This may come as a shock to some of you, but I have a lot of pastor friends from all denominations and no denominations, all ages, several genders, a wide variety. Sometimes we get to kidding around. We get snarky, even a little sarcastic. I know! You can hardly believe it.
So today is Maundy Thursday. This is the day when Jesus got together with his twelve best friends to celebrate Passover. According to Exodus, Passover is the first of the year and a great celebration of God delivering the Hebrews from slavery in the land of Egypt. Moses talked the Pharaoh into releasing the Hebrews after 9 really annoying plagues and 1 truly horrifying plague. In the 10th plague the Angel of Death came and took the first-born male of all humans and animals, BUT (and it’s a BIG but) the Angel passed over the homes of the Hebrews who had followed God instructions to paint their doorposts with blood. Get it? Pass over. It’s a great festival and a huge deal.
That’s what Jesus and his disciples were celebrating when they got together for the last time. That’s right: The Last Supper. It’s a powerful story of the bonds between these men and the knowledge that one of their own would betray Jesus and all the rest of them would scatter like roaches when he was arrested. Peter, who so vehemently proclaimed he would never desert Jesus, was told he would deny Jesus three times that very night before the sun came up. This kind of conversation does not make for a festive atmosphere. Jesus also shared the first communion at this supper and performed the scandalously debasing act of washing the disciples feet.
I washed feet tonight. I don’t mind it at all. But having my feet washed is another matter. I have to make myself sit down and let someone do it. I dreaded it all day (and it’s not the first time we have done this.) I knew it was coming all through the supper we had together. It’s very humbling. I could probably use more of that kind of thing.
The history of this season is based in death and obedience and delivery from slavery. It’s a very specific party with particular foods prepared particular ways and a dress code. It’s even supposed to be a buffet eaten standing up. All this to remember just how powerful God is and what he has done for us in the past.
For Christians it has become the institution of the sacrament of Communion, the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist (three names for the same sacrament.) By the way, the sacrament is the Lord’s Supper, not the last supper. I know, it’s confusing.
You see, there really is not a lot of room for humor on Maundy Thursday. There’s nothing very funny about Passover – it’s joyful, but not funny. There’s nothing very funny about that last supper either.
So what were we laughing about? We were laughing at how we (pastors) can take ourselves too seriously sometimes. Everything does not depend on us, and thank goodness because sometimes we are not in the most reverent frame of mind. Sometimes we are sick. Sometimes we are just exhausted. That eight days between Palm Sunday and Easter is usually jammed packed with extra events and worship services. We love it, but it takes a lot of energy and sometimes we just have to fake that (the energy), so we say things like “How can I make this service even more Maundalicious?” Right…
Those are all ministry secrets that I’ll probably get in trouble for spilling, but now you know. Pastor’s are human. Yes, we love God, but we don’t have more time, more energy, or less personal needs than you do. Sometimes we feel the burden of leadership. We want you to experience God and understand God’s faithfulness to us. So we put a lot of time and effort into these special, additional services during Holy Week. We shout “Hosanna!” and participate in parades, we celebrate that last night together when are really tense, we focus on the darkness that grows with each of Jesus’ last hours: the trial, the torture, the death. All this so Easter Sunday will mean something much deeper than baskets full of Peeps and Chocolate, although those are nice too. It’s a lot to take on, but it’s who we are.
Besides, who doesn’t like to finish off the last of the goat in one night while standing up and wearing sandals? That’s Maundalicious!
Today’s reading is Exodus 12: 1-8, 11-14. You shall paint your doorposts with blood and eat your dinner standing up.