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Maundy Thursday
Texts: John 13:1-17, 31b-35; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
April 21, 2011      
 

          In the Name of him who loves us, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

          Tonight is a night for REMEMBRANCE.  Jesus and his disciples at his Last Supper were remembering God’s deliverance of their ancestors from Egypt by celebrating the Passover – just as the Jewish people continue to do today. 

          As Christians, we especially remember two very special things that Jesus did during that meal.  We remember that Jesus took the role of a servant by washing his disciples’ feet.  And we remember that Jesus took a loaf of bread and a cup of wine, and declared them to be his body and blood that was given and poured out for them.

          Jesus did both of these things so that his disciples – and us – would remember his LOVE.  And not just to remember mentally, but also reenact that love again and again in our relationships with each other.  For it is when we DO love in real and practical ways that we truly “remember” all that our Lord has done for us.

          At this point, let me go to the situation of this evening’s gospel reading.  Although John does not explicitly state it, Luke in his gospel account of the Last Supper states that “A dispute arose among the disciples as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest.”  After almost three years with Jesus, the disciples still were bickering and arguing about positions of authority and status and power.  Of who got to have the best seats at the table.  Of who was the most important, who deserved the most recognition, and so forth – much like we often do today!

          In response, Jesus did not just tell them about how they should love each other – instead he DID it by laying aside his garments, girding himself with a towel, pouring water into a basin, and washing his disciples’ feet.  “Foot washing” was the task reserved for the lowest man on the totem pole.  Indeed, it was usually performed by a slave!  But Jesus, without a word, began to wash his disciples’ feet to show the kind of love he had for them – and to show them the kind of love they should have for one another. 

          There is a story I’ve heard about a seminary intern named JAY.  He was leading an Appalachian Mountains “Fall Foliage” bus tour of forty senior citizens.  While they were traveling, a woman on the tour went back to use the bus’ restroom.  You know the kind – where it is nearly impossible to maneuver a human body within.  She had a tough time getting turned back around.  There was a scuffle with the door and she lost.  Her dentures popped out…and scored a three-point goal in the toilet shaft!

          The woman was hysterical.  She feared that her custom teeth would be lost forever!  But Jay, without any hesitation, went back to the restroom with a towel and got down to business.  Reaching down into the toilet shaft, he groped for the dentures – and yes, he found them!

          That’s the kind of love that Jesus showed to his disciples when he washed their feet.  It was a “foot washing” kind of love of humility and service which is not afraid or ashamed to do “dirty work” in order to help a sister or brother who is in need.  May we, like Jay, continue to DO that kind of love whenever the opportunity presents itself!  Then we will be truly “remembering” Jesus’ love and making it real and alive again today!  Then people will know that we are truly his disciples.  May it be so for us.  May it be so.

          On this night we also remember that during the supper, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.”  And in the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.  Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”  And as the apostle Paul concludes in this evening’s second reading; “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

          But this Holy Communion does not mean just a mental “remembrance” of Jesus’ death for us.  It means experiencing his love for us in such a way that our pride and selfishness is killed and we truly become his disciples.

          The Corinthian Christians whom Paul was writing to in this evening’s second reading apparently did not understand this very well.   The congregation in Corinth was one that was wracked with conflict.  A number of different factions were bickering with each other and trying to run things their own way.  And those who were rich tended to look down upon members who were poor and not in their social class.  Apparently, this conflict situation even spilled over into their weekly celebration of the Lord’s Supper.  For in it, the Corinthians tended to gather into their own cliques and refused to share with or even associate with their other fellow members. 

          The Corinthians may have “remembered” Jesus’ words and actions, but not in a real and meaningful way.  For, as was true in the foot washing, in the distribution of the bread and cup Jesus was also giving an example of how we should love one another.   A love so complete that we should be willing to die for each other even as he was willing to die for us!  A love that certainly should overcome and do away with the sinful and selfish actions that were being manifested in the Corinthian congregation!

          How about us?  How do we “remember” Jesus’ death for us as we receive the bread and wine of Holy Communion?  Do we remember only the words, or do we “remember” by letting our lives be changed by his love?  When we receive the Sacrament tonight and each week, may we “remember” Jesus’ death by giving up our pride, our desire to run things, and our desire to have things our own way – all of those things that may prevent forgiveness, reconciliation, and unity from being present in our midst.  Then our “remembrance” will become real and active in a way that truly makes us God’s children!

          And so on this holy night we remember all that our Lord has done for us.  We remember his love that was manifested by humble service and ultimate sacrifice.  May we remember – not just here (in our heads) but also HERE (in our hearts) so that Christ’s love becomes alive again and again through all that we say and do for each other.  Then people will know that we are Christians – by our love.  Yes, they’ll know that we are Christians by our love!

          Jesus says, “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.” (John 13:34-35) 

We remember, Lord Jesus.  We remember.  Amen!

   --------------------

Pastor George Karres

418 W. Main St.

Sidney, MT 59270

gkarres@pellachurch.net