Exodus 12:1-4, (5-10), 11-14 / Psalm 116:1, 10-17 / 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 / John 13:1-17, 31b-35
The scriptures today give us these beautiful scenes of Jesus’s last moments with his disciples. These are special moments because Jesus loved his disciples. Like any good full circle moment, a meal is shared. In this we hear the familiar words from our Eucharistic prayers. “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me. This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
And then, as his last “hurrah”, Jesus gets up from the table, grabs a towel, pours water into a basin and begins to wash the disciples’ feet. Even the feet of the one who was to betray him. Before he leaves, he says one final thing, he tells them to love one another for “by this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Maundy Thursday is one of my favorite days in the church calendar. I cannot think of a more intimate and close ritual that we participate in to remind ourselves and each other that we are to love one another. Yet, here we are, more apart from one another than ever. This year we will not be washing each other’s feet and receiving Eucharist together.
This service ends with the stripping of the altar. Somehow that feels like the only thing I can truly resonate with now. Eucharist, the foot washing, the linens, crosses — gone. Stripped away. The sanctuary is empty, and we all know it is literally empty because we have not gathered there in several weeks. All that is left is a bare altar and the memory of Christ. Where is Christ now? Where is his presence?
Do this in remembrance of me.
Do you remember? Do you remember the first time you entered the doors of Holy Comforter? Do you remember a time you felt Christ’s pretense while receiving Eucharist? Have you felt the love of Christ through the love of a friend?
If Eucharist is a place where space and time come together, when we join with the great cloud of witness of those who have gone before us, than perhaps we are always celebrating it. Perhaps there is a place where we will always be together, sharing a meal and laughing together that can never be thwarted by this virus.
Of course, we may know where this classic story is going, but until then, it is okay to feel that emptiness. To wonder where Christ is. To be frustrated about how much this pandemic season has disrupted our rhythms and separated us from the people we love. To see nothing but a stripped altar.
Let our memory be a sacrament and the strength we draw upon to love our neighbor. This virus has not taken away our ability to love one another.
The incarnate Christ, made known by our love.