Maundy Thursday 2022
I know the words.
I have heard them for most of my life.
And, even said them as I stood before a congregation
Holding the bread and the cup of the Eucharist.
The Last Supper.
Words attributed to Jesus.
My body broken for you.
My blood shed for you.
But to tell you the truth, for a long time now I have been uncomfortable with the words I used so often and know so well because they are words of a sacrificial theology. Jesus giving his life so we might be forgiven. I know the background and history of that language and can take a reasonable guess about why those words and that theology occupy such a powerful position in Christian theology and practice. Afterall, if sacrifice and forgiveness is the primary way of understanding Jesus, who is it that mediates that sacrifice and forgiveness now? Even if it once did, the theology of a required sacrifice no longer fits with my understanding of God or with the words and witness of Jesus.
I wrote about one piece of a different way to think about and to understand what Jesus might have been saying and meaning here. A second piece fell into place several weeks ago when I participated in a study event with scholar and author Diana Butler Bass. The comment she made which caught my attention was this. What if the pivotal moment of Holy Week was the meal and not the cross. Maundy Thursday and not Good Friday. The gathered community and not the crucifixion.
I don’t know what was in Jesus’ heart and mind that evening.
Was he fulfilling his pre-ordained role as a sacrifice to placate an angry God?
I don’t think so.
Did he know he might be arrested and crucified?
Just as those African-American students who sat at Whites Only lunch counters and those who marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge knew they might be arrested or beaten or killed.
So, if not sacrifice, what?
Maybe it was the First Supper and not the last.
The first supper of the new community.
The first supper when it was not Rabbi and students.
When it was not leader and followers.
When it was not Jesus and them.
The first supper when that which made Jesus Jesus was now passed on to and claimed by the disciples and a new community was formed.
As the Gospels unfold the story, it takes a while for the disciple to really get it.
But eventually they do.
And, maybe we can as well.