Maundy Thursday as our HIGHEST Holy Day?: E-pistle 04.05.12

Perhaps Maundy Thursday should be our highest Holy Day?

Easter, of course, wins the prize. Good Friday clearly shows how far Jesus was willing to go in his love for us. But without Resurrection, Christianity and our faith would have died with Jesus on Friday.

And Christmas ends up taking precedence too. The story of a beautiful child who was “an against all odds baby,” that’s hard to beat.

But for a faith tradition like ours that puts so much emphasis on — or faith in — community, Maundy Thursday could be the day!

It is often said that “community,” is for the United Church of Christ a holy good, almost a sacrament. In our theology, community is “the sum greater than the parts when the diversity as a reflection of God’s expansiveness is gathered together by a commonness of heart.”

For some of the more agnostic types around here, community is the closest they can get to a sense of the transcendent, what they can recognize as larger than the self.

On the Old First’s website, we explain it this way:

“As a Christian community of faith, we use the language of God as a Trinity — God the Creator, Jesus the Redeemer and the Holy Spirit, our Comforter. Within the traditional framework, though, it becomes obvious that all do not understand God the same way. For some of us, God is a presence who supports us through the day. For others, God is the community of people whom we meet in our everyday life. For others, God is found in the beauty of nature…. There’s also room among us for people who just aren’t very sure about God.

Personally I worry that “community” is too ephemeral and uneven to serve, much less count on, as a representation of the Divine. Nonetheless, I experience community as crucial for being a Christian. Without the church, our faith-walks would be much less supported, challenged, confirmed or accountable.

One of you described Old First to me recently as a congregation with a very high theology of community but comprised of rugged individuals who often struggle to work communally or even trust in community. The insight made me laugh, even as it points to some real truth. Not as a condemnation of this congregation, but as a good description of the human condition. We carry deep within us a self-centeredness that pulls us towards separation, trusting more in ourselves, and trying to go it alone. It’s our existential struggle (the original sin in the Garden!).

But on Maundy Thursday, we remember Jesus’ Last Supper. The meal he prepared for those he called his friends. The meal representing the life he was willing to give for them. The meal promising so much more, which they couldn’t even yet imagine…

Yes, he seemed to know that he was at the Table with one who would betray him, and one who would deny him, and all those who would scatter. But he fed them anyway. And he tenderly washed their feet as a sign of his willingness to serve them, despite everything. And he gave them a new commandment (Maundy is the Old English word for “commandment”)– that we should love one another as he loves us.

His love places us in service to one another. It precludes our lording over one another. It pushes us to pray for, support, challenge, hold accountable and forgive each other. In short, His love by which we can become the kind of community that is not only holy, but sacramental: an act of the Christian Church that is regarded as an outward and visible sign of divine grace…

I hope you will join us this evening at 6 p.m., as we practice this all once again. We will worship over a meal like Jesus and his disciples on his last earthly night.

See you around the Table, at the Cross, before an Empty Tomb,

Michael

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