Friday, April 18, 2014

Maundy Thursday Homily

We've all been in cars with our families, going on a long road trip, when one of the wee voices from the back seat asks that most dreaded of all questions: “Are we there yet?” No matter what we tell our kids, nieces and nephews, or grandkids, we all know that from that moment on till we reach our destination, the question will be asked more than several times. By the end of the journey, we will be both weary and extremely thankful that everything is over.

Some pastors and priests experience the same kind of weariness and frustration throughout the season of Lent and during Holy Week. That might sound odd to some people, for after all, isn’t Easter the highlight of the whole Christian year? Of course it is, but just like parents who take their kids on a long journey, clergy feel the weight and burden of ministry at its most intense, heaviest, and exhausting at this time of year.

The pressure to make everything meaningful is highly demanding; the expectations of congregations to make Easter a great knockout event are very high; and the standards that we think God expects of us as clergy are unrelenting. Lent, Palm Sunday, Holy Week, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter are all main events and high church experiences. The temptation to make everything perfect and powerful is intense. The enticement to make everyone happy and strongly connected to God is immense.

But this week is not about the pastor, the preaching, the programs or projects that we use to celebrate Easter. It’s all about Jesus and what he has done for us. Our good and godly works keep us occupied and busy in church throughout this time, but no matter what we set out to do or accomplish, it’s still all about Jesus. We may journey together as pilgrims from Lent to Easter, but the destination is not bringing our community of family and friends together. Jesus is the destination; He is the terminus of all that we do; He is the stopping point of all that we complete; He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and end of this whole journey.

When Jesus gathered His disciples together in the Upper Room, they may have thought that their journey with Him was over and that they had reached their final destination. His three year ministry had been a success in their eyes and now Christ’s work would be recognized at a higher level. They all bought into the belief that Jerusalem was the end of the journey and the beginning of something bigger and better. What they did not understand was that Jesus Himself was the Final destination – Jerusalem and even the Temple itself at the heart of the city were just places along the route, were just stopping points along the Way.

Jesus tried to show them this by initiating a new ceremony which we call Communion.
Instead of saying the traditional:
Hamotzi (Blessing over bread)
Blessed are You, O Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.
Baruch atah Adonai eloheinu melech ha-alom ha-motzi lechem min ha-aretz.
Or the Kiddush (Blessing over wine)
Blessed are You, O Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, creator of the fruit of the vine.
Baruch atah Adonai eloheinu melech ha-alom bor-ay peri ha-gafen.

Instead of saying these blessings, Jesus expressed a new and radical idea: He was the Bread of life, given by God, to the Earth, to be broken on the Cross for our sins. He was the True Vine, created and planted by God, whose lifeblood was shed for the cleansing of our souls. The end of all things was placed upon Jesus; the beginning of new things emerged from His sacrifice, death, and resurrection.

So the questions for this evening, which each one of us has to ask of ourselves is this: Are We There Yet? Are we at one with Jesus? Have we reached our final destination in Him?

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