left to us, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Our altered worship settings are not denial, but rediscovery. Our isolation has forced our faith to become flexible and innovative. Our churches are becoming communities again, united in a common purpose - intentional in our reaching out to one another.
To some this looks like death. To many, this feels like abandonment. But the story we are in the midst of - this Holy Week pilgrimage - is a story of the impossible. The darkness is surely upon us, and no one can see the light just yet. But we serve the Lord of Light and Life, and this story is not over yet.
Let us pray:
Loving and living God, as the darkness of Friday approaches - as it threatens to unhinge us - bring to our minds the glorious history of your triumphs. Stories of exile and exhaustion are the starting point for your best work. Keep us looking forward - scanning the horizon for that first Holy glimmer of light. Amen
Be assured of the Peace that God has promised,
which is yours now and always through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen