Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Great Three Days begins tonight

Today is "Maundy" Thursday, from the root word "mandate." Today we remember how Jesus "mandated" us to be servants and to remember him whenever we come together to share the bread and wine of our Holy Eucharist.

Today is especially about servanthood.

Last night, our former associate rector, Janet Legro, returned to St. Paul's to give a wonderful homily on that theme for children at our Evening Prayer service.

She gathered the children in front of her, and pulled from a bag a green apron she had worn as a waitress years ago. She told the children -- and us -- that Jesus was a waiter, a servant, who listened to people and brought them food.

Traditionally, the emphasis of Maundy Thursday is on Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, an act of servanthood to his followers. And so tonight at 7:30 pm we will wash feet; it is especially right that the clergy wash the feet of our people. I would invite you to join us, and to not be shy. Please come forward to have your feet washed.

We will also remember that this act of servanthood was during a meal: the Last Supper. We will remember again how Jesus shared in this meal with his disciples and asked us -- mandated us -- to share together when we gather as faithful people. It is a profoundly Jewish way of remembering whenever we share in this Communion meal. We begin with "The Lord be with you" and "And also with you." That is an ancient Jewish table blessing.

Then we remember the Creation by God of all that exists, and how we have turned away from God; we remember how God came to be with us in the person of Jesus, and this Last Supper on the night before he died. Our remembering brings us to the same table with Jesus and his disciples. We remember, and so we are there also, we are participants in these events, in these Great Three days. This becomes not just about a meal long ago, but about our meal together and how that brings us to the future promise of Resurrection. Easter will come to us.

We will take a portion of the consecrated bread from tonight's Communion and bring it into our chapel where it will be kept on an "Altar of Watch" under a veil. You are invited to remain in the chapel in silent vigil with the reserved sacrament until midnight tonight. We will then distribute the reserved sacrament at our 7 pm Good Friday service. Please come if you can.

Our meal, this Holy Eucharist, is shared tonight, and always, by all faithful people everywhere, and that knits us together in spite of ourselves. I am especially struck by Paul's description in this morning's Daily Office reading (1 Corinthians 10:14-17, 11:27-32):
"The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread."
Later this morning I will join clergy colleagues in Richmond to renew my ordination vows with Bishop Shannon Johnston. The Great Three Days, the Easter Triduum, begins tonight.

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