Wednesday, March 19, 2008

thoughts about maundy thursday

Sermon Maundy Thursday

March 20, 2008

Grace Episcopal Church

The Rev. Debra Warwick-Sabino

Tonight’s service begins the ancient and holy tradition called the Triduum. The services are seen as a continuation -  beginning tonight and ending late Saturday night at the Easter Vigil Service. The word Triduum “Three Days” . Tonight's service is Maundy Thursday - it’s the night we reflect on Christ’s new commandment to love one another. The name “Maundy” is derived from the Latin “mandatum” or commandment. This is Jesus last night with his disciples and as they sit at that table we now call the Last Supper, Jesus tells them  “I give you a new commandment, just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” This is also the night we celebrate the beginning of the sacrament of the Eucharist as we remember Jesus’ Last supper with his disciples.

All of the readings tonight are about meals, which got me thinking about how we gather to share meals ...  

Family meals, where all are seated around the same table, seem to be a rare event in so many families due to the work and after-school activities. So many families consider themselves lucky to have weekend meals together and, at that, maybe only one. During the week fast food restaurants are often the places for a quick supper with the kids. 

Think about what you bring with you when you come to the table-  all those experiences you’ve had during the day-  workday satisfactions and frustrations; school and playground achievements and failures; love and tensions between spouses and siblings; fatigue and high energies. Add to that being in a hurry so we can  clean up, do homework, sports, play rehearsal, or housework and then to bed for not-enough sleep.  

I  remember another time that seems too long time ago - when as a child I’d  spend summers at at my grandparents house.   We ate together every night and it was at those meals that I heard the stories of the family, past and present. The pet bear my grandfather had and would take on a walk on a leash around the neighborhood in a Detroit suburb, the plane that he saved for and built and that my Uncle Stan crashed it  ( I even learned some new words I brought home to share that summer!) - they never spoke again. At that table we became family, for we heard the same stories and ate the same food passed down from the "old country" - ok, England.

Even in a fast-food world, there are still have occasions for special meals. Easter, just a couple days away, may be such an occasion;  birthdays, anniversaries

At some of these meals there are connections with today's scriptural meals. These special meals become occasions to set a table, light candles, have favorite foods and reconnect  with others by the sharing of stories, past and present. Again the next generation hears the family stories, eats the family’s unique foods and so becomes more embedded and aware—"this is my family".

These celebrational meals help us appreciate today’s scriptural ones. The Exodus reading tells of the Passover meal. In some ways the first Passover meal had a lot in common with modern meals. It was an eat-and-run meal. Those eating are dressed and packed for travel. They must have brought different and deep emotions to the meal. They were worn out by their Egyptian slavery, yet they couldn’t acquire their own freedom by themselves. They must have been apprehensive; would God really be able to get them out? And once away from their slave masters, would they survive the long trek across the dessert? Suppose they perished in the desert or were caught by their pursuers? If they were caught, what punishment would they receive? Some at the meal would have had second thoughts about this venture and may have argued to stay put and live with "the devil we know." There would have also been those who were filled with excitement —God was coming to help them--- finally freedom! But this was not a once-only meal; the Jews are instructed to celebrate again;

The scripture ends with: This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.

Future generation s would eat this meal of lamb, unleavened bread and bitter herbs. The family story would be repeated. They would tell of past deliverance; but speak in the present tense, "Why is this night different from all others?" is one of the four questions that is asked by the youngest member of the family when Jews gather to recall the Passover meal -- I remember it well since my best friend was Jewish and we shared all our celebrations with each other.  I was younger and since I was family I had to learn the four questions in Hebrew - and although it has been many, many years since I have asked those questions as the youngest member of a family I still know them - 

Ma nishtanah halailah hazeh mikol haleilot?


What new slaveries, addictions, fears and dreams of liberation would succeeding generations bring to this table? If God could free their ancestors, trapped in a far-off slavery, then God could do it again and lead a new generation, step by step to freedom.

Paul reminds us of the new table story and meal being handed on to us. The story and meal are both past and present. We remember the life and death of the One who also provides this meal for us. What do we bring to this meal tonight?What modern slaveries tie us up or keep us imprisoned?  What is our personal "Egypt," our place of captivity?  We remember and are given courage; what God once did for us, God is doing again: helping us pass over from death to life; from despair to hope; from the darkness of our own making, to the new light that only God can provide.

When we gather for our "family" meal and tell the story of our new Passover in Jesus, John reminds us to make sure we tell the full story. In his account of the meal, with its Passover overtones, we hear who we are---- the story that links us to Jesus, it includes the washing of his disciples’ feet. The washing is a centerpiece of John’s narrative. There are Christian communities that use the towel, basin and pitcher of water as their symbols. Some churches have mosaics or paintings of these three items alone. No need to paint Jesus or his disciples into the scene, the symbols speak for themselves. 

At formal meals the lowest slave would have been given the job of washing feet. Instead, Jesus takes the role of slave and washes his disciples’ feet. Just when the disciples were getting comfortable at a special meal, Jesus does something that really throws them off balance! Any strivings or ambitions to move up the discipleship ladder they might have had have just been turned on their ear. The "successful disciple," Jesus tells them, is one ready to take up pitcher, basin and towel to wash and dry feet. A person could lose one’s dignity washing feet! Exactly and they might gain another form of dignity, they might become knows as companions of Jesus.

In a moment you will all be invited here to have your feet washed by- when it is time please come forward in two lines, take off just one sock and shoe, and sit down in one of the chairs while we do the foot-washing.  Let the story of the meal, the story of serving others, and the sharing of Christ’s body be part of your story. This is our family history.

Resources: Jude Siciliano, OP, Preacher’s Exchange web site

I read a poem called A Place Setting at the Lord’s Table by Gunilla Norris

As I lay the fork near the plate,
let me remember this is Your table, not mine.
As I set the water glasses down
and fold the napkins, let me be reminded
that every setting at this table
is Yours, not mine.

Each one who will partake of this meal
is a particular someone You love, a someone
You have made and whom You sustain.
In You nothing and no one is forgotten.
How vast and providential is the memory
with which You keep us all.

It is only we who forget You
and then one another.
It is we who starve each other
and exclude each other.
Give me new eyes.
When the glass is raised by my friend
let me see You drinking.
When the fork is lifted by my child,
let me recognize You eating.
You are the hidden joy which feeds
and keeps everything. You are the table,
the guest, the meal, and the commemoration.

Make in my person a place setting for You.
Remind me of my true nature
which is recalled only in You.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Friday Five

RevGal Friday ay Five reflections:

1. If you could travel to any historical time period, which would it be, and why?

I would like to be there when Warwick Castle was in full swing. My grandfather, Frederick Warwick, used to tell me were we related to royalty and he'd tell me about Warwick Castle. Three years ago there was a job opening for a young maiden to lead the jousting knights in at Warwick Castle. Of course I applied, but didn't even get a response. I wonder  1952 date of birth had anything to do with it?  

2. What futuristic/science fiction development would you most like to see?
Beam me up, Scotty.

3. Which do you enjoy more: remembering the past, or dreaming for the future?
I like to think about the possibilities the future holds.

4. What do you find most memorable about this year's Lent?
We just got news that my brother-in-law, 57 y.o., has only weeks - months to live. I feel like I got the wind knocked out of me as I adjust to the news.  He is trying to quickly put his affairs in order, and a  family friend
just offered him a burial plot close to where my father-in-law was buried last year. The readings for Holy Week have a visceral reality to them this year. I am walking in a fog of grief.

5. How will you spend your time during this upcoming Holy Week? What part do you look forward to most?
I will take one day of retreat. I have a vestry meeting on Monday night, Maundy Thursday service on Thursday at 7 pm, Good Friday service at noon and  the Easter Vigil at 8 pm. I look forward the most to lighting the fire in the courtyard from the light of Christ and processing into the (hopefully) dark church with the new light of the season.  

Sunday, March 9, 2008

keeping eyes of the heart open

It was just another day in a long series of rainy days. The clouds hung heavy in the sky. It had been raining for the season, which it does here in northern California. When I went to do an errand I decided not to grab my camera, which I always bring with me .. just in case. The sky was dark and nothing was going to happen to warrant any photo taking. Maria and I got in the car and drove through Davis on our way to Sacramento. And there it was - the most incredible, breath taking rainbow I have ever seen. The colors were brilliant - and several cars pulled off the side of the road just to look at it. There were two rainbows, but the birds - there were baby egrets, white as snow, doves, sparrows and crows or something - there were birds flying in and out of the rainbows as if they were dancing in it. The colors of the rainbow reflected off the wings of the white egrets - and it was the most amazing site I think I've ever seen. It ranks right u there with seeing the northern lights on a warm summer night in the upper peninsula of Michigan - sitting on top of a corn silo at 3 am. 

As I drove through Davis I happened to pull behind one of the cars at a red light that had also  pulled over to watch the rainbow. So, in a very uncharacteristic move, I rolled down my window and asked if they had happened to take a picture. They did, so I quickly  wrote down my e-mail address and got out of the car (the light had since turned green and I was stopping traffic) and gave them my e-mail. My daughter was thoroughly embarrassed - and hid in the back seat.

Here is the photo, it doesn't do the rainbow justice - but I learned my lesson - always be open to the possibility of wonder on even the most dreary day in the midst of a dreary and uneventful season.