Thursday, April 21, 2011

It's Maundy Thursday - Feeling "Maundy" Yet?

"Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos"

Yeah, I didn't know what that meant either. It's Latin. I looked it up. It's the Latin translation of the Greek text in John 13:34. Basically, in English it says something like this:

"I give you a new command: Love each other as I have loved you."

John puts those words in the mouth of Jesus on the day before his crucifixion. So today, in Holy Week, we remember that Jesus said this. Today is the last supper. The passover. The advent of the eucharistic tradition.

It seems that the first word of the phrase in Latin, "mandatum," evolved through the centuries to "Maundy." Maundy Thursday. (There are other theories on how today got its name, but this seems to most common.)

So today, we reflect on the living Jesus who is yet to die. The one who shares his life - his very body and blood - with his followers. The one who is with us, eating with us, drinking with us, teaching us, loving us. The one who calls us to obey his central command: Love each other as I have loved you.

N.T. Wright, in his sermon God in Private and Public says this about today:

That rhythm of private and public is what we find, sharply and starkly, in the events of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Today, Jesus takes the disciples into a private room, and the door is shut. Nobody else knows what’s going on. But the words he says there in private, and still more the small but earth-shattering actions he performs, will turn within twenty-four hours into the most ghastly and shocking display of God in public: God shamed and mocked, God beaten up and humiliated, God stripped naked and hung up to die. You can’t get more public than crucifixion by the main west road out of Jerusalem. And, as in fact you can observe throughout Jesus’ ministry, you need that rhythm of private and public at every stage. The private without the public becomes gnosticism, escapism, a safe and narcissistic spirituality. But the public without the private becomes political posturing, meaningless gestures, catching the eye without engaging the heart. We need both; and the events through which we live today enable us to inhabit both, and be strengthened thereby for the ministries both private and public to which we are called.

And the events of Good Friday tells us something we urgently need to know about doing God in public. If it is the true God we are talking about – the God we see and know in Jesus Christ and him crucified – then we should expect that following him, speaking for him, and living out the life of his spirit, will sometimes make the crowds shout ‘Hosanna!’ and sometimes make them shout ‘Crucify!’ We are not in this business to court either popularity or martyrdom. When they come, like Kipling’s triumph and disaster, we should treat them, imposters as they are, just the same. Speaking and living for God in the public world will sometimes dovetail exactly with what the world inarticulately knows it wants and needs; sometimes it will cut straight across what everyone else is saying. But those who have sat at table with their Lord, and have known him in the strange privacy of the breaking of the bread, will not waver the next day when they need to stand as a sign of contradiction in the market place, in the council chamber, or in the courtroom. This is a lesson, my friends, we are going to have to learn more and more in the days to come. Work hard, you who stand up to be counted as the Lord’s publicly recognised servants, work hard at the private disciplines, so that you will know where to stand and how to stand when everyone else thinks you’re blaspheming against the secular gods of the day.

We will reflect on the crucifixion tomorrow at 7pm at The Vineyard if you want to join us.

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