A homily for Maundy Thursday
The practice of communion is at the center of our worship, today, every Sunday, even when we gather for prayers or just simple fellowship, the practice of communion shapes us, shapes our interactions, shapes our experience of our faith. The practice of communion is what brings me to this point here today, and it is what brings most of you to this exact point in time as well. It is a foundational piece of the practice of our faith. It is a foundational piece of our relationship with God. It is something that’s meaning rests deep in our souls. It speaks to us in ways that nothing else can or does. This is what makes communion such an important part of our faith, but it can also be a barrier when we attempt to move deeper into our faith.
Communion is such a foundational piece of our faith that it becomes a routine, a normal part of our everyday, but the practice of communion, the commemoration of that Last Supper, so intimately shared between Christ and the disciples, is anything but normal. Communion pushes us to come face-to-face with our humanity, our mortality, our brokenness, as we attempt to get a glimpse of the presence of God, here and now. And, that glimpse of God can, and perhaps often does, evade us. Coming to the altar rail, the worries of the day, the worries of the week (both before and upcoming), the general banality of our everyday mind wanderings, work against us in our attempt to experience God. It’s hard to see God, when everything else in your life is blocking your vision.
This is why remembering this Last Supper is so crucially important today. Today we mark the beginning of the Triduum, the Holiest cycle of days on our Christian calendar. Today we mark the beginning of the cycle of life, death, resurrection. We are reminded of this cycle throughout the year, but this week in particular we make a point of emphasizing the deep meaning behind each part of this cycle. We celebrate the life of Jesus, the teachings, the actions that have been left behind for us. We will soon mourn the death of Christ. And, in the end, we will sing with great praise as Jesus is resurrected. The Last Supper then stands as a gateway into this expression of our faith. Communion, acting as the representation of the Last Supper, reminds us of this cycle, reminds us that the story has been completed, and yet, is still happening.
My own experience of communion has formed and re-formed me throughout the years. Growing up, communion was an always part of my faith. But, I began to want to connect to something deeper in the act. A few years ago I read about an approach to communion that has stuck with me, and continues to influence how I approach this table of remembrance each week. This approach reminds me that communion is not about me. Communion is about proclaiming the Lord’s death until he comes. Communion is about the new commandment that you love one another, just as Christ has loved us. Communion is about living into the model of the disciples, showing that love of Christ for one another.
As I approach communion, remembering everything that I have read about the theology, everything I have experienced in practice, every random church I’ve stepped into and experienced the same welcome at the table, I remember to empty myself before the table. To empty myself of those thoughts that have been nagging me. To empty myself of the daydreams. To empty myself of the to-do lists I have been creating in my head during the sermon. To empty myself of my pain, my anxiety, my general angst. To fully empty myself, for what I am about to take in will fill me to overflowing. When I take the bread and wine, I try to approach this table as if it were my first time, filled with wonder, joy, and perhaps a bit of anxiety about the immense power that can be welcomed in, if I am willing to make room for it in my soul. When you do make room for it, when you clear out all of the junk, completely emptying yourself before the table, you are allowing God, you are allowing Jesus Christ to fill you. To fill you with love. To fill you with hope, faith, comfort. To fill you and give you the grounding upon which you can take this experience out into the world, ready and able to share it with all.
And this is the challenge we all share in. For as individual an experience that communion is in your soul, it is done amongst a community of believers. Together, as that community, as that group of people who so intimately and vulnerably bare their souls at the table of the Lord together each week, we can act as one in sharing the Good News of Christ, in sharing that deep faith that we fill ourselves with each and every week. Today we come to the altar to remember this, to remember Christ, to remember what Christ has done for us, preparing ourselves for this Holy Triduum, preparing ourselves to welcome Christ once more.