March 24th Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday 2016:   Holy Communion    Preacher:    Carol Shelley


1Corinthians11 v23- 26:
John13 v1- 17, 31b-35

 

Throughout our lives we are challenged with first experiences.

This evening is such an occasion for me. I have never participated in a Maundy Thursday service, and as one of the major days of the church calendar it seems to incur a greater sense of responsibility.

Sitting in our office I found myself scanning materials for a new theme or a new slant on the incidents of the day and evening, reading the lectionary readings hoping for inspiration.

Did all this help, in truth not really. I was left reeling at how so many significant happenings and words could be delivered in such a brief moment in time.

Frequently, it is an occasion when we can look closely at the roles played by individuals:-

Who was Judas, what was his motivation and was his role pre-destined?

Peter, the headstrong, devoted but impetuous disciple; with whom so many feel a great empathy.

Should I explore one of the experiences of Jesus, which can become so pertinent to us.

  • Jesus in our Gospel reading, trying to make clear to his followers what is to come

  • Jesus in Gethsemene whose friends failed him when he was most in need

  • Jesus accepting the truth of what lay ahead

  • Jesus’ human response “take this cup from me”

  • Jesus, the Son of God “not my will but yours”

  • Jesus in his loneliness and agony creating a sacrifice for God’s people,

Frequently I find myself writing knowing that the words are not mine, and yet here I was still adrift.

On I read, and then I found it, a piece of writing by Gregory Dix.

Gregory Dix was an Anglo/Catholic monk whose life spanned the first half of the 20th century.

His writings have inspired the shape of our liturgy.

They brought me to a clear realisation, which I would like to share.

““Do this in remembrance of me”. Was ever another command so obeyed? For century after century, spreading slowly to every continent and among every race on earth, this action has been done, in every conceivable circumstance, for every conceivable human need from infancy and before it to extreme old age and after it, from the pinnacles of earthly greatness to the refuge of fugitives in caves and dens of the earth.

Men have found no better thing than this to do for kings at their crowning and for criminals going to the scaffold; for armies in triumph or for a bride and groom in their country church; for the proclamation of a dogma or for a good cup of wheat; for the wisdom of the Parliament of a mighty nation or for a sick old woman afraid to die; for a schoolboy sitting an examination or for Columbus setting out to discover America; for the famine of a whole province or the soul of a dead lover; in thankfulness because my father did not die of pneumonia; for the village headman much tempted to return to  fetish because the yams had failed; for the repentance of Margaret; for the settlement of a strike; for a son for a woman thought barren; for Captain so and so, wounded and held prisoner of war; while lions roared in a nearby amphitheatre; on the beaches of Dunkirk; while the hiss of scythes in the thick grass came faintly through the windows of the church; tremulously by an old monk on the fiftieth anniversary of his vows; furtively by an exiled bishop who had hewn timber all day in the prison camp near Murmansk.

One could fill pages with the reason why men and women have done this, and not tell a hundredth part of them. And best of all week by week, month by month on a hundred thousand successive Sundays, faithfully and unfailingly across all the parishes of Christendom it has taken place to create the holy people of God.””

This passage makes us aware that the liturgy is not simply words but a living covenant.

We are brought into an immediate celebration and sharing with Jesus.

We celebrate Communion frequently and the words from Corinthians “Do this in Remembrance of Me” are part of our lives.

In Gregory Dix’s words we are transported to a new reality.

He makes it clear that this celebration takes on a new life, a new significance every time it occurs depending on who is sharing the communion and where they are in their lives or where they are on their journey of faith.

Our communion is with Christ, it is a living experience.

Having accepted this new life with Christ we find ourselves with a new role in life.

During his last meal with his friends Jesus took on the role of a servant, washing his disciple’s feet.

He did this not simply to bring unity, not to show them another aspect of his ministry but also to proclaim to them their role when he was no longer present with them, after his resurrection.

They were to serve each other and to serve God’s people.

We take the bread and wine as the symbols of Christ’s body and blood. His warm flesh was to be broken, his blood was to be spilled to take man’s sin and create the reality of forgiveness and hope.

Everything we believe in, everything we love, everything we are guided by are brought together in the Hope created by the sacrifice by God’s Son for all humanity, which Christ himself summed up in his statement

“Do this in Remembrance of Me”

All this comes together wherever we are and whatever our circumstances when two or more people come into the living covenant and communion with Jesus Christ.

 Amen