Sermon – April 9, 2020 – Maundy Thursday

To Remember

What a week it had been for the disciples of Jesus! It all started the previous Sunday as people entered Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish Festival of the Passover. Jesus had entered the city riding on a donkey while the people waved palm branches and shouted:

“Hosanna to the Son of David.”  Hosanna means “Save us, we pray.”

“Save us – Son of David – from the hardships and uncertainties and cruelties of our lives.”

Now it was 5 days later, and on this night Jesus and his disciples had gathered for the Passover meal.  Each element of the meal was lifted up and blessed to help them to remember all the ways that God has been faithful to them throughout all of history.

As they were nearing the end of the Passover Meal, Jesus lifted up bread and blessed it.  Then the cup and blessed it, before sharing the bread and wine with each other. This was all part of the Passover ritual which had been their tradition for years.  But then Jesus added something totally unexpected – something not in the Passover tradition.  He said, “Whenever you eat this bread and drink from this cup, do so in remembrance of me.”

In remembrance of me! Why is he saying that? Is he planning on going away? And although Jesus had given them many predictions over the past few weeks, the disciples remained unaware of what lay ahead.  According to the Gospel writer of John, however, Jesus knew his hour had come to depart from this world.

Jesus knew this would be his last meal with them before he died.

Jesus knew that on this night he had this one last chance to tell his followers, and to show them what he wanted them to remember – always.

We all know what that is like, don’t we?  We all know how parents, grandparents and other caring adults go about teaching children how to live. We’ve watched them show young ones how to cross the street, do their chores, and use their best manners. Then one day they send that child out without going along. “Remember, always look both ways before crossing a street. “Remember no rides from strangers.  Remember to be polite to your teachers. Remember I love you!”

Or when going off to a new apartment – or a job in another state – or to college, the hands are waving in the air as the car pulls out of the drive:  “Remember to be careful. Remember to work hard. Remember to text me when you have arrived.  Remember I love you!”

Or someone you know well is going out the door to do their ‘essential’ job in these pandemic times: “Remember to be careful. Remember to wash your hands often. Remember to stay safe.  Remember I love you!”

For 3 years, ever since Jesus had called to them: “Come, Follow Me” he had been teaching his disciples how to live as children of God, as citizens of God’s Kingdom.  Little by little he taught them: That all people are important and worthy of God’s love – no exceptions. To care for others by feeding the hungry, tending those who were sick, listening to those who needed a sympathetic ear, and sharing the Good News of God’s love with them. To always place their trust in God.  Now the day had come and Jesus needed to say good-bye. Things would be different from now on and there were things he wanted them To Remember!

To their surprise, Jesus began the evening by acting as a servant and washed their feet.  “Do you know what I have done to you?”  Jesus asked.  “I, as your teacher and Lord, have washed your feet. So now you need to wash each other’s feet.  Remember how I have cared for you?  Now I want you to care for each other in the ways I have showed you.

Then during the meal he told them: “Oh, little children.  I am with you only a little longer.  From now on when you gather, remember that I am present with you in a real way. Trust that my Living Spirit will never leave you.”

And finally before the evening was over, Jesus told his disciples, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  Remember to love each other. Remember – I love you!”

On this night we gather just as the followers of Jesus gathered on that night long ago. We know that throughout the journey of our Christian life – we are being taught and shown by Jesus Christ, little by little, how to live in ways that bring about healing and wholeness, joy and goodness in our world.  All for our sake and for the sake of others.

On this night, we who are like all of Jesus’ disciples throughout all times and places, are reminded to remember:

  • To care for each other as Christ has cared for us. During these days care even means that we seek each other out in ways that don’t spread the coronavirus. It means we remain generous with our offerings to share the good news of God’s love through our words and actions.
  • To gather together as often as possible by whatever means we have, and always trusting in the presence of Jesus Christ in our midst.
  • To love one another as Jesus has loved us. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Jesus commanded.

“And remember… I love you!”