"A Remembering and Re-membered People"
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Delivered By
Pr. David Fleener
Delivered On
April 18, 2019 at 7:00 PM
Central Passage
Exodus 12:1-14
Subject
Maundy Thursday
Description

Pr. David Fleener

Sermon: Maundy Thursday – April 18, 2019

Exodus 12:1-14; John 13:1-17, 31b-35

 

A Re-membered and Remembering People

 

            I remember Maureen.

 

            “Maureen” was a resident at Montgomery Place, a retirement home and nursing facility in Chicago, next to Lake Michigan. I did my first unit of Clinical Pastoral Education there. Maureen was a cheerful, talkative black lady who always welcomed my visits. She was a captivating storyteller. She came from a family of ministers, including her grandfather who had over ten children. She educated me about the racism that existed among African Americans, who tended to favor lighter skin color themselves (She called lighter-skinned black folks, “the high yellow society”, for how they looked down on darker-skinned black people like herself.). She talked about her religious experience. She was a pilgrim rather than a settled, conventional religious person. She had been part of traditional faiths like the Roman Catholic Church, was associated with more esoteric ones like the Rosicrucians, and had also identified as Rastafari.

 

            Maureen also had a mild cognitive impairment. So I got to hear many of these stories over and over again!

 

            As some of you know from your own families, people with cognitive impairments, such as Alzheimer’s, tend to “loop” a lot in their conversations. Their short-term memory may be gone, but their long-term memory lasts longer. They can often remember what happened thirty, forty, or fifty years ago in detail. And with careful reflection and prompting from their conversation partner, sometimes they can remember even more. They can remember who their classmates were, the lunch they packed for their husbands every morning, the bus stop they waited at to go to work. They can remember family vacations, the cabin they stayed at in the UP, or the time they drove to Alaska and flew back. They can remember their church, their favorite hymns, their favorite scriptures. Many folks with those impairments can remember some things.

 

            And in helping them remember, their conversation partner also helps them to re-member. In a small, temporary way, they help that person put the pieces of their lives back together.

 

            God, likewise, remembers and re-members us. God is constantly reminding his people in Scripture who they are, whose they are, and what they are to be and do in the world. As God prepares the final plague on the Egyptians – the one that will compel Pharaoh and the Egyptians to expel the Israelites, loaded with treasure – God instructs Moses and Aaron about the sacred meal for that night. They are to communally slaughter a year-old male lamb for each household. They are to spread the blood on the doorposts and lintels of their homes. They are to eat it roasted over the fire with bitter herbs and unleavened bread. And they are to eat it dressed for the journey – robe tied, staff in hand, sandals on feet. Moreover, this isn’t to be a one-time thing. Take note of God’s words at the end of our reading: “This day will be a day of remembering for you. You will observe it as a festival to the Lord. You will observe it in every generation as a regulation for all time.”[1] This meal will remind the Israelites – now and ever after – how God liberated them from slavery. How God freed them from the tyranny of a rival god, Pharaoh (remember that the Egyptians deified their kings). How God claimed them as his own to be a free and happy people. How God saved them.

 

            Of course, like us, the Israelites failed to remember what God had done for them at times. Hundreds of years later, King Josiah’s high priest Hilkiah discovered the scroll of the Law in the Temple. Shaken, Josiah commanded,

 

 “Celebrate a Passover to the Lord your God following what is instructed in this scroll containing the covenant.” 22 A Passover like this hadn’t been celebrated since the days when the judges judged Israel; neither had it been celebrated during all the days of the Israelite and Judean kings. 23 But in the eighteenth year of King Josiah’s rule, this Passover was celebrated to the Lord in Jerusalem.[2]

 

            People of God, isn’t this what happens to us? We go about our daily lives, forgetful of what God has done and continues to do for us. And then we hear and remember again. This goes back to the beginning of the church. At another meal, just before the Passover (according to John), Jesus commanded the disciples to love and serve each other, as Jesus loved and served them. Of course, the disciples would forget this only a few hours later, as all but one of them abandon him. But Jesus re-membered them, a despairing, dispirited group, after his resurrection, appearing to them to give them the Holy Spirit and remind them of their commission. He re-membered them at breakfast on the lakeshore. He re-membered them on the Day of Pentecost, when he sent the Holy Spirit on all the believers. He re-membered them throughout the New Testament through servants like Paul and Luke. Jesus re-membered his people and put them back together into a community of faith, over and over again, by helping them remember who they are and whose they are.

 

            Jesus still does this re-membering for us. When we have forgotten who we are in him, he calls us back to a sacred meal, concealed under very ordinary elements. A bit of flat bread. A little taste of wine. Both of which carry the Body and Blood of Christ to the deepest, most tender, most honest parts of us. The Body and Blood of Christ goes straight to our souls, which my own pastor defined as “the part of yourself that doesn’t want to pretend anymore.” In that place, Jesus puts us back together again, as a person and as a community. In that re-membering, Jesus reminds us that in his community, only one thing matters. And it isn’t race, gender, social status, sexual orientation, or personal history. It is our baptismal identity, rooted in him. And he also reminds us of who we are to be – a people called to love and serve others as he loves and serves us. Our Lord is a strange Lord indeed. He doesn’t rule by compulsion or fear, but by love. When we come apart, he is there to put back the pieces. When we break, he is there to make us whole again. If it seems like Jesus has forgotten you, your pain, and your situation, trust that he hasn’t. As he stooped to wash the disciples’ feet, he stoops to you now in words, bread, and wine. He remembers and will re-member you. Come to the table and remember that.

 

© 2019, David M. Fleener. Permission granted to copy and adapt original material herein for non-commercial purposes with appropriate credit given.

 

 

[1] Exod. 12:14, CEB.

[2] 2 Kings 23:21-23, CEB.