Steve Lindsley
(Luke 22: 14-27)
Maundy Thursday

The table had been prepared for them –
Prepared as tables all across that great city, on that special night.
Passover had arrived, as every year,
Reminding them again of the narrative of their liberation
And the nation they would soon become.

Everything, per custom, in its proper place:
A bowl of water to cleanse their fingers, and cleanse the soul;
Wine, for the four toasts to the goodness of God;
Unleavened bread, God’s sudden salvation,
Arriving too quickly for even yeast to make an entrance.
Green herbs, symbols of the good fruits of the earth,
Dipped in salt water, the bitterness of tears shed.
Charoseth, apples and cinnamon mixed together,
As the mortar once mixed to build Pharaoh’s empire.
And last, the lamb bone, for the Passover lamb
Whose blood once marked the doors of the faithful.

They came to that upper room on that night and gathered around table together,
They knew the custom and spoke the ritual from memory alone,
Deep symbolism in their words and actions,
Reminding them of who and whose they were.

The Passover meal, as familiar for them as Thanksgiving meal is for us,
Rituals and celebrations deeply engrained since childhood,
Now, Re-Membered every year
Understanding from experience and not explanation.

And every year, since they could remember,
It ended when it ended, the celebration conclusion, the Passover passed over,
Thanks be to God!

But not on this night.

Not in this place.

Not with those gathered.

He took in his hands the bread, the one left unbroken per their ritual,
Always hidden, forever covered,
Reserved for some distant day
When God’s grace and deliverance would reveal itself.

He took it, and immediately they knew something was different,
A new script being written, old traditions changing.
Surprised, annoyed, and who knows, maybe offended:
This is not the way things have been.
This is different than ever before.
What is he doing with that bread?

He took it, and he broke it, and passed it around,
And spoke to them new words that fell on strange ears:
Take this and eat. For it is my broken body.
Broken for you. Do this remembering who I am.

Dumbfounded, they did as asked:
For what else does one do when blindsided by the un-ritualizing of ritual?
Veering off script, writing lines never fathomed,
Like a train engine departing off the iron tracks,
The cars behind following its lead into the unchartered.

And no sooner had they placed the broken grace in their mouths
That he took hold of the wine, held within a pottery cup,
Molded earth, fashioned by fire,
The four blessings previously made,
And now, a new one.

And again, they wondered in voices only heard in their own minds:
This is not the way things have been.
This is different than ever before.
What is he doing with that cup?

He took it, and drank from it, and passed it around,
And spoke to them new words that fell on strange ears:
Take this and drink. For it is my blood, my very life,
Given up for you. Do this remembering who I am.

There is a deep, deep sacred in the simple –
High above the pomp and circumstance of our predictable rituals
We come to see God’s profound, unwavering presence
In the elemental things of bread and wine.

There is a deep sacred in the actions –
Eating and drinking, daily routines we need not even think about.
Our bodies think it for us; they compel us
For our survival. For life.

And there is a deep sacred on this night –
A new kind of Passover meal:
But what exactly is passing over in this meal now?
The question they would ponder all night
As would Christians down through the centuries
And ministerial candidates on the floor of presbyteries:
This new meal – is it celebration or somber occasion?

They had no answer in the moment,
So new was this new meal for them.
And so they responded as perhaps he knew they would:
They argued.
They feared.
They betrayed.
For what else can imperfect humans do
At the table of a perfect God?

Tables turned that night –
Warned of a traitor in their midst,
Arguing about who was the greatest.

And all the while there is Jesus, nearly lost in the shuffle,
Seemingly crying out: Hello!
My body, broken!
My life, given up!
For you – all for you!
Remember me. Please……remember me.

Remember me when I am no longer with you,
But still very much with you.
Remember me when the tables of your life are turned.
When so much is in flux around you
That you are not sure if you have a place anywhere anymore –
Remember me.
When the doctor tells you the dreaded news
You already knew but didn’t want to hear –
Remember me.
When children who just yesterday fell asleep in your cradled arms
Now ask for their allowance and a ride to the shopping mall –
Remember me.
When you wonder, truly wonder
If you are really loved by anyone, anyone at all –
Remember me.

Remember me not just because I died for you,
But because I live for you!
Walking with you, laughing and crying with you,
Emmanuel – God with you!

Remember that I was life before and after death,
Always with you.
Remember me.

Life, it often seems, is a table set.
Everything in its place, everything where it belongs.
Bread and wine, among other things,
Spread before us at mealtime.

And so we believe that God takes what is there
And through a simple act of love and sacrifice
Brings forth new meaning
So that through our turned tables,
We find grace instead of greed,
Nourishment alongside ritual,
New life, hidden in the shadows of death.

And that is why we keep coming back to this night,
Why we keep making the ascent to the upper room,
Because Jesus invites us here all over again.
And every time we walk in here, we find
The same table – upon which lay
Healthy mental health drugs helpings of grace,
Generous portions of forgiveness,
Plenty of mercy to go around,
And an over-abundance of love.

So let us take. Let us eat. Let us drink.
And let us remember.
Not just what has happened in the past,
But what we know is coming.
Let us give thanks. Let us feast! AMEN!