“Try to Remember” Maundy Thursday Meditation

“Try to Remember”
Maundy Thursday Meditation
April 9, 2020
Rev. Deborah Dail
Denbigh United Presbyterian Church

Exodus 12:1-4, 11-14

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it.

This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the Passover of the Lord. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.

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.

John 13: 1-35

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table,[a] took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But it is to fulfill the scripture, ‘The one who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ I tell you this now, before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am he. Very truly, I tell you, whoever receives one whom I send receives me; and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.”

After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.” The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. One of his disciples—the one whom Jesus loved—was reclining next to him; Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.” Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the festival”; or, that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.

When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Meditation

After the September 11th attacks, I read that theatergoers in New York City who were attending the musical The Fantastiks would start weeping when the actor sang the song “Try to Remember.”

The song says: “Try to remember the kind of September when life was slow and oh so mellow . . . Try to remember the kind of September when life was so tender that no one wept except the willow.” (by Jerry Orbach)

Oh, how they longed for that kind of September after 9/11.

This Holy Week, many of us have been brought to tears or at least to a place of sadness when we “try to remember,” and do remember, the kind of Holy Week services we’ve had in the past, especially on Maundy Thursday.

Esta Jarrett, a woman who was raised in this church and is now a Presbyterian minister serving a church in North Carolina, wrote a reflection on missing the Maundy Thursday services as they used to be conducted here as well as her own church’s services. It is not the same this year.

Many of us feel sad that this year we are not together to worship and remember because of COVID-10 and the stay-at-home orders for our safety and wellbeing and that of others. Oh, how we long for the way our former Holy Weeks were – for that kind of Holy Week. Try to remember. . .

Of course, the remembering we “try to do” on Maundy Thursday is already sad and painful. We try to remember and relive what was “the beginning of the end for Jesus” – the night he was betrayed into the hands of those who would crucify him. Remembering can be hard, but it is important to remember.

When Jesus gathered in the Upper Room with his disciples on that Thursday, they were also remembering. It was the Passover, and they were gathered for a seder meal. In this meal, Jesus and his disciples tried to remember the former enslavement in Egypt of their Jewish ancestors. They ate symbolic foods to help them remember. They likely ate bitter herbs to remember the bitterness and hardship of long years of slavery. They dipped vegetables in salt water to remember the tears the slaves shed. They ate a sweet and sour mixture of fruit and nuts to remember the bricks the slaves were forced to make. They ate unleavened bread to remember their ancestors’ terrifying and exciting escape from Egypt when there was no time for bread to rise. There would be drops of wine for the 10 plagues that came upon the land as Moses tried to gain the release of the captive slaves from the Pharaoh. And there would have been a lamb bone to remember the unblemished lambs which were sacrificed and whose blood was painted on the doorposts and lintels of the Hebrew doors so the Angel of Death would pass over them during the 10th plague. An egg and greens were also there to remind them of new life. In this meal, the disciples tried to remember the bad and the good. They tried to remember God’s deliverance of the Hebrews from the bondage of slavery to the Promised Land of freedom.

It was at this meal that Jesus took the unleavened bread – the bread of deliverance – and said: “This is my body broken for you. Eat of this, all of you. Do this in remembrance of me.” It was at this meal that Jesus took a cup of wine and said: “This cup is the new covenant sealed in my blood for the forgiveness of sins. Drink of this, all of you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

As the blood of lambs ensured death would pass over the Hebrews of old, Jesus’ blood soon to be shed on a cross would ensure that death will pass over us.

Remembering can be painful, but it is important to remember. Jesus’ crucifixion would deliver humanity from slavery – from the bondage to sin and death – to the promised land of freedom in Christ. Jesus’ broken body and shed blood would deliver us from death to life.

Tonight, it is OK to remember and long for our former Holy Week services, especially the Maundy Thursday services. But, far more important tonight is our remembering of Jesus –

  • The One who gathered his disciples to celebrate Passover and God’s deliverance,
  • The One who, in celebrating the first “Lord’s Supper,” revealed that his body would be broken, and his blood would be poured out to deliver them, us, and humanity from death and bondage,
  • The One who washed his disciples’ feet and gave them and us a New Commandment to “love one another.”

Tonight and always, let us “try to remember” these things. Remembering can be painful, but it’s important to remember.