I like food. Lunch is one of my favorite meals. A shared lunch is even better. There is nothing like food and conversation. Dinner is good too but I don’t really like breakfast that much – starts way to early in the day.
One of the reasons I like stories of Jesus is that they often involve food, a meal and conversation among friends. Cool. If I was alive back then, I’d hang out with Jesus over lunch. Bet he knew the best places to go and he hung out with some cool folks.
Tonight my church will be holding its traditional Maundy Thursday service. It is a time to hear the old story, the one we tell and retell every year about the last supper and the betrayal of Jesus to the authorities. Our service will include elements from all the Gospels, a bit of story telling by the pastor, a sharing of communion, and a hand washing ceremony.
I’ve done these for years in different places and in different ways but each time I remember Jesus choose this path on purpose. He could have done a million other things – from running away to leading an armed rebellion. But he did neither of those things. Instead he led by example and did what he wants to his followers to do: teach, feed the people and serve one another. He chose a path of non-violence. I try my best to remember his lesson and follow his example.
In the gospels Jesus washed the feet of his disciples as a symbol of how to serve. Just a note (foot note?), foot washing was important then since you walked everywhere in sandals on dirt – there weren’t walk thru foot washing places. In Jesus’s foot washing the master becomes the servant, the first becomes last. Our local church has translated foot washing to hand washing since it is hard for some of our older members to get down on hands and knees to wash feet so we keep it on the table top but still manage to get water everywhere.
One of strange things I noticed among our congregation is the willingness to serve but the reluctance to be served. Tell our bunch – go wash their hands and off they go, water and towels flying everywhere with no hand left unwashed. But tell them, you sit there and let them wash your hands and oh my do they stiffen up – can you spell uncomfortable? I leave the meaning of that up to you.
The other important activity for tonight is the sharing of the bread and wine, communion, the last supper, the holy meal …
Meals were very important in Jesus’s day. They held a symbolic meaning that we have lost. In the stories of Jesus there are two important meals, the feeding of the five thousand and the last supper. Borg and Crossan assert that the last supper is an echo of the larger mean when the five thousand were feed. The meal was about community, just distribution, serving and loving one another…
Well, I’ll not dive into a long windy academic explanation but will say this: For me the importance of the meal is the connection – the connection with people, a story, a feeling – and about receiving strength. Food strengthens the body giving me the physical energy to continue, while being in community with others strengthens my soul and give my heart the courage to move another step.