|Fifth Sunday after Easter, Year C||April 28, 2013||Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year C||Revelation 21:1-6, John 13:31-35|
|Fourth Sunday after Easter, Year C||April 21, 2013||Fourth Sunday in Easter, Year C||Acts 9:36-43, Psalm 23, Revelation 7:9-17, John 10:22-30|
|Third Sunday after Easter, Year C||April 14, 2013||Third Sunday of Easter, Year C||John 21: 1-19|
|Second Sunday after Easter, Year C||April 7, 2013||Second Sunday after Easter, Year C||Acts 5:27-32, Psalm 150, Revelation 1:4-8, Luke 24:13-35|
|Easter Sunday, March 31, 2013||March 31, 2013||Easter Day, Year C||Isaiah 65:17-25, Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24I Corinthians 15:19-26, Luke 24:1-12|
|Good Friday, March 29, 2013||March 29, 2013||Good Friday, Year C||John 18:1-19:42|
|➤Maundy Thursday, March 28, 2013||March 28, 2013||Maundy Thursday, Year C||Exodus 12:1-14, Psalm 116:1,10-17, I Corinthians 11:23-26, John 13:1-17, 31b-35|
|Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year C||March 17, 2013||Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year C||Isaiah 43:16-21, Psalm 126, Philippians 3:4b-14, John 12:1-8|
|Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year C||March 10, 2013||Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year C||Joshua 5:9-12, Luke 15: 1-3, 11b-32|
|Third Sunday in Lent, Year C||March 3, 2013||Third Sunday in Lent, Year C||Exodus 3:1-15, Luke 13:1-9|
|Second Sunday in Lent, Year C||February 24, 2013||Philippians 3:17-4:1||Sermon, Second Sunday in Lent, Year C|
|First Sunday in Lent, Year C||February 17, 2013||First Sunday in Lent, Year C||Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16, Luke 4:1-13|
|Ash Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013||February 13, 2013||Ash Wedneday||Isaiah 58:1-12, Psalm 103, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21|
|Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany||February 10, 2013||Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C||Luke 9:28-36, II Corinthians 3:12-4:2|
|Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany||February 3, 2013||Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C||Jeremiah 1:4-10, Psalm 71:1-6, I Corinthians 13:1-13, Luke 4:21-30|
Maundy Thursday, March 28, 2013
Sermon Date:March 28, 2013
Scripture: Exodus 12:1-14, Psalm 116:1,10-17, I Corinthians 11:23-26, John 13:1-17, 31b-35
Liturgy Calendar: Maundy Thursday, Year C
Death and sacrifice. These two words grab my brain, twist it around, wring it out and send shivers down my spine.
I’d rather think about something a little less somber than death and sacrifice.
And yet, death and sacrifice lurk in all of the scriptures that we’ve just heard read tonight, and delving into these passages has helped me to come to a richer understanding of sacrifice and life even in the midst of death. I hope this exploration will be helpful for you as well.
So for starters, let’s go back to Egypt. God plans to pass over the land of Egypt and to strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals.
Imagine the horror of that night! Exodus tells us that as death entered into each and every house in Egypt, Pharaoh, all his officials and all the Egyptians got up, and “there was a loud cry in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead.”
The Israelites, however, are spared from this most awful of plagues. Why is this?
According to God’s instructions, each family has taken a lamb, slaughtered it, and has marked their doorposts and lintels with the blood from this lamb. Then they have roasted and eaten the lamb, leaving nothing unfinished, because the next day, they will be leaving Egypt for a journey into the unknown.
By following God’s instructions and sacrificing the lambs whose blood will save them, these Israelites not only mark their lintels and doorposts, but they mark their covenant relationship with God, the God who will lead them out of death into new life. They have cast their lot and come into covenant with God who plans to lead them into the Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey.
Now briefly, I want to look at the Psalm for a minute. Down in Verse 15, we find the Psalmist offering God a sacrifice of thanksgiving.
A few weeks ago, several of us who have been “Feasting with Jesus” learned about the Todah feast which people shared after offering a sacrifice of thanksgiving in the temple.
Say I’ve nearly died from some dread disease. After months of recovery, I’m almost back to normal, and I’m so thankful that I want to offer a sacrifice to thank God for delivering me from almost certain death. This is when, if I were an Israelite, I’d offer a Todah sacrifice. The psalmist has been in such a difficult situation, although we don’t know the details—God has heard the voice of his supplication, God has freed the psalmist from his bonds—and so now the psalmist is offering the sacrifice of thanksgiving to God.
“I will offer you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call upon the name of the Lord.” Lord, I’m in a covenant relationship with you, and you have heard my cry, and I’m so thankful that you’ve restored my life that now I bring you a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.
Now we get to I Corinthians. Paul gives us his version of what we in the Episcopal Church call the Eucharist, and Eucharist comes from the Greek word that means “thanksgiving.”
Familiar words—in the midst of intrigue, betrayal, and his approaching death, we could say that Jesus is offering a sacrifice of thanksgiving—he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said “This is my body that is for you. “ And the cup—“This cup is the new covenant of my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
Every time we receive the bread and wine, we remember—we are in a covenant relationship with God, who loves us so much that God would live and die as one of us. That God would experience betrayal, death, and burial because God is in covenant with us! —even when we are at our worst and most rotten—is nothing short of a miracle.
And so when we come every Sunday to receive this bread broken for us, and this wine, poured out for us, we can’t help but celebrate—we pray, as the words of Rite I remind us—“that God will accept this our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving” because we are coming before God and thanking God . In spite of our unworthiness, God has gone to the grave and beyond to keep us and hold us and love us in and through this life giving covenant.
And so now we come to the gospel, and enter into a story loaded with death and sacrifice in the context of covenant.
The very first verse we heard tells us that Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world, and to do so, he would have to enter into death, not just any death, but a horribly torturous, public spectacle of a death full of suffering.
Jesus, in covenant with his disciples, wants to leave them with a reminder of how they are to be in covenant, not only with him, but with one another after he has left them—because they are the ones who will become, as Fred Craddock puts it, “not merely ‘nice people,’ but agents of God’s love for the world revealed in Christ.
Imagine now that Jesus is here with us. He gets up from the table, takes off his outer robe, and ties a towel around himself. Then he pours water into a basin and washes the disciples’ feet and wipes them with the towel that is tied around him.
(An aside—the stole that I wear is symbolic of this towel that Jesus tied around himself to use as he washed and then dried the disciples’ feet).
What Jesus wants the disciples to remember is that their sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, their covenant with God, is not just about receiving—but also about giving—giving in loving service to one another and to the world so that God’s love can be revealed through us.
Now I want to share a story with you that I think is a beautiful illustration of what it means to serve one another in life giving ways, even in, and especially in the face of death.
Van Cliburn is one of the most famous pianists of our time. He made history by being the first American to win the Tchaikovsky competition in Moscow in 1958. His style of playing the piano was effortless. Without any music in front of him, he played the mesmerizing and haunting melodies of the great Russian composers as if he had composed the music himself. The music just seemed to flow effortlessly out of his hands. His face while playing—full of concentration while at the same time transformed, caught up in reverie—to see him play, even on the scratchy old Soviet films from the ‘50’s, is to watch a genius at work. After winning this award, Van Cliburn returned home to New York and a ticker tape parade.
After Van Cliburn’s death in February of this year, Patricia Dan Rogers shared this story with The Washington Post.
Her parents knew Van Cliburn socially, and they were avid music lovers. When Van Cliburn learned that Patricia’s father was dying of cancer, he asked if they had a piano in their apartment, which they did not. He told them that if they’d rent a piano, he’d come and play for the dying man. He was going to be on the road for a few weeks, but when he got back to New York, he’d come and play.
And so, Patricia’s parents gave Van Cliburn their address and a key to their apartment, and they went out and rented a piano.
Patricia is still amazed that the enormous Steinway piano actually fit into their tiny 10th floor NYC apartment, but it did, and on the appointed night, Cliburn showed up after a formal concert, dressed in white tie and tails, and sat down at the piano. The audience, Patricia remembers, was made up of her father in his bed, her mother, and some of her star struck classmates who sat with her on the living room floor. As Van Cliburn played, the next door neighbor came bursting in to listen—she had been listening through the wall in her bedroom closet with a champagne glass to her ear. Patricia says that she didn’t know how any of them got through the next day with their feet on the ground, but they just did.
The story doesn’t stop here.
One night after midnight, when everyone had gone to bed, Cliburn, unannounced and unexpected, let himself into the apartment, sat down in the dark at the piano and played Rachmaninoff, accompanying himself by humming the orchestral parts. He stayed until sunrise, filling the apartment with music, and as the sun came up, he ended with Gershwin’s “Someone to Watch over Me” which he sang as well as played.
Patricia’s father, near death, never woke up to comment on this last concert, but Patricia says that “half a century, nearly a lifetime later, she still thinks it was one of the most perfect of exits imaginable.”
You see, Van Cliburn, this great pianist, was a servant, caring for and serving a dying man, bringing the gift he had to offer—the music that flowed out of his hands.
Hearing this story makes me think of Jesus being a servant, washing and drying the feet of his disciples, loving them to the end, and showing them how to love one another.
I have to tell you all that every Sunday, one of the most moving times for me in the service is when I come to each one of you and place the bread, broken for us, in your hands. I always look at your hands—each pair of hands unique, shaped by the work your hands have done over the years. Every week, I’m amazed all over again by your hands. I’ve come to love your hands, because your hands, whether you know it or not, tell me the story of how you’ve watched over people, how you’ve carried out God’s love in the world. Your hands tell me about the sacrifices you’ve made in your lives.
Today I went to Culpeper to a service with Bishop Shannon. In this service we priests renew our vows and remember that we are servants, and in this service, Bishop Shannon blesses the oil that we will use this year in our ministries.
So tonight, instead of washing one another’s feet, I’m going to wash your hands, and then I’m going to anoint your hands with this oil.
And then I’m going to bless your hands as a reminder that God watches over us and blesses us because God loves us. And God wants us to go out from here to love and serve others , not just with our hands and our feet, but with all we have to give, as sacrifices that do not lead to death, but to praise and thanksgiving and life giving service.
Resources: The Washington Post, March 1, 2013
The People’s New Testament Commentary, M. Eugene Boring and Fred B. Craddock, Westminster John Knox Press, 2004.