April 17, 2014
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
John 13:1-17, 31b-35
Psalm 116:1, 10-17
If this were your last night what would you do? Spend time with friends and family over a long meal? Tell everyone how much you love them? Pass on whatever wisdom you’ve learned these final days and hours? Pray for God’s blessing and protection on them?
This is the night we remember what Jesus does on his last night.
Everything Jesus does in his ministry–his healings, exorcisms, preaching, teaching, and confrontations–proclaim the in-breaking of God’s Kingdom—the arrival of God as King on earth as in heaven.
We hold our breath in alert mindfulness to see what he will say and do to lead us more deeply into the love and work of God.
But to hear and see we must step out of our post-Enlightenment worldview and step into the Jewish Biblical worldview.
If you’ve ever been lucky enough to attend a Passover meal you’ve noticed that the Jews don’t act like they are just celebrating something that happened over 3000 years ago. Rather they say, “This is the night when God brought us out of the Egypt.”
“This is the night”…and what’s more we are the people. The past has become present—this is the night. They have not gone back in time but rather stepped into the timeless dimension of the eternal.
“This is the night….”
Exodus says: “This day shall be a day of remembrance for you.”
And now 2000 years later you and I sit, at Jesus’ last meal that is also happening right now.
Paul passes onto us the earliest written account of the Last Supper:
“…the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
You and I continue to suffer the travail of the old creation that is trapped by sin, suffering and death.
But Jesus who sits with us tonight is not the Jew from Nazareth awaiting his crucifixion, but rather the Universal Lord who through his death and resurrection has entered the New Creation. He is here, not from the past dressed in peasant garb, but from God’s Eternal Now, radiant with God’s Life.
He comes to tell us that each of us in God’s time will be given new bodies like his, vibrant and immune to sin, suffering, and death and placed in the New Creation of the New Earth. He comes to enlist us in his cause of God’s Kingdom which is breaking into our world even now.
He comes to us though the symbols of creation—bread and wine, which are foretastes of that Banquet in the Kingdom when heaven comes down to earth and all things made new.
Can you feel the energy of this visitor from the Eternal Now who is Lord of our Present, forgiver of our Past, and transformer of our Future?
I sometimes get asked by former Roman Catholics if we Anglicans believe in transubstantiation, which is a concept based on the philosophy of the Aristotle.
In the Middle Ages this was a meaningful way to talk to people but today it creates the misperception that the presence of Christ in the bread and wine is the size of a bread crumb and a sip of wine.
It can create the impression that since we can hold Christ in our hands then we must still be in charge of our lives–Which feels like good news until we remember our sin and suffering and the fact that we have to die.
Some people get upset when white wine is used instead of wine the color of blood. This tells me they are still looking into the past for the earthly Jesus instead of looking into the Eternal Now for the Glorified Christ.
Tom Wright puts it this way:
“We find that Jesus comes to meet us in and through the symbols of creation, the bread and the wine, which are thus taken up into the Christ story, the event of new creation itself, and become vessels, carriers, of God’s new world and the saving event that enable us to share it.” Surprised by Hope, P 275 His inspiration is throughout this sermon—as well as Good Friday and Easter. Read the book!
Can you feel the difference—having a piece of the earthy Jesus in our hands while keeping our earthy perceptions and problems versus being grasped by the Risen Christ and united with the foretaste of the new creation, which fills us with hope and empowers us as witnesses and workers for the Kingdom here and now?
Salvation is not about escaping earth, but colonizing earth with the love of Christ poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.
So after supper Jesus shows us what this kingdom work looks like: he takes the role of a slave and washes the disciples’ feet.
We are not being saved so we can float off to heaven and leave behind the suffering in this world—rather we are called to pray and work in the power of the Spirit for the Kingdom to come on earth as it already is in heaven.
Richard Rohr says we’ve worried much more about whether the bread has been changed than about whether we have been changed.
Worried much more about whether Christ is present in the bread and wine and not enough about whether we are present in openness to receive the power of Christ’s Body and Blood to heal the world.
This is the night Jesus gives himself to us through this sacrament so through his suffering love we may be the Body of Christ in the world.