MAUNDY THURSDAY - Open-Ended Love: A Journey of Faith and Seeing
Preacher: Canon Neil Thompson, Precentor
28 March 2013, 20:00 (Maundy Thursday)
The long holiday weekend has begun and British society is more into chocolate eggs and bunnies, holiday time and leisure, than any religious observance.
What we do here in our churches is both a mystery and an irrelevance to millions in our land.
However, people do want answers.
And people do want real hope and true promises.
In a recent Theos think tank survey looking at post-religious Britain and the faith of the faithless, a really significant number of people in the categories of those who never attend a religious service as a worshipper, 47% of the population and atheists, 24%, have some Christian and/or spiritual beliefs.
As the report ended: “Being non-religious does not mean being faithless or even non-spiritual”.
However what we want, what we see and how we order and articulate meaning is often clear cut, materially verifiable and beyond reasonable doubt.
We want things on our own terms and in a form and language that we determine.
Is this a table or an altar?
Does it matter?
Yes, because it is both.
And there lies the lesson, the insight and the journey.
God shows us things which on our own we cannot see.
He shows us that meaning is open-ended and miraculously attuned to creative love: objects can be many things and people can be all things to him.
And God’s meaning takes us on our journey of faith and seeing.
God asks us to be with him where we would rather not go and where we say we cannot be.
And just as the altar is a table and the table is an altar, so we have to be in more than once place at the same time.
That is the power and reality of prayer; our encounter with God at the very depth of our beings where we are nothing but what he has made us.
It is only then that we can see beyond the horizon of self and recognise the meaning of our world and one another.
Life is not plain and simple.
It is a mystery, a contradiction and paradox.
Creation itself comprises 96% or so of antimatter (dark matter and dark energy) ~ something we neither understand nor know what it is.
We lust for certitude and crave for the assurance of survival: neither is of the vocabulary and essence of love.
And here in church, on Maundy Thursday, even for us who are familiar with the Eucharist and Christian worship, we have to encounter uncertainty and risk, confusion and unease, if we are to be with God in Jesus the beloved Son.
So back to the table and the altar – it takes us out of this church back to our homes and outside the security of our defences and boundaries to torture, darkness, isolation and it does so at the same time.
Here we are fed and made at home, with friendship and celebration, just as Jesus ate with his apostles the deliverance meal of the Passover.
Jesus is at every meal and table and if recognised and invited he transforms our transient lives and food into a foretaste of the banquet of heaven.
At the same time our meals and our worship are transported to every prison cell, refugee and labour camp, torture chamber, execution site and place of ridicule and abandonment.
For here is the master: who washes our feet, the king who wears a crown of thorns, the God who reigns in love from the cross.
And here he invites and commands us to wash each other’s feet and to remember him whenever we break the bread and pour the cup of thanksgiving.
How we tell our story, God’s story, and how we show our love and his in the world today is crucial, literally of the cross.
Yes, the cross lies between us tonight, on Maundy Thursday evening, and Sunday, Easter Day.
Here is the cost of discipleship: we have to endure so much more than the passing persiflage of our neighbours with its slight and contemptuous mockery but rather the scorn and venom of the Gospel’s enemies and often the enemy is deep within our very selves.
There is no way round it: we have to dare and risk our lives in Jesus – and to see him where he is crucified today and tomorrow.
So tonight, please allow our lives to be claimed by God and his love and his story
• through the Passover,
• through the washing of the feet,
• through the Eucharistic miracle and its taste of heaven
that we might be with Jesus
• in our homes and at our tables every day,
• that we might follow Jesus beyond the city wall to the
Calvary of 2013 and
• that we might pray now with him in the agony
of the garden,
• in the the betrayal and violence of his arrest and trial
• in the the terror and darkness of his abandonment,
torture and death.
Yes, we have to be in more than one place at any given time.
All our differences and all time and places are caught and transformed by his love.
The altar and the table; the cross and the resurrection are made one in him who shares our humanity.
The institution of the Eucharist in the Upper Room propels us into the heart of a fearful and unbelieving world to share the joy of the feast and the sacrifice of God in his love.
May this holy time change us and the world that crucifies him today. Amen.
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