Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday 2009
John 13
Marian Free

In the name of God, who chose to share our brokenness and pain. Amen.

There is a short movie called “Coach Trip to Calvary”. It is the story of a tour led by a woman who has established a small tourist business in Israel. The passengers include a man in his twenties, a young woman and an older Russian woman who speaks no English. The bus driver is a Palestinian.

As you might expect, the coach trip covers significant sites from the gospel story. What is different is that as the tour leader tells the story, we watch as the passengers take on the roles of the characters. So the young woman becomes the woman who anoints Jesus’ feet and so on. It is quite disconcerting and also compelling. One minute the tour guide is telling a story and the next, the passengers ARE the story.

Perhaps the most confronting moment in the movie is the depiction of the “Last Supper”. Our tourists are sitting down to eat in an ordinary café when suddenly the Palestinian bus driver takes the bread from the table and violently rips it apart saying; “This is my body”. His voice is so full of anger, that we want to look away. This is not the Jesus we know.

In that instance one gets a new insight into the story, a sense of Jesus’ distress and perhaps frustration. Nothing less than his sacrifice will do, but that doesn’t mean that he is looking forward to the experience, or that he is at all resigned to the betrayal, abandonment, torture and pain that lie in front of him. In fact, he might wish it all to end another way.

We are reminded in this depiction of the Last Supper that the events we celebrate this weekend are not pretty. A member of Jesus’ inner circle sells him out. His closest friends fall asleep when he most needs their support. When the soldiers arrive they disappear into the night – leaving Jesus to face his tormenters alone and that is the more palatable part of the story. Alone and friendless, Jesus will be falsely accused, mocked and flogged. And when that is done he will be subjected to what has been described as the cruelest form of death.

We hear the words so often, that “This is my body” has lost the power to confront us, to challenge us. We have domesticated the brokenness of Jesus body into a sacrament that speaks of wholeness. We celebrate the institution of our central act of worship remembering a common meal not a night of trauma and despair.

“This is my body”  “This is my body” – tonight I will be torn from you and my life will be torn from me. My body which holds my life will be scourged and broken. From now on you will know me in my brokenness as well as in my strength. Remember not only what I have taught you, but also how costly that teaching was. Remember not only my triumphs but my moments of deepest despair. Remember me.”

Remember me, in the brokenness of the world, remember me in the brokenness of your lives, remember me in your aloneness – remember that I know and I am with you.

On this most solemn of nights, as we prepare for the most solemn of days, we remember the cost of our freedom, the presence of Christ in our suffering, and the presence of Christ in the sacrament which we share.

This is my body. Do this in remembrance of me.

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