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Maundy Thursday April 21, 2011

Exodus 12:1-14                                                                   

1 Corinthians 11:23-26                                                      

John 13:1-17, 31b-35

When I left the last parish I served – after a very painful time for me – the bishop, Frank Griswold, asked me whether I was going to look for another congregation. “Yes,” I said, “I am.” “Good,” he said. “John, you need a congregation in which to do theology.” It was a discerning judgment on his part. He was thinking of me as, like himself, basically an introverted intellectual who tends to live off alone in his head. Theology, he was reminding me – the word means basically knowledge or relation with God – theology can’t be done alone or in our heads. It requires immersion in a community, life together with others. And this has proved itself for me. In our years together, Holy Cross has transformed me, very intimately and deeply. I’m still by nature an intellectual, an introvert. But it’s always now for me the congregation, the community, you and your lives, where I begin and end my thinking. It is in you that I know and relate to God.

I say this because this liturgy, Maundy Thursday, is at its heart about community. This is the night before Jesus’ death; the hour before his betrayal by Judas. Jesus, as St. John presents him to us in his gospel, knows fully all that is to befall him. This knowledge is part of his “oneness” with the Father, as well as his “oneness” with humanity. And so Jesus is preparing his disciples, his little fragile community that he loves so completely, for his departure, for what is to come. Every word that he speaks, every action that he does, has significance. The disciples do not understand it all now, but they will recall and understand in the future. It will sustain and comfort and give them courage. As Jesus asked them to, they will repeat his actions in the future. And so of course Christians have done through the ages, and so we do tonight. Continue reading ‘Maundy Thursday April 21, 2011’