Thursday, April 09, 2009

Maundy Thursday

The Alternative Gospel reading for Maundy Thursday is found in St. Luke's Gospel. St. John's account, John 13:1-15 is of equal power.
When the hour came, Jesus 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. But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!" Then they began to ask one another, which one of them it could be who would do this.

A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. But he said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves."

"You are those who have stood by me in my trials; and I confer on you, just as my Father has conferred on me, a kingdom, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel."

I'm thoroughly arrested by this unfolding moment. The Christ is mere hours away from enduring the most hellish ordeal ever endured by one clothed in human flesh. The spotless passover lamb would soon have the sins of the most vile offenders laid upon his shoulders. It's at moments of reflection, such as now, my casual sins and respectable little murders become a foul, fecal stench in my own nostrils.

I don't imagine the scene as a loud, or boisterous affair. No, somehow, imagine that the Master is speaking in a hushed tone and and his disciples are leaning in to attend to their teacher. The moment is punctuated by Christ's chilling revelation that one in their midst is a traitor. This is followed be a moment of shallow self-examination and chest puffing. Christ pulls out a straight pin and pops their collective bubble. It's not to be about who has the biggest chest full of medals or the biggest "I love me" wall. Greatness in Christ's unfolding kingdom will be measured by a far different standard. Jesus draws imagery from a lowly house servant or slave, perhaps recalling the foot washing recalled by St. John.

Slaves, in their contemporary culture, came in all varieties. Anyone from the wisest mathematician to the lowliest child could be counted among the enslaved. Where the former are remembered in history, the latter are generally forgotten. These were those who washed the master's feet after a dusty day on the road. These were the ones who were at the beck and call to fetch what ever the master needed or desired. These were the model for greatness within the kingdom of God.

Our LORD has no need or use for strutting popinjays who seem to pervade the vast spiritual and cultural wasteland. The "No Fear" Crowd do little more than stir His holy wrath. He saw all of these traits in His onetime anointed cherub, and threw both him and his fallen me-monkey angels down from Heaven. He seeks something quite the contrary.

Consider on this Maundy Thursday... Our Lord seeks those who've grasped the concept that in the scheme of things, they're truly of no account. They've got to bring to the table. These are the ones whom the Master can fill with HIS GREATNESS, and may well use them to turn the world on its head.

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