Sermon; Maundy Thursday 2019
Tonight begins the Triduum – the great three days – that will culminate on Easter Day. But before we get there, we have to go through this. Before we get to resurrection, we have to go through death. Before we get to life, we have to acknowledge our part in condemning a man to die.
We gather tonight as friends and family. We shared a small meal. In a few minutes we will participate in the ceremony of foot washing where we both humbly submit to being served and where we also humbly submit to serving. This is a reciprocal act, so if you are washed you will also wash. And we hear the words of Christ to love each other as he has loved us.
I have always said that Maundy Thursday is the most difficult day on the Church calendar. I think that is primarily because we participate in this communal event, we humble ourselves in the sight of others, we hear the words of Christ to love each other, and then, when push comes to shove, we ask Jesus to leave our presence because he is too hard to deal with. And as a symbolic gesture of that, we remove everything that reminds us of him, leaving us on our own.
This day, this night, touches on our frail, failed humanity. This night touches on our inability to live consistently and constantly as disciples of Christ. This night reminds us that we are all too often focused on our selves rather than on others. And this night reminds us that we are too afraid to follow Christ completely – afraid of what others might think, afraid of how that will negatively impact us, afraid of those we might come into contact with on behalf of Christ.
Tonight we are on the precipice of betrayal, denial, and an unjust judgment. Tonight we ask Jesus to get out of our lives. Tonight he honors that request. And tonight we live with the consequences of that decision.
As we move through the rest of the liturgy tonight – the foot washing, final Communion, and stripping of the Altar – let us take time to reflect on our part, not only in this great drama but in how the events of the next few days represent the lives we live daily. Have we betrayed anyone? Have we asked someone to depart from our presence? Have we made an unjust judgment? Have we served another person selflessly? Have we been willing to be served?
The Triduum isn't simply a remembrance of something that happened once upon a time. The Triduum is the story of our lives. It is service. It is betrayal and denial. It is forced departures and death. And, hopefully, it is resurrection.
We are a resurrection people. But know that that implies we are also a people who live into and through death and pain. May God be with us all over these next few days and the rest of our lives as we try to figure out how to live as disciples of Christ on a daily basis.