Thursday, April 9, 2009

Holy Thursday Service

Holy Thursday Service
around Candle-lit tables for "families" to gather

Scripture: John 15:9-17
Sermon: "The Family"

We gather this evening to remember the last night that Jesus spent with his Disciples. Gathered around a meal, they cele-brated Passover with unleavened bread, bitter herbs, wine, and lamb. Leonardo DiVinci’s Last Supper has given us an iconic image of that night. We picture the square table with Jesus in the middle, the feminine John leaning on Jesus, Peter looking intense, with them all sitting on chairs.

Though a masterpiece of art, it doesn’t have much historic resonance. Jesus and his followers would have been reclined on sofa like pillows on the floor around a small table just a few inches off the ground. Though John loved Jesus as a brother, he was also known as one of the “Sons of Thunder”…To me it sounds like Hell’s Angels or something and my guess is that a dude named a Son of Thunder doesn’t look too much like Mary Magdalene, despite the controversies of the Divinci Code!

No on that evening they celebrated the Jewish Passover, a fam-ily ritual of eating a meal and reading the story of the Exodus from Egypt. How God told the Hebrew slaves to kill an un-blemished, perfect lamb and paint the wood above their doors with its blood. They were to gather their family together, and they ate together and prepared for the journey that God was calling them to take. And later that night, the Angel of the Death came and took the sons of Egypt, thus forcing Pharaoh to let God’s people go. It is a story of deliverance…when the Angel of the Death passed over.

And Jews still to this day gather together as families, they eat supper together, they tell the story of God and Moses and the Hebrew slaves…how God humbled the man who would play at god, Pharaoh, and they celebrate God’s blessing of Salvation for their people.

Passover is a big deal, and part of why it has remained a stead-fast part of Jewish faith is that it is based entirely around the family. You eat the Passover with family. It’s a great honor, too, to be invited by a Jewish friend to Passover because it means you are being welcomed as family.

That night, when Jesus ate with his Disciples…It was All about family.

This was written to a website called and is part of a group of parents that discusses trying to find their adopted children. Here is an exerpt:

My search has taken me to many places, some I never want to visit again. There are times that my daughters and I think that perhaps my son just doesn't want to be found. So, here again I go feeling as if I may be dumping salt in an open wound.

From there she takes time to give some specifics about the date, birthplace and adoption agency - in hopes that someone will read it - and help her find her son. She goes on –

All I want is just to know he is fine, and happy. To let him know that he has 4 sisters and a brother, 3 brand new nieces. I may not be on this earth for much longer, I have a brain tumour. I realize that some adoptees don't want to contact their birth families. I don't even need to meet him. Although that would be a dream come true. We just want him to know that every day I think of him. I celebrate his birthday each year. People want to know how many kids I have, I answer 6… Perhaps this may reach him, maybe not, but I just have to keep searching.

It's easy to read the agony in this mother's voice. To know that somewhere in this world there is a son that was born to her, which she desperately wants to meet, and has been trying to contact, but has had no luck…

A man named Mark who lives in a very white city named Springfield MO has three girls of colour. He and Karen traveled to India several years ago to adopt their daughters from an or-phanage. You'd think that cultural divide and the unknown medical history of their girls would be their greatest burden. Not so. Mark and Karen are frequently asked, "are those kids YOURS? We also get a lot of people asking, even when we are out eating as a family, are they sisters? I know what they mean, but it's obvious they are sisters now." When Mark’s daughters were small a woman came up to him in the supermarket and said "you should be ashamed of yourself, having children by so many different mothers." He replied, "It's worse than you think, they all have different fathers, too" and walked off.

When Jesus told his Disciples to gather together and prepare the Passover feast, Jesus made a statement: You are my family. It’s something that Jesus pointed out during his ministry, too. Once, he went so far as to ignore his half-brother, and say, “Those that do what I command are my mother and my sisters and my brothers.” One of the amazing statements of the Bible is that God calls us His adopted children.

Along those lines, Tertullian once said that "Christians are made, not born." In the New Testament baptism is fundamen-tally an adoption by God. An adopted child does not chose her/his parents, they are chosen by their new parents. They are MADE children of the parents. Likewise God choses us…God makes us His! As William Willimon says, "faith is accepting that we are children of God.
You see Jesus instituted a new family. A family by blood. A family by The Blood! By his blood. You and I in faith are brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus invites us to feast as fam-ily.

Jesus’ command, his only new command, was this: “Love one another, as I have loved you.”

It is the voice of a dying parent, begging the siblings to get along after he is gone. It is the cry of every parent who sees their children fighting and hating each other. It is the very tears of God that today, the Church still fights amongst itself. Crying heresy here! Wrong theology there! Not good enough! Too liberal! Too conservative!

Here in the USofA, I see so many churches interested in com-peting with each other as they try to reshuffle the deck. Not realizing that of the 52 cards in the deck, 40 of them are still on the floor dying to be picked up.

If we are to take anything from this evening. If we are to be-lieve anything about Jesus’ desire for us, his followers, it is this: Love one another.

You and I…We’re family. Sure we may disagree from time to time, but we’re family. Jesus says to love one another. To be one. To have one faith, one baptism, one Spirit, one Lord.

Tonight let’s eat this supper in honor of Jesus, as brothers, sis-ters, family…Loving one another.

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