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April 1, 2010
MAUNDY THURSDAY 2010
This is an odd reading for Holy Thursday. In fact, this is an odd reading for any day. Have you ever heard the genealogy of Jesus read during worship? Did you even know that the Gospel of Matthew includes Jesus' family tree?
Yes, Matthew lifts up not only Jesus' divine nature, but also the human shoulders on which Jesus stood. If you know your Bible stories well, you know that, in that long list of names there are patriarchs and kings, but there are also some names associated with a more humble birth..names like Tamar and Rahab and Ruth. Prophet and peasant alike, these are the folks who found their way into Jesus' family tree.
Today we find ourselves looking at the human shoulders on which the man from Nazareth stood because, at the end of Les Miserables, this is where Marius and Cosette find themselves, too; they find themselves realizing the shoulders on which they stand. In the finale of the musical version, Marius and Cosette are the only two main characters still alive; yet, they are joined on stage by the people who have come before them and who have been their community: Marius' revolutionary friends; Cosette's mother, Fantine; and Cosette's adoptive father and Marius' savior, Valjean. If there's any hope and happy ending in this great tale of woe, it's that there has been reconciliation between Marius and Cosette and all these folks... and recognition that they are, indeed, tied together in a most remarkable way.
That, I think, is exactly what this night is all about, too. It's about recognizing that, in the meal Jesus institutes on this night and invites us to join thereafter, we are tied together in a most remarkable way. As Pastor Brad mentioned last week, when he teaches the confirmation students about Holy Communion, he tends to focus on the forgiveness aspect of the meal... the fact that Jesus says, "This is the new promise in my blood, shed for you and all people for the forgiveness of sin." That's certainly part of what happens when we come to the Lord's Table, but that's not the part I think about most often. Certainly, I need forgiveness as much as anyone else... it's just that my thinking is more in line with what Luther says in his writing "Concerning the Blessed Sacrament of the Holy and True Body of Christ." Luther writes,
"Just as the bread is made out of many grains which have been ground and mixed together, and out of the many bodies of grain there comes one loaf, in which each grain loses its form and body and acquires the common body of the bread, so should it be with us... . [T]hrough the interchange of His blessings and our misfortunes we are one loaf, one bread, one body, one drink, and have all things in common."
As Luther says, this is the meal that ties us together in a remarkable way. This is the meal that (in some way, shape, or form) makes us family.
The first year I was given the sacred task of speaking God's word on this holy night/day, I had recently had dinner with my Dad's cousin's family whom I had never met until I moved to the Chicago area. My Dad made contact with them... and they were very hospitable... inviting me to dinner not long after I arrived. As we sat down over chicken casserole and angel food cake, I realized that we didn't know each other at all, but we were family sitting down to a meal.