Rev. Leta Arndt Behrens
As much as Palm Sunday was about the crowds, Maundy Thursday turns us more inward.
Palm Sunday comes with the noise, the shouts of Hosanna, emotions running high and the symbolic nature of God riding into Jerusalem as a new King bringing peace in the face of and in defiance of the oppressive rule. Maundy Thursday comes with a bit more quiet, invites us into contemplation and prayer and yet has this same edge–Love will win, peace will reign, and it’s not going to look like anything you think it should look like. On this night, Jesus gathers those close to him for a traditional passover meal that turns out to be anything but traditional. The message of the passover is the same–God has come to rescue. God has come into the world to say there is another way. God has come to prepare for and enter into the depths of human struggle, despair and suffering and come out on the other side through the power of love, not the power of violence. Through the power of grace, not through the power of punishment. Through the power of story, not through the power of control
Action and contemplation. These two ways of being in the world often get pitted against one another. Are we as Christians called to act? Or to be in prayer? Is the true mark of Christian one who can be in silence connecting with God on deeper inner level or is it giving of one’s time and money in acts of service? Churches, individuals, faith communities of all shapes and sizes get caught in this dictomoy. Is who we are what we do or is what we believe? What is the path of real spirituality? We must define ourselves as either those who serve as Jesus or those who speak about Jesus.
This way of thinking pushes us to the extremes of a dualistic mind. A mind which tells us that it’s either/or. A mind that tells us there is right and wrong clearly laid out at every turn. This is not the mind of Jesus. Jesus has engaged in a display of political truth telling and he has now gathered his followers together for connection and prayer. Jesus has bent down to their filthy feet and washed them in a service of love and has blessed them at the table. Jesus comes into this world as God with us and comes out of this world declaring a new way to live.
And so the call is for us as well. Sometimes we are called to be in the crowd and sometimes we are called to retreat to draw support, compassion, and prayer together. We are called into action and we are called into connection with God. We are called, actually commanded to love, and we are called, actually commanded to turn to God. Here is where the tension of our faith lies. Our actions do not save us, but our actions matter. The grace of God comes to bring us all to the promise of God’s love and the grace of God bids us to bring this to our neighbor. Jesus commands us in this meal together, in the experiences of worship, in our life together to love one another. It begs the question, can one really be commanded to love? I remember when my children were little and they would fight–maybe calling one another a name or using hurtful words or perhaps turning to some hand to hand combat. I understood it as normal, sibling rivalry, I had engaged in this with my brother a time or two… or more… But I still just could not stand to have my two precious babies do this. So I would have them sit on the couch holding hands until they could say something nice to the other person.. And say I love you. They of course despised this and I had to sit with them and help them in this task. And sometimes one or the other would say but I don’t want to be nice. I don’t want to love him/her. I don’t feel like… And I would say, I didn’t ask you to want to and I can’t tell you have to feel, but do it anyway.
Sometimes what we feel and what we are called to do are not the same thing. Jesus command here is like that. The scriptures use the word agape for this love — this is not eros love which is the one that invokes feelings and brings out the romantic in us, agape love is a love that is built on action, on service, on caring for the other. It is not dependent upon or reliant on our feelings. In Jesus command to love one another he also says to do this as God as done for us and in this he is speaking a word of gift and grace. You have the love you need because I have loved, this agape love, because it comes from me. My body, my blood, my mercy, my love poured out for you. Jesus calls us to yes act in service to this world and Jesus calls us to gather–to gather at this table over and over to remember him and his words and his promise.
Our children that took the communion class last week were taught many things. The stories that you heard today, the history of communion, what a sacrament means that the plate is a paten and the cup a chalice and even how to make the bread for you tonight. And the main thing that were told to remember, asked to repeat to their parents and practice at home was we come to communion because…. (see if any will answer) … we are to remember that Jesus loves us and forgives us.
All the stories, all the commands, all the contemplation and all the action come down this promise. As Jesus gathers us together tonight, as Jesus walks with us through Good Friday and to Easter morning, it all comes to this–I am with you. I love you. I forgive you. That is enough.
Children’s Sermon Poem
A poem with input from kids at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church Glenwood Springs, including: Lucy, Adam, Amelia, Ember, Natalie and Sage (ages 2-12)
The last supper was not a Mardi Gras party or a Masquerade Ball.
There were no balloons, no streamers, no glitter.
It was not served in a big house,
or a fancy hotel.
Jesus told his disciples, Follow Your Heart,
through the storm, beyond the boom
and the splish-splash, past the drip, drop, drip,
and you will find the end of the rainbow
in a room borrowed from a stranger.
There was no cake. No Mac and Cheese. No pasta with pesto sauce,
no ice cream. Not vanilla, or strawberry, or chocolate with coconut.
There were no tacos, no sausage, no macaroni and meatballs,
no spaghetti with spicy sauce, or pizza topped with pineapple or pepperoni.
Just flat bread.
There was no apple juice to wash it down. No lemonade
Or lime-aid. No milkshakes, with or without a cherry on top.
Nothing except a plain pitcher of water, and the bread,
which Jesus served to his friends, even the one who hurt him,
the one who told him he bragged too much.
In the end, maybe the best thing
about the last supper was this:
No one went home hungry.
Everyone, absolutely everyone, was fed.