03.28.13 Prayer Homily for Maundy Thursday
Why do I keep forgetting the testimony of the Passover, Almighty God? How after 400 years, 10 generations, you heard the cries of your people for deliverance. How you were patient with Pharaoh, performing miracles and sending signs, until finally in the tenth plague he relented. How you provided for the protection of your people through that tenth plague, the death of the firstborn, by the Passover lamb.
Instead, how often I am like the chief priests and the scribes during this Holy Week. They knew the stories, even better than I, but they feared the responsibility of living up to the law of love. They feared liberty. They feared the powerful Romans. What is worse, they feared the people, their people, your people, the very people who placed their hope in your deliverance because these were the people who listened to the message of Jesus.
How like Judas I have been, working behind the scenes to accomplish what I believe to be your will, conspiring with those who have political standing, even leaders in the church, to push my agenda. How unlike Jesus, who submitted to your will even at the expense of his own life. No, your enemy, the Satan from the Bible, has entered my motives and actions, just as he did into Judas, and I confess I have betrayed Christ by my coziness with those who rely on their own power instead of trusting you.
Yet none of this comes as a surprise to you. Just as Jesus knew there would be a man carrying a jar of water to meet Peter and John, just as that man had already furnished a large upper room for the celebration of the Passover, just as Peter and John found everything just as Jesus had told them, so none of this is a surprise to you.
How long have we stoned the prophets? How long have we oppressed the weak? How long have we exploited the powerless? How long have you suffered to watch your children at war with one another?
So how could you have been surprised when your beloved son, with whom you were well pleased, preached love and acceptance, forgiveness and generosity, self-sacrifice and care for others, especially the marginalized, was met with resistance from those who lived their lives in presumption, comfort, leisure, power, and darkness?
Of course his death was inevitable. What was happening to the Son of Man was occurring as it had been determined. Those who commit deeds of darkness cannot tolerate the light. When they cannot hide from it any longer, they must try to overcome it. And so they resolved to do away with the light of the world that you revealed in Jesus of Nazareth.
But Jesus hadn’t forgotten the Passover, and its message of your faithfulness, or your deliverance of the faithful. Perhaps this is why he so eagerly desired to eat the Passover with his disciples before he suffered, for he knew the suffering he was to endure under the sin of this world, and he wanted to be strengthened by the stories of your faithful deliverance.
Jesus of Nazareth, though I have been like the chief priests and the scribes, fearful of the Passover message, and though I have been like Judas, taking matters into my own hands, you trusted God through the darkest week of your life. You followed God’s will for your life with the confidence that God’s faithfulness would not waver, that God was still on the side of the oppressed, that God still redeems the lives of the righteous, that we do not suffer or die in vain, that in God’s kingdom good triumphs over evil.
Your faith, Jesus of Nazareth, was greater than Noah’s faith. It was greater than Abraham and Sarah’s faith. It was greater even than your mother Mary’s faith. Your faith was greater than Moses’ faith, though he led the people through the Passover.
And so it is your faith we also remember tonight, Jesus of Nazareth. For at your last supper you spoke not just of the old covenants—with Abraham and Sarah, with Noah, with Moses. You spoke of a new covenant, not made in the blood of goats, not made in the blood of bulls, but made in your own blood—a new covenant made in the blood of the Lamb of God.
You are the one, Jesus of Nazareth, who could reinterpret the Passover around your own life, reminding us of God’s faithfulness because you truly believed in it, but also redirecting our attention to your faithfulness. For it was your faithfulness that compelled you to love us, and to love us to the end. You served us your whole life long, right up to the very end of it.
And so you invite us to this table again tonight, even as you did your first disciples. Here at this table are James and John, the faithful brothers who left their family business to follow you. Here at this table are Joanna and Susanna, who gave of their wealth to support your ministry. But here at this table also are Judas and Peter, disciples you called friends, who betrayed you, denied you, ran from you, and committed violence in your name.
We are all here again, at this, your table, because you have invited us. We thank you for the invitation, Jesus, even though we are so often faithless. We gather at the table not just of a great prophet, not just of a great rabbi, not just of a faithful friend, but of the servant God exalted above every name. We gather here at this, the Lord’s table, to remember with you, Lord Jesus Christ, your faithfulness to God and to us, and God’s faithfulness to you and your message, and to receive by the power of the Holy Spirit, the grace we need to sustain us in bearing our own crosses, to follow you as Lord, because we praise you as Savior.
We thank you for this table, where you promised us you would not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes. We thank you for this table, where you promised that we would reign in that kingdom with you. We thank you for this table, where the kingdom of your Father is presented to us as an appetizer before a meal, not the full course, but part of the meal nonetheless, a foretaste of the certainty that is to be.
So tonight Lord Jesus Christ we stand by you in your trials. We pray you will stand by us in our trials. Strengthen us for the faithfulness to which you call us, which you modeled for us, by the strength you make available to us by the power of the Holy Spirit who raised you from the dead, and unites us to you in baptism and at this table. For it is in your name that we pray, Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.