The Rev. Jennifer Adams – April 13, 2017 –Maundy Thursday
We began this season about forty days and forty nights ago right down here in the church undercroft on the evening of Ash Wednesday. We had supper together over there and then moved over there and entered into a time of Eucharistic readings and prayers to begin this season of Lent. And so in many ways this is sort of a full circle for us – as unusual as tonight has been there is a very familiar pattern at its heart. We bless. We break. We eat. We share.
Now on Ash Wednesday, I talked to you about that sort of sappy yet meaningful song I’d learned growing up in youth group called, “They’ll know we are Christians.” Remember that? Either the sermon or the song itself or both? “They’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes they’ll know-ow we are Christians by our love.”
And here we are seven weeks later and the call to love is not only a song, not even just a “theme” for the season, it’s a mandate given by the Christ. This isn’t love as an idea being tossed out, or a suggestion being made, it’s an actual, non-optional command from the Messiah: “I give you a new commandment,” he told the disciples, “that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” And then (as if he’d learned the song in youth group too) he added, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” And as a sign of this love, he washed the disciples’ feet, caring for the ones who had followed and had walked with him. And then Jesus blessed and broke and shared bread as he offered his very own body and blood to his friends.
Grace Church, you have just spent the past three hours blessing, breaking, sharing. You gave food to over one hundred fifty families and shared a warm meal with over two hundred fifty people. You helped tired feet get back to their cars with loads of food. You carried empty boxes and rolled empty carts back to the church. And you do this sort of thing, through this ministry and others, a lot.
And one of the things that happens when such ministry is done with love is that usual and expected lines of division become blurred: Messiah is suddenly servant. The last is unexpectedly first. The foolish, surprisingly wise. The servant is also served. Ordinary becomes sacramental. “Needy” and “gifted” become terms that apply to us all. And I think that’s how love works; by blurring or upending common divisions, love offers an often surprising and all too uncommon unity that there is no other way to achieve.
Sara Miles who wrote the book, Take This Bread, which was a Grace read years ago that helped inspire us to begin Feeding America and also helped us open our Communion table to all (notice how those two things are related in this place,) Sara miles put it like this:
“At the heart of Christianity is a power that continues to speak to and transform us…It proclaims against reason that the hungry will be fed, that those cast down will be raised up, and that all things, including my own failures, are being made new. It offers food without exception to the worthy and unworthy, the screwed up and pious, and then commands everyone to do the same. It doesn’t promise to solve or erase suffering but to transform it, pledging that by loving one another, even through pain, we will find more life. And it insists that by opening ourselves to strangers, the despised or frightening or unintelligible other, we will see more and more of the holy, since, without exception, all people are one body: God’s.”
It’s simple really. We bless. We break. We eat. We share. And we do it all in remembrance of a God who blesses and breaks and shares himself with us all. And so now this night, allow your tired feet to be cared for, receive the bread broken for us, share it with one another, and know that as we head into the greatest mystery of all, the transformation that is resurrection comes.