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Do this In Remembrance of Me — A Reflection

April 6, 2023

Just before the pandemic lockdown, Denise and I were able to visit San Francisco. The Balmy Street Murals were both powerful and beautiful. This photo is of one of the murals we saw.

Mural on Balmy Street in San Francisco—Women of the Resistance

Today is Maundy Thursday in the Christian liturgical calendar. On this day during Holy Week we remember the last Passover meal that Jesus shared with his disciples before his arrest, torture, and execution by the forces of the state. At that meal, Jesus washed the disciples feet according to the Gospel of John (John 13:1-17). The Teacher and Lord took the role of a Servant and modeled the sort of work Jesus had called his disciples to do. He even washed the feet of his betrayer, Judas Iscariot.

In churches and places of worship all over the world, feet will be washed and Jesus’ followers will break bread and share the cup as Jesus did with his disciples long ago. As a pastor and Air Force chaplain, I have served communion in many different settings around the world. Perhaps my most memorable experience was when I shared communion with a gathering of exhausted and dusty airmen in the desert north of Las Vegas, Nevada. They were in the middle of a training and selection course to earn the honor of going to the Army’s Ranger training. When I offered communion at the end of worship each one of them came up to receive. I didn’t know their faith background and before that moment we had been strangers who shared the common bond of service in the Air Force. The table was big enough for each of them to come forward to receive the bread and the cup.

In today’s society, separation and differences highlight how we interact with each other. There have been and continue to be squabbles over who is worthy to come to the table (news flash—none of us are) and receive the gift of love and grace which Jesus offers us. Instead of being an instrument of disunity, I firmly believe that the table should be a place of unity. My fellow blogger and faith leader John Pavlovitz talks about that table and the call to make it bigger in his book A Bigger Table: Building Messy, Authentic, and Hopeful Spiritual Community. Jesus reached out far beyond the boundaries of his own faith community with his message. The outcasts (in the eyes of the religious purists of his day) were the ones he spent time with. They received healing and hope that wasn’t offered by the religious purists. His ministry sought to unify all of God’s children. Yet it was the religious divisions created by the powers that be that murdered him.

Thomas Merton reflected on such a unity in his Asian Journals which he wrote during the last few months of his life. The deepest level of communication is not communication, but communion. It is wordless. It is beyond words. It is beyond speech. It is beyond concept. Not that we discover a new unity, but we discover an old unity. My dear brothers and sisters, we are already one. But we imagine we are not. And what we have to recover is our original unity. What we have to be, is what we are. (The Asian Journals of Thomas Merton)

My prayer is that as the followers of Christ gather around the table on Maundy Thursday, they might make room at the table for all of God’s children. In so doing, May our original unity be recovered.

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