Sermon – Holy Week during Corona Pandemic – Maundy Thursday, April 9, 2020

Karin Liebster, Associate Pastor
Exodus 12:1-4, 11-14
Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19
Matthew 26:17-30

Holy Week during Corona Pandemic

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

My dear sisters and brothers in Christ near and far,

we gather together tonight in the solemnity of Holy Week, following the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, not in real time as in the real events that took place, but enough in real time that we throw ourselves over the next three days into the drama of the shared meal, the betrayal and arrest, the anxious praying in Gethsemane, the trial, the crucifixion, the dying, and then the being raised from the dead.

The solemnity of these high holy three days at Christ the King Church always blends serious focus with the anticipation of the Easter Vigil and Easter morning, an anticipation that is almost jittery.

Like Pastor Duane did a few Sundays ago, let me state what a great loss it is that we cannot assemble this year for these Three Days. At the same time we are so deeply grateful for your fervent worshipful participation that you have shown during this time. Knowing your presence at your screens at home helps us as leaders. Your presence makes even these different Three Days holy and wholly communal. We are the Body of Christ in this moment, gathered under the promise of God’s abiding love and grace.

When Jesus assembles with his disciples for their last meal together before their beloved fellowship is ripped apart by his death, they share the Passover meal. It is the Feast of the Unleavened Bread, different from what will become the Seder meal developed after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.

Our Jewish brothers and sisters celebrate tonight the Second Day of Passover starting at sundown. Last night they celebrated the full Seder with the beloved telling of the Exodus prompted by questions, a meal including matzo, bitter herbs, eggs, the cups of wine, the empty chair for Elijah, and a whole lot more.

On the night of Jesus’ last supper with his disciples he blesses bread, breaks it and gives it to everyone, even Judas, every single one of the disciples. All are part of this redemptive table fellowship, the holy communion.
It gives me pause to think that while we know that the betrayer is Judas, the other eleven do not know. They all eat wondering, could it be them?

It is an anguished assembly of disciples now. And then Jesus blesses giving thanks and shares the blessed bread that sustains us for life, every single one receives the bread of life. No distinction made, no frowning look exchanged, no exclusion practiced. It is something for us to remember– the guilty ones, the judged ones are under God’s care and blessing. That is humanly hard to swallow for all of us who are “in the right.”

Jesus blesses a cup of wine and says, “… this is my blood of the covenant, poured out for the forgiveness of sins.”Now we know for sure what we already sensed – this meal is for redemption. Wine is the substance and image of the age to come. The aroma, the bouquet of this precious wine carries the fragrance of restoration. The fellowship, the communion that the disciples have with Jesus and is soon broken by his death will be restored in the age to come, in the heavenly banquet, in the feast to come.

Jesus leaves them/us a covenant that he institutes with his dying. It is a redemptive, restorative covenant, forgiving the sins of all who join in. Our Holy Communion is the foretaste of this feast to come, with the forgiveness of sins as real as the taste and fragrance of Christ’s presence in, with and under the bread and cup.

With the institution of this redemptive covenant Jesus takes us along on a new exodus. The earlier covenant that God made with God’s people through Moses’ prophetic leadership also was sealed with a banquet, this one on the Mount of Sinai. A mystical, wondrous meal of the 70 elders with God.

Promise, redemption, exodus: out of brokenness, slavery, – leaving behind destitute loneliness of our human condition; getting on the road, the exodus road through the desert; filled with hope, jittery anticipation, grasping the promise, catching the waft of good bread and delicious wine, so real we already taste it, we let it sink deep, transform our innermost core.

All together God’s people – of the Christian and the Jewish faith – follow God’s call to join the exodus toward liberation, redemption, restoration of all that was broken. We join through Jesus’ forgiveness of sins, his redemptive act of love and grace and mercy.

On this night, dear sisters and brothers, the celebration of the Holy Sacrament of the Last Supper is withheld from us. Yet we know that we will be one with the saints in one unbroken peace, soon, as soon as we can, one with the Lord’s saints in one unbounded love, and one in peace and love with the Holy Trinity.

Tonight therefore, in fervent anticipation and faith, let us say grace in our own homes over bread and a little bit of wine or a bunch of grapes. You will find prayers that we prepared for you at the end of the bulletin that you are reading along. They are also in the pdf document that we sent to your email and posted on our homepage.

When you are ready to have dinner, pray the bread prayer, then silently break bread and enjoy it. Take your time. Then pray over the grapes or wine, share and enjoy silently. And at the end when you are finished say, Thanks be to God. Amen.

Then enjoy your dinner of which the same bread, grapes and wine can be a part.

If you like you may pray the last prayer on the page when you have finished eating.

May this holy night be whole and holy, dear friends, fill you with rest and peace, assure you of God’s presence and promise, confirm you in the communion of saints we have in our separated ways this year, and allow your heart to crack open the door for the anticipation of joy in the day when we will all be one physical Holy Communion of Saints again and in the age to come. Amen.