Friday, April 14, 2017

Maundy Thursday: Teaching the Faith

Welcome friends.
         Welcome to Holy Week.
         We step into this Church from a typical Thursday, maybe school or work or home-life, maybe you had dinner before you came here to celebrate Jesus’ last dinner,
we step out of these ordinary things into a different space
—into an extraordinary story.
         We enter into the story of Holy Week.
         A story we get to share with Leah and Logan today!

         Now, one of the things I love doing is passing on the faith—getting to tell the story of the faith in a complete and ongoing way to those for whom it is fairly new—I love teaching Confirmation and First Communion.

         And I’m not alone in this act of—passing on the faith—teaching the faith—scripture is thick with it.
         In the Exodus we read of Passover—the people are being taught to never forget their escape from Egypt and its implications for them even today. They are given a ritual—the Passover meal—which they repeat and re-live through that ritual.
         The Apostle Paul is faced with a congregation in Corinth who has forgotten the meaning of the Lord’s supper—in their community the rich feast and the poor brown-bag it.
Paul teaches them that when Christ is at table, there may be no division. He fixes the way they eat so that they remember Jesus rightly, the words he teaches them with we still repeat this very day.
         Jesus leaves his disciples teaching them one last thing—how to love one another. He repeats his command three times “love one another” (3x) and ritually enacts what he means by love by washing their feet.

         Just hearing these examples of passing on the faith you might have caught two techniques for teaching. Ritual and Review.

         Ritual—if you sit in the same seat for a test that you did during a lecture, you’ll likely remember more than if you sat in a different seat—it’s just how our brains work. Muscle memory becomes brain memory.
         Conveniently, today’s service is chock-full of ritual—individual absolution, foot washing, communion, and the stripping of the altar. In fact, I would venture a guess that all of you will remember those actions long after every word I speak today from this pulpit has evaporated into the air.
         As for review—repetition, repetition, repetition. That’s the key. And Logan and Leah have, at this point, heard from me about Holy Communion twice—so we’re going to make this sermon the third time and hope it sticks!
         And, for the rest of you-lot, it is worth remembering again what it is we do each week at table in remembrance of our Lord.

         Holy Communion involves Memory, Thanksgiving, a Physical Thing, and a Promise by Jesus.
         Memory—Every Sunday we remember the Apostle Paul, remembering Jesus, remembering the Passover meal, remembering the escape from Egypt. Each of these moves of memory re-member the meal, put it together differently, make it a fresh and new thing—a living meal every time we eat—it becomes part of who we are—you are what you eat.
         Giving Thanks—Communion is a thanksgiving meal, and as you’ll see in a few minutes, we take time here at St. Stephen to think through the things we’re thankful for as part of Holy Communion.
         A Physical Thing—one of the stories I tell the first communion students is of my first week of internship—someone broke into my mailbox with a crowbar, I was robbed by knife-point, and witnessed a shooting. After that week in which I experienced plenty of physical examples of hate and hurt, it was so good to receive that small yet profound example of God’s love—The Body of Christ, broken for you, the Blood of Christ, shed for you! Bread and Wine reminding me of God’s love.
         A Promise by Jesus—as Lutheran Christians we give a pretty simple explanation for how Jesus is truly present in bread and wine—he promised to be there, and when Jesus promises something, he delivers…
if  he says he’ll be at the train station at 3:21 to pick you up, he’ll be at the train station at 3:21 to pick you up—you can trust Jesus—so too, he promises to be in this meal—you can trust he’ll show up at Holy Communion.

         And Leah, Logan—please trust this to be true
—on this typical Thursday after school or spending some time at home,
in this, your ordinary life,
stepping into this, an ordinary church,
in doing the normal act of eating and drinking, a little wine and a thin wafer of bread
—in all of this you can trust that Jesus is show up for you today, bringing to you his promise of forgiveness, life, and salvation.