Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday reflection

. . . do this in remembrance of me

It’s Good Friday, April 10, 2009.

It’s my 67th Good Friday.

Behind me in the Horse Lake Mennonite Church last night (Maundy Thursday) sat a wonderful lady for whom this will be her 102nd Good Friday. Amazing. In a pew near the back of the little church, a baby would periodically complain loudly that although this was only his first or second Maundy Thursday, already he didn’t care for it much; he probably didn’t get the fact that only the grown-ups were allowed to eat the little bit of bread and drink the juice from those neat little cups.

He may still knit his brow over the mysteries of these symbolic observances when he’s 67 . . . or 102.

Jesus’ commandment to “do this as a memorial of me,” is probably a later addition to the Gospel account of the "Last Supper", likely influenced by Paul’s instructions to the Corinthian Church regarding the observance of the Christian version of the Passover meal, which he called “The Lord’s Supper.” (I Corinthians 11: 19 – 24, NEB) It’s probably thanks to Paul’s influence that we have come to adopt the rather-rigid forms of the Lord’s Supper meal, and have attached to it some of the mystical quality that would have the Catholic faith arrive at transubstantiation doctrine, for instance. I remember how I worried as a young adult that I was “drinking judgment on myself” at Communion because I was “drinking the wine unworthily.”

The way we often eat the tiny bread, facing the altar of the church but not each other, increases our consciousness that this is in some measure an individual act with mystical powers of personal regeneration . . . or of personal judgment.

Food and drink are number one and two on the list of blessings provided by creation. The lack or abundance of these things distinguishes the rich from the poor, the destitute from the comfortable. Gluttons think of little beyond food and drink, while—ironically—the starving also think of nothing else. It’s when I sit down with friends to the abundance of a table that I am moved in a way that the ritual of communion fails to move me, now in my 67th year of its various repetitions.

I wonder if Jesus was hoping that we would “remember him” whenever we eat and drink; I wonder if he wouldn’t be more pleased with us if we took time to acknowledge the blessings of creation every time we eat and drink. I wonder if he wouldn’t favour our remembering—whenever we eat and drink—that we are consuming gifts of creation, often at the expense of the hungry.

Jesus was a martyr for the poor, the ill, the downtrodden, the starving and the lost. He asked us to continue his struggle to emancipate them, to liberalize religion so it would embrace them instead of judging and enslaving them again.

And for this, ritualized religion justified killing him.

Whenever we eat or drink alone, we ought to remember that there is a great struggle going on, and acknowledge again that we have committed ourselves personally to Christ's side in that struggle. Whenever we eat together as a community of Christ’s followers, we should acknowledge that there is a near-cosmic battle going on, and remind ourselves that, as a group, we have committed ourselves to the side to which Christ has called us and to which we have said, “Yes!”

It's another way to look at Maundy Thursday's "Lord's Supper," Good Friday and the Easter resurrection symbolism.

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