Good Maundy Thursday morning to you, New Women. I don't know about you but I'm feeling pensive as we move toward the end of our earthly journey with Jesus. This is a rich time, and yet the sense of difficult things to come is heavy and hard. Fortunately, Jesus doesn't leave us to deal with it alone ...
This is the day the Passover is to be celebrated, and Jesus sends us to prepare the meal in the upper room of a house. Who the owners are or how it is that they readily allow us to use this room, we don't know and we've learned not to ask. It simply is as the Lord intends.
The meal looks wonderful. Lamb. Potato cakes. A nicely bitter salad. And of course bread and wine. Before we sit down at the table, though, Jesus insists on washing our feet, in much the same way the woman last night anointed him. Some of us feel a little funky about that.
"I should be washing YOUR feet, Lord," someone (you?) says.
Jesus smiles and shakes his head. "I'm doing this because you're my friends and I love you. And I'm also showing you how I want you to love each other -- in this way -- serving -- being willing even to wash each other's feet."
Wow. That's humbling.
When we do gather for our supper, Jesus is suddenly very somber. He looks sadly around the table and says, "One of my friends is going to hand me over to be arrested by the authorities tonight."
After a unanimous gasp we protest in various voices. Some angry. Some frightened. Some adamant to know who this traitor is so he or she can be stopped.
Jesus seems to understand how we feel. Doesn't he always? But he simply tilts his head and closes his eyes. When he opens them he says, "Let us get on with the supper."
It's hard to even eat, much less celebrate. When we've finished picking at our food -- or chowing down because that's what we do when we're stressed -- Jesus picks up a loaf of bread we haven't eaten yet.
He blesses it. And then he breaks it, with such intensity we know it means something. "Take. Eat," he says. "This is my body."
Some of us are stunned by that. Others try to figure out whether this is a symbol. Still others have an unearthly sense that the bread has somehow been transformed, not into flesh, but into some part of the spirit of Jesus.
Jesus doesn't explain further. He smiles on us as we pass the loaf around and serve each other hunks of the most delicious bread we've ever tasted.
Then Jesus takes a cup of wine. He holds it up and gives thanks to God for it, and then he says, "Drink from this, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins."
Again, we all have different reactions. Is this Jesus' actual blood? Is it a symbol? When we drink it, will we somehow have Jesus in us and be forgiven for all the secret things we've brought to this table?
Somehow we know that there will be time later to ponder the meaning of this. As the cup is passed from one of us to the other, we each take a sip or dip our bread in it. No one questions the fact that Jesus is serving us an alcoholic beverage when we are all under age (except Nancy and Crystal). This wine is different from all others, that we know.
"You are in me and I am in you," Jesus says. "We are in the Father and He is in us."
Yes. It's true. We know it's true and we are so filled with love for him and for God and for each other, it's as if we have been transformed into different people. Not by some magic attached to the bread and wine, but by the unimaginable love of Father and Son.
Which is why we're so disturbed when Jesus says abruptly, "We're going to the Mount of Olives."
Some of us think, "In the middle of the night?"
But we've learned to follow Jesus wherever he goes, and we're not going to stop now.
The place is silent, the sky black velvet dark. Although it's spring the night air is chilly and we all huddle around Jesus.
"I'll never leave you side," one of us says in a rush of love.
Everyone agrees. But Jesus looks at us with that knowing sadness in his eyes that has become so unsettling.
"You will all desert me," he says. "But when I'm raised up I will go to Galilee and meet you there."
Our entire circle erupts in denials.
"There's no way I will ever leave you no matter what happens!"
One of us is particularly vehement. She stands up and practically shouts, "I will NEVER desert you!"
The look on Jesus' face goes beyond sadness into deep grief. "Yes, you will," he says. "Before the rooster crows three times tomorrow morning at dawn, you will deny me three times."
Then before any of us can wrap our minds around that, Jesus stands up and says, "I have to go to Gethsemane. Please ... come pray with me."
Our emotions tumble like stones down a hill. Love. Fear. Anxiety. Anger. Confusion. We comment to each other in whispers as we follow Jesus to the dark garden. What would it take for us to deny we know him? For us to run away from him? Does knowing he is in us make a difference? Are we willing to serve each other down to the washing of each other's dirty feet?
For now, we follow him. But our hearts are heavy.