Holy Thursday 2016

“Do this in remembrance of me,” and in remembrance of me, do this.

Tonight is about remembrance. Remembrance in the Scriptures is more than calling to mind or thinking about something in the past. Remembrance is being a part of something that happened before you came along. The Passover was a remembrance meal, a meal in which Israel not only remembered what God had done in freeing them from slavery in Egypt but also a participation in the Exodus. It was not simply the night when God freed our forefathers, it was a night when God freed us. We weren’t there, but in the Passover, the Exodus becomes ours and we become part of it.

We weren’t there on the night Jesus was betrayed, when He took the bread of the Passover and said, “This is my body,” and He took the cup after supper and said, “This is my blood.” We weren’t there at the table with Him and His apostles when He said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” But in doing this in remembrance of Him, He calls to mind and the remembrance of faith what He did for us, and in so doing, we become part of it. The Last Supper becomes the Lord’s Supper and we are at table with Him and with the whole Church.

Remembrance is not bound by time and place. Remembrance is not historic reenactment, living Civil War reenactments or Thursday night seder suppers, pretending to go back in time and relive the past, but it is a past event come to us as a present reality. Tonight IS the night on which our Lord was betrayed when He sat at table with His disciples. We don’t have to go to an upper room in Jerusalem, the upper room comes to us in this room. This is the upper room where the Lord reclines with His disciples and feeds them.

Remembrance is not about history; it’s about faith. It’s not about reproducing exactly what happened that first night, as if we could actually do such a thing. It’s about faith’s recalling and clinging to what the Lord did and does with this bread and with this cup. When Jesus says, “Do this in remembrance of me,” He does not mean, “Do this while you think fondly of me and what I did for you a long time ago.” This isn’t historic remembering, this is faith’s remembrance. Historic remembering is occupied with details. Where did they sit? Who sat next to whom? What did they eat? What did they sing and say? Faith’s remembrance is about “for me.” Faith takes things personally. Faith says, “All of this pertains to me and my salvation. It is for me.” When Jesus says “Do this in remembrance of me,” He means, “Do this so that you will remember me in faith and so trust that with my Body given to you as bread, you possess my Death, and with my Blood given to you as wine, you possess my Life. Do this so that you will remember Me as I am for you – your Lord who is your Savior who gave His life for you that you might live.”

“As often as you eat of this bread and drink of this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” The eating and the drinking is a proclamation and a remembrance of Jesus’ sacrificial death. The death happened once, nearly 2000 years ago, on a cross outside Jerusalem. The fruits of that death, Jesus’ body and blood, are given out both before and after. Notice that He gives His disciples His sacrificial body and blood before He actually makes the sacrifice! He shows that this gift is not bound by time and place. And He continues to give the same gifts of His body and blood afterward, in the congregation at Corinth and in every congregation with as few as two or three, wherever the faithful are gathered around His Word, there He is to give out the fruit of His once for all death.

“Do this in remembrance of me,” and in remembrance of me, do this.

This Holy Thursday is called Maundy Thursday from the Latin “mandatum” commandment. “A new commandment I give you: Love one another as I have loved you.” He gave them an example of what that love looks like. At the same table at which Jesus gave His body and His blood for them to eat and to drink, He washed their feet. These things go together, His Supper and His washing of feet. They are as faith and love: “faith toward Thee and fervent love toward one another.” With the sacrifice of His Body and Blood, He loved them. And with His washing of their feet, He showed them how to love each other. “Love one another as I have loved you.”

The Lord of all became the servant of all, taking on the least and lowliest of duties – washing feet. He didn’t give them a ritual to do once a year to “reenact” the event. He gave them an example and pattern to follow every day. Love as you have been loved by Him. He became your servant to be your Savior. Now you serve one another. No task is too low. No work is beneath your dignity. Do what needs to be done for those around you.

This isn’t something you stir up in yourself. Old Adam won’t do this. He’s too proud to tie a towel around his waist and take up dusty, dirty feet into his hands. He’d rather pay someone else to do it. Hire an unemployed slave, an immigrant worker, anyone. He doesn’t want to get his hands dirty much less deal with feet. Old Adam is far too proud to stoop down to the least, the lost, the lowly, the forsaken, the dirty, the smelly, the uncomfortable. Old Adam is the priest and the Levite who went to the far side of the road to avoid that man who fell among thieves bleeding in the ditch. Old Adam would never go near him. Old Adam would never become the Samaritan to that man.

He humbled Himself and became obedient to death to save you from your death. He became your Sin to be the Savior of sinners. His body and blood are yours, His gift to you. His death and life are yours, carrying you through your death to life eternal.

Do this in remembrance of Me, he says. Eat this bread. This is my body given for you. Drink this cup. This is my blood shed for you, the new covenant in my blood. This is my gift for you. Do this. Eat and drink it, so that you will remember Me even as I remember you.

And remember me, so do this. Wash the feet of your brother and sister. Help that man in need in the ditch. Give that hungry man something to eat. That thirsty child something to drink. Clothe the naked. Visit the imprisoned and sick and lonely. Don’t delegate it to others to do for you. You do it, remembering Me and what I have done for you. And as often as you do this to the least of these, you have done it to Me, Jesus says.

Do this in remembrance of Me. And in remembrance of Me, do this.

In the name of Jesus,