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Sermon for Maundy Thursday:

             John 13:1-17,31b-35  -  Maundy Thursday
              
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We come together this evening to recall in our hearts and minds the events that occurred on Thursday of what the church calls Holy Week, the last week in the life of our Lord. One-third of all the events that we have about Jesus’ life occurred during this week: Reminding us of the great significance of these last days. The disciples have gathered in a home, whose we are not sure, but we do know that it had a furnished second floor.

 

As they gather they participate in what is called a Seder meal, one of the highlights of the Passover week. The Passover festival, of course, had been done for centuries before Jesus came on the scene. It commemorated that time when the Jews were in bondage in Egypt. Moses warned Pharaoh to let his people go, but Pharaoh hardened his heart. So God sent a death over the land of Egypt, but miraculously this death passed over the homes of the Jews. Thus, the season of Passover was given birth.

 

The meal itself was a symbolic one reminding the Jews of the sufferings of their forefathers and the power of God's deliverance. The foods that were eaten were symbols to remind the Jews of their captivity in Egypt. Apple sauce was eaten to remind them of brick mortar and the fact that they were forced to make bricks with no straw. A bitter herb is eaten to remind them of the bitterness of their captivity. It was this symbolic Seder Meal that the disciples were partaking of that night in the upper room.

 

It was at the conclusion of that meal that Jesus himself added two more symbols. He took a loaf and broke it and gave it to his disciples saying: Take eat, this is my body which is broken for you, do this in remembrance of me. Then he took a cup with wine. He drank from it and gave it to his disciples saying, “Drink ye all of this, for this is my blood which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sin.” Thus was born our sacrament of the Lord's Supper, out of the experience of an ancient Jewish custom.

 

Leonardo da Vinci by his famous painting has forever impressed upon on our minds the last supper of our Lord. The scene that he depicts is that moment when Jesus announces his impending betrayal. The disciples look at one another with great shock, all, that is, except Judas, who refuses to look Jesus in the face and clutches his money to his breast. I wonder as we look at those disciples around the table if we can see ourselves. For me they represent all that is good and bad about our humanity.

 

Maybe we can see ourselves in Matthew...


The rest of this brief 10-minute sermon looks at 10 of the disciples sitting around the Passover Meal and how we can see our own frailties and sinfulness reflected in them.


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What Is Unique About Christianity?

The story of Jesus sitting and debating the Law with rabbis reminds me of another debate that took place in a comparative religions conference, the wise and the scholarly were in a spirited debate about what is unique about Christianity. Someone suggested what set Christianity apart from other religions was the concept of incarnation, the idea that God became incarnate in human form. But someone quickly said, “Well, actually, other faiths believe that God appears in human form.” Another suggestion was offered: what about resurrection? The belief that death is not the final word. That the tomb was found empty. Someone slowly shook his head. Other religions have accounts of people returning from the dead.

Then, as the story is told, C.S. Lewis walked into the room, tweed jacket, pipe, armful of papers, a little early for his presentation. He sat down and took in the conversation, which had by now evolved into a fierce debate. Finally during a lull, he spoke saying, “what's all this rumpus about?” Everyone turned in his direction. Trying to explain themselves they said, “We're debating what's unique about Christianity.” “Oh, that's easy,” answered Lewis, “it's....

 

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