Thursday, April 1 – A Table. A Basin, Some Food. Some Friends. – By Isla Grady
Here we are, deep into Holy Week, Maundy Thursday, the day when Jesus said: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34)
The Hosannas and parade of Palm Sunday have changed to a chaos of events. There have been confrontations with religious leaders and bold warnings of dire future events. But tonight, what does Jesus do? He invites the disciples to what they believe will be a traditional Passover meal.
Brian McLaren, in chapter 32a of We Make the Road by Walking, reminds us of the great, joyous anticipation of the Passover meal in remembrance of the liberation of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. But, as with all nights with Jesus, there is an unexpected turn as they arrive to dine. Instead of the expected feast of lamb shanks, bitter herbs, fruit, and unleavened bread, there is a loaf of bread and a cup of wine. Jesus raises the loaf and the cup, gives thanks, and asks the disciples to, “Do this in remembrance of Me.” They are perplexed as they ponder what this remembrance means: will Jesus die?
He next speaks of one of them betraying him, again shocking. When they have finished eating, Jesus then removes his outer garment, wraps a towel around his waist, pours water from a jug, and proceeds to wash each of their feet as a servant would. Jesus not only gives the commandment to love and serve, his actions foretell a new way of leading as a humble servant of All, and he asks us to remember this new way of living in relationship.
This model of inviting others to eat together at a community meal has remained a cornerstone of gathering in the Christian church. From the earliest records sharing a meal together was a sacred practice. Jesus feels so modern; he knew that table fellowship has a way of bringing us together. We may be eating halal, vegetarian, nut free, gluten free, we may be young, old or something in between, but at the table we are one community. It is at the table that something transformative happens, something holy and grace filled. We share our struggles and joys, and in that place, we serve each other. It feels like Communion.
When Jesus invited us to “Do this in remembrance” of Him he invited us to the sacredness of Communion, the sacredness of service to All and the sacredness of a shared meal at a table where All are invited to be friends.
The pandemic has meant that showing love means no in-house church suppers, but our virtual table has expanded into a community of many tables in many homes. We are still invited to join each other at tables of love and service in remembrance of Jesus.
Loving God, May these words by Ann Weems bring us to our knees as we remember that night in Jerusalem.
Remember who I am.
Remember who I am so you can remember
who you are.
Remember who I am
so you can remember
who you are and tell the others.
Remember who I am
so you can remember who you are
and tell the others.
So that all
all God’s people
Ann Weems, Kneeling in Jerusalem.