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April 6, 2023 Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday

Exodus 12:1-4, 11-14

Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

John 13:1-17, 31-35

Tonight is a night of command and memory

We heard God’s command to the Israelites

to remember the Passover,

we heard Paul share with the Corinthians

what had been passed on to him,

the ritual of eating and drinking in remembrance of Jesus,

commanded by Jesus,

we heard Jesus command the disciples to love one another

as he had loved them

(a command which involves them remembering just how Jesus loved them).

Tonight is full of commands,

that’s where we get the Maundy part of Maundy Thursday,

Mandatum is Latin for commandment,

and part of the commands are to remember.

Now of course memory is a funny thing,

what our brains hold on to and what they forget,

that important task to accomplish in the next week,


that toy jingle from 30 years ago

you can sing it on command.

How we access our memories, is fickle,

sometimes we would dearly love to remember something

and though we try and try

we come up blank,

other times we catch even a whiff of a scent,

a perfume, a food, or something distinct,

and all of a sudden we are transported back to another time and place,

a taste, touch, or sound can do the same thing,

often when we least expect it,

which while inconvenient

gives us a clue for ways to help our memories,

to help us remember,

repetition helps (we heard that toy jingle so many times),

as well as connecting a memory with one or more of the physical senses.

And when we look closer,

we notice that God,

in the wisdom of the one who created us,

has included these memory aids as part of the commands.

The command to remember the Passover

comes as a command to observe a yearly festival.

God says ‘from now on your year will begin with this festival’

and you will set this day aside as a day to remember.

Every year the festival is repeated,

and during the festival the same meal is eaten,

this is what freedom tastes like

roasted lamb eaten with friends and neighbors.

This taste recalls the mighty acts of God

that led to the flight from Egypt,

the people moving hurriedly

even as Pharaoh changed his mind,

how God parted the sea and the people crossed on dry land

even as Pharaoh’s army foundered in the water.

Observe the festival,

tell the story,

taste the lamb,

Remember, this is what God has done for you.

And part of the point of remembering

is to apply the lessons of the past to the present and future,

God has done this before,

God will do it again,

and when God does it again

there is more to remember,

as the years go on layers of meaning get added to the celebration

each celebration in itself

contributing to the memory and meaning,

adapting over time.

It was at a Passover meal

Jesus was sharing with his disciples,

a night already full of remembering

that he took bread and broke it

and gave it them to eat saying,

this is my body given for you,

and again after supper he took the cup

and blessing it he gave it for all to drink saying

this is the new covenant in my blood, given for you,

do this in remembrance of me.

Do this often, remember and proclaim.

Memory adding to memory,

Something old becomes something new

as Jesus uses the festival of the Passover,

which the disciples have grown up with,

which they understand,

to help them understand and remember

what he is about to do for them,

the lamb, sacrificed,

whose blood meant protection,

who tastes of freedom,

that is Jesus now,

his body will be broken and blood spilled for the freedom of all.

Bread broken,

wine poured,

this is Jesus,

this is the taste of remembering,

do it as often as you gather

Jesus tells his disciples,

repeat it again and again.


John tells the story of Jesus’ last night

with his disciples a little differently

(notice how there are four gospels,

each slightly different,

a tribute to the variety of human memory

as well as the fact that differing memories

can all contain the same truth)

Jesus is at a meal with his disciples

the night before the Passover

(John does this to strengthen the connection

between Jesus and the Passover lamb,

Jesus is the lamb of God,

sacrificed to take away the sins of the world).

And at this last meal together

Jesus, always the teacher,

has one final lesson for the disciples,

a lesson he enacts,

as he takes the place of a servant

and washes the disciples’ feet

and then says them “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”

Then Jesus commands them to love one another as he has loved them,

love he has just demonstrated before them.


kneeling in service,

the touch of water,

all call to mind Jesus’ command,

and it’s not just for the sake of the disciples,

these actions will be how others know the love of Jesus,

the community that gathers in his name

is marked by the servant love they have for one another.

Remember that I love you,

remember by loving one another.

Do this in remembrance of me

“For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup,

you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

Just like with the Passover,

God’s command to remember

is not just about reliving the past,

but about looking toward the future,

the future where Jesus will return to fully heal the world,

a process he started

but has not yet completed,

these commands are meant to help us wait in the meantime,

the time where freedom seems elusive,

where Jesus may seem absent,

where people debate what exactly Jesus wants us to do.

Taste the lamb,

God freed the people before

God has promised to do it again,

eat the bread,

drink the cup,

Jesus is present,

feel the cool water on your fingers,

the ground digging into your knees

as you kneel at the feet of a neighbor in service,

remember the servant love shown to us,

that we show to others.

These are the memories that sustain us in the present

And carry us into the future.

As the word of the final stanza

of the hymn Great God, Your Love Has Called Us (ELW 358):


Great God, in Christ you set us free

Your life to live, your joy to share.

Give us your Spirit’s liberty

To turn from guilt and dull despair,

And offer all that faith can do

While love is making all things new. Amen

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