Thursday, April 29, 2010

April 1 2010 Maundy Thursday Sermon

Intro- it is Passover, Jewish holiday celebrated every year...going on now! To commemorate the Exodus, the escape of the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt.

Luke 22 verses 14-20

14 When the hour came, {for the Passover meal} Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15 And he said to them, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God."

17 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, "Take this and divide it among you. 18 For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes."

19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me."

20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.

Our passage from the Gospel of Luke is of course the moment when Jesus instituted the sacrament of Communion.

This passage is a brief glimpse, just a few moments in this final evening of Jesus' life. We have heard the story....Jesus is about to tell his disciples that one of them will betray Him, that they will all desert Him. He woill then go into the Garden and pray in total anguish, ultimately praying to His Father in Heaven...”Not my will, but yours” He would be betrayed, arrested, deserted by His friends, endure beatings, a 'trial' on trumped up charges and be flogged and put to death. But this passage, this moment in the life of Jesus and the Twelve is a moment of joy. It is a moment that commemorates Jesus' whole purpose. It is a moment “he eagerly desired!”

Jewish-ness of Jesus and followers..and first Christians...Jesus raised in a Jewish family He would have been taught the traditions of prayer and sacrifice. Traditions that He would of course grow up to live out!

the Passover meal contains the observance of many rituals including: Eating bitter herbs to remember the bitterness of enslavement, eating unleavened bread-which commemorates the haste with which the Hebrew people had to leave Egypt, drinking of wine, relating the story of the exodus to the children.

The Exodus passage tells us of that first passover. The Hebrew people were to sacrifice a perfect lamb to feed their family, and the blood of that sacrifice, sprinkled on the doorposts, was a sign to keep them safe from the angel of death as the firstborn of Egypt were all slain. as the Israelites ate their quickly prepared meal, God's presence at the “table”, was their protection, and a judgment upon their enemies.

(From Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus by Ann Spangler & Lois Tverberg)

The idea of communing with God at his table was a key part of the sacrificial system of the temple. Certain offerings, like sin and guilt sacrifices, were completely consecrated to God. But others like the fellowship or peace offering, were different. In these kinds of offerings, the worshiper and his family, along with the priests, would consume a portion of the sacrifice. When they ate from the altar, it was as though God was sharing some of his food with them. By doing so, they were affirming that they were dining at God's table. Through their peace offering they celebrated their Shalom with God and with each other. The Israelites understood this as a true covenantal communion—that they could sit down to a meal with God.

The Passover meal is a time to celebrate that one is at peace with God, and with those around the table. No wonder Jesus “Eagerly desired” this moment!

He then renewed that covenant, and instituted a new covenant! The covenant with God through Jesus himself.

Bread is used so often in scripture as a symbol. Bread is a staple of the diet of every society. Yet Scripture says, “ people do not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” During the 40 years in the wilderness the Israelites lived on manna, referred to as Bread from heaven.

in the New Testament, Jesus multiples bread and a few fish to feed thousands of people! after his resurrection, in the Road to Emmaus story, Jesus is with the two travelers for quite a while, yet they only recognize him when he takes bread, giving thanks and breaking it! In the Gospel of John, Jesus calls himself the Bread of Life.

The bread that Jesus took at this meal and gave to his disciples was unleavened bread, Matzoh. It is broken into 3 pieces, and the piece that Jesus took was the middle piece, with symbolizes the priest or mediator between God and the people. So Jesus used this piece of bread, to tell his disciples and us, how He himself, his body, broken, would become the perfect mediator between us and God.

The Four Cups of wine used in the Seder primarily symbolize the four distinct redemptions promised by God to the Hebrews as told in Exodus 6:6-7. (1) "I will take you out of Egypt", (2) "I will deliver you from slavery", (3) "I will redeem you with a demonstration of my power", and (4) "I will acquire you as a nation".

The cup of wine Jesus took and gave to his disciples is the cup of redemption. God redeemed the Hebrew people from Egypt by a display of his power...the parting of the Red Sea. Jesus took the cup of redemption, and called it the New Covenant in his blood. We would be redeemed, by this act of sacrifice that Jesus was about to make on our behalf.

Jesus came to give us –each of US-the complete peace, the Shalom, the peace, and wholeness of God. This is from which comes this bit of joy and serenity that we sense in this brief passage. This shalom is present even in the midst of the anguish and suffering that Jesus would shortly endure.

There are people who display that sense of shalom, that knowledge that whatever is happening, God is in control! We all know folks like that. We have been blessed to have some right in this church. These are people whose faith enables them to sail pretty smoothly through life. I try...but I am not quite there yet. Years ago, when my family was going through some serious challenges, we had 2 deaths in one week. We were reeling, I tell you! But at the second visitation, for my grampa, was a rosary service. And I was watching my aunts, who were so calmed by the prayer service. I envied and admired their faith. I also doubted if I were capable of that deep a faith. Some time later, I shared that doubt with a friend, who wisely, quietly, said, “you can pray for more faith.” I am sure my prayer was very hesitant, something along the lines of “um, God, it's Carol, um,..i know you are busy, and have important stuff to tend to...but if you have a minute...i was wondering...” Well, if you need proof that God does NOT need us to be articulate in our prayers, I am here to tell ya, that hesitant prayer was answered. Gradually, my faith has increased. I am not all the way there yet, but with continued prayer, I'm getting closer! And God provided me with some models of faith and prayer to help me to pray with less hesitation! To learn to as scripture says, to boldly approach the throne of grace!

The Jewish faith has a profound tradition of prayer. To help the people to remind themselves of God's continual presence, they have short prayers of blessing to say throughout the day, from waking until going to sleep. These prayers are prayers of praise, recognizing that all gifts are from God. So these short prayers are to follow the commandment to Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. The apostle Paul alludes to this tradition of prayer in his epistles...

just one example is 1 Thessalonians 5--16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

Can we embrace this tradition? can we strive to make our every act a prayer? just as Jesus was taught and as he taught. As we pray “Give us this day our Daily bread...” can we remember that we are asking for the necessities of life, and asking Jesus,the Bread of Life, to be lord of our lives more today than yesterday!

In just a few moments, to prepare for Communion we will sing part of a Psalm, another Jewish tradition, praying “Oh Lord you are my God, I trust in you.” Let us make that more than a song, but a prayer. As we take the Bread of Life and the Cup of Redemption, Let us pray to make our lives, more of a prayer, to our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen!

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