Thursday, April 1, 2010

Maundy Thursday

Thoughts from last spring: Today is Maundy Thursday. I'd known that a possible reason for the word "Maundy" was the Latin "mandatum," or "commandment" to love, from John 13:34. But another reason may be the old English word "maund," which were baskets poor people carried to receive alms.

That reminded me of a verse that has always haunted me: "He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well. Is not this to know me? says the Lord" (Jer. 22:16). If we love God but begrudge care and justice for the needy, we not only fail in loving them, we fail in loving God and do not even know God! According to Jeremiah, though, the righteous King Josiah knew God.

Jeremiah 22:16 dovetails with Micah 6:6-8, and 1 John 4:20b, as well as Matthew 25:31-46 and James 2:14-17. Even the famous John 3:16 implies helpfulness to the needy, for if you believe in Christ as John 3:16 instructs, you respond to “the least of these” (Matt. 25:40).

Many churches will have communion services this evening. Years ago, I had an elderly friend who didn't take communion because he didn't feel worthy. I was a teenager and didn't know the meaning of 1 Corinthians 11:27--another passage that I wish Paul had expressed differently--and I don't know if anyone tried to explain the meaning of "unworthiness" to my friend.

Of course, the Eucharist is a sacramental means of grace for sinners. If you feel unworthy, then you're exactly the person Jesus wants to share the meal! The meaning of that whole passage (1 Cor. 11:17-34) is that the Corinthians tolerated divisions in their congregation and, at the meal, some ate and drank their fill and left nothing for the others, thus humiliating them. Not surprisingly, the persons left out at the meal were the less-well-off. Thus Paul scolded the church for missing the meaning of the experience.

When Paul talks about "discerning the body," his phrase has a double meaning: discerning the body of Christ in the Eucharist, but also discerning the body of Christ in the fellowship of Christians where, instead of insisting on our own way, we're sensitive to the needs and feelings of others.

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