MAUNDY THURSDAY 2020 – Remembered in dismemberment
May it be given to me to speak to you in the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. AMEN
Yesterday, our Jewish brothers and sisters began the great festival of Pesach, the Passover, recalling the dramatic events of the exodus from Egypt; an event like no other in their ancient history. A night, as the Orthodox Jewish liturgy expresses it, ‘different from all other nights’; a night reimagining, reliving and re-embodying the volta, the turning moment when everything they knew and had known, utterly changed. The night; the new now. “Everyone is experiencing the loss and the yearning when you see someone on a screen, but you can’t touch them; you can’t hug them; you can’t kiss them. There is a sadness… we’ll feel partially together; it’s better than nothing”, remarked Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner on this morning’s Today programme. Covid-19 has made ‘this night different from all other nights.’
We also find ourselves in a new now, ‘a new normal’, a way of seeing, of living, of being which is different from anything and everything the majority of us have hitherto known. COVID-19,the great plague of our age is silently and insidiously bearing upon us volte to whose consequences we are barely beginning to awaken. So truly, ‘this night is different from all other nights.’
Our world, and we, experience this 2020 Passover disfigured, discombobulated and disembodied. For we are authentically realising the whole meaning of what ‘dis’ means: poverty, badness, an etymology that doubtless cuts up rough and with which we are struggling and failing to live in these days. Our disses are really in our faces and it is bloody and hard; it is bloody hard. It certainly means looking ill and death in the face and, for so many, inhabiting them. Of course it frightens us. We may not know/we cannot tell…’ There is nothing we can do; we simply have to go on in being, being in ourselves, being in the wilderness of this naughty, fleeting world. The Judaeo-Christian tradition has trained us for volte over 2000 years; we of ‘dys’; of little faith. We are called – exalted – to a place named Gethsemane. And tonight, we follow and sit with our Lord there in his volta, as he sets his face to passion and death.
Everything is changed, yet all is as it ever was. Tonight is once and for all the night. The beginning of the end and the start of the unending new beginning, birthed and realised and relatable in the one greater than John and more than Moses, who is yet united to them all in his flesh and blood: Jesus, the coming King of the Jews and mediator of the better, costliest covenant. The one who is like we are: blood and flesh, churned guts and flailing body, through whom and with whom and in whom we will be remembered, re-embodied and loved into and beyond eternity: he into whose loving hands have been given all things. Tonight we are presented with the changeless, perpetual memory of his precious death until he comes again, physicalized in bread and wine, yet authenticated rather at the penumbra of our own pain and brokenness, through all the ways we are ‘dys’: dysfunctional, dyspraxic, disenfranchised, disrobed and girded with a towel to wash the blood, sweat and tears of our brothers and sisters. When we lay these offerings at the altar, we receive ourselves and taste the truth of the full, final sacrifice who renews flesh and faint spirit in the divine mystery of love, remembering–doxologising – all our apparent dismemberment once and for all.
‘This night is different form all other nights’, as we remember our unity with all those who have gone before us, those who go for us now in their vocation and ministry on the frontline of the Coronavirus crisis and those whose future we yet only glimpse as heaven comes down to earth to join all the saints in the easy, beautiful and holy dance of love.
Tonight especially, the Wisdom of God sets her memorial table for the ‘dissed’ who call out of any trouble, sorrow, sickness, need or adversity that we each may taste love’s meat. I think particularly of the keyworkers, consistently, endlessly serving us amidst all this, embodying the life of the kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. Tonight, your way does not belong to you. Moreover, see it given for you. “‘You must sit,” says love, “and taste my meat”’; love grant us all so to receive his grace that we may henceforward be remembered in God’s gift of Himself, and sit and eat.
God grant that I have spoken to you in his name, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. AMEN