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Homilies from Nola Crewe
1st April 2007


Luke 22:14-23.56 or 23:1-49

14. When the hour came he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him.

15.  He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer;

16. for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”

17. Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves;

18. for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

19. Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.”

20. And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

21. But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. 

22. For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!”

23. Then they began to ask one another, which one of them it could be who would do this.
 

CHRIST’S LAST PASSOVER

To-day, as on each Palm Sunday, we took our faith openly to our streets:  we waved our palms, just as the people in long-ago Jerusalem tore the branches from the trees and waved them and threw them down to make soft the path that Christ’s colt was treading as they cried out their welcome. To-day we have sung out our praise in the words of King David as we rejoice in the day that the Lord has given us and we entered into this place of worship thanking Jesus for our salvation.

 But we Christians, particularly Anglicans, are rather shy about such open proclamations of our faith:  it does tend to be a once-a-year event . . .  once-a-year we venture forth from our church, feeling rather sheepish, a bit anxious that no one we know walks by and asks what we are about.  We parade to the corner, offer up a prayer, and then scuttle back to the safe confines of our church, singing the ever quickening King of Kings

And that is how we largely live our faith.  Comfortable in our own pew, surrounded by others who share that same faith.   And it is largely in these pews that we confine our faith.

But Christ gave us a special gift to strengthen us both within and beyond these walls.  A special gift that is His covenant, His promise to us of eternal life and salvation.

When Christ taught his followers, he was preparing them not for the safe and familiar but for the challenge of the unknown.  Just as He knew the journey he was making toward the cross, so too He knew the road ahead for those who would follow Him:  the pitfalls and the triumphs and the sacrifice. 

And to equip us for our lives as Christians, before Christ died, He gave us a daily reminder of all that we have been given. 

It happened at what has become known as the “Last Supper”.  Christ was gathered together with his family and friends and followers at a home in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover

Now the Passover is, and was, a celebration of God saving His people.  The Israelis had been slaves under the Egyptian pharaohs and God freed them and led them out of that land and into the promised land of milk and honey.  So Passover is a time of looking back at the greatness of God and his fidelity to his people.  

And the Passover dinner is a time when the old stories are retold by the most senior member of the family, so that all will remember and be grateful. 

At the dinner, a child asks the question “Why is this night different from all other nights . . . “ and the answer begins with an explanation of why special foods are eaten at that meal.

“We eat only MATZOH because our ancestors could not wait for their breads to rise when they were fleeing slavery in Egypt and so they took the breads out of their ovens while they were still flat, which was MATZOH”.

We eat only MORORS, the bitter herbs such as horseradish or Romaine lettuce, to remind us of the bitterness of slavery that our ancestors endured while in Egypt.

But we dip the MOROR in CHAROSES, which is a sweet mixture of nuts, raisins and apples, honey, wine and cinnamon, which symbolize how tears were replaced with gratefulness and how the burden of bitterness and suffering was sweetened to lessen its pain.

We dip the green vegetables in salt water to recall the tears we cried but the greens represent the hope and redemption of leaving Egypt

We eat a ROASTED EGG, as the egg is a symbol of life and the perpetuation of existence.

ZEROAH, the shankbone of the roasted lamb, symbolizes the paschal sacrificial offering that was offered first in the temple and after the sacrifice was enjoyed at the Passover Dinner.

And during the meal four glasses of wine are consumed to represent the four-fold promise of redemption:  taking the Jews out of Israel; rescuing them from slavery redeeming them with an outstretched arm and great judgments and taking them to Him for His people.

Finally, the elder explains why they are reclining at the Passover meal.  In ancient times, a person who reclined at a meal was a free person, free from slavery, and so reclining at the meal reminds one of the glory of freedom.

So now we know the menu and how the meal that Christ last shared was enjoyed. 

Today, most people think of the very famous Leonardo da Vinci painting of the Last Supper, when they think of that meal.  They see the 12 apostles and Christ, seated on one side of a long table. 

But da Vinci lived in the 15th century.  And the picture he painted was more that of a medieval banquet, rather than a 1st century Jewish Passover Seder.  And even though da Vinci’s picture has become the reality of the Last Supper for so many people:  it just isn’t the way it was. 

When Christ sat down to that supper, there wasn’t a table with chairs or benches about it.  He would have been reclining on the floor, everyone gathered in groups of 4 or 5 around large platters or low tables.  There would have been men and women and children all celebrating the holiday together.  And that is the picture we should be recalling when we CELEBRATE the sharing of this meal.

For Christians that particular Passover was made the most special in the gift that Christ gave us. 

As ever, Christ took the elements with which those about Him were familiar, to make His point. 

Just as at holiday dinners most of us ask God to bless the food and drink we are about to enjoy:  so it was with Christ.  He took the bread, the special Passover, unleavened, Matzos bread and told His followers that whenever they ate bread they should see in it His body which He was soon to sacrifice for them. 

And, just as we often make a toast to special people or events during a dinner party, so too did Christ when He lifted up His glass of the wine that they were all drinking and told them, whenever you’re drinking your wine in the future, remember me and the fact that my blood will be shed for you. 

He used the very ordinary, very everyday elements of life that men and women and children throughout the world and throughout the ages have enjoyed.  The bread and wine of dinnertime.  The food and drink that would ensure that Christ’s memory was shared in their homes, in their lives, in the everyday activities in which we all engage.

And He told them that these familiar items were to symbolize the New Covenant:  the Covenant between Christ and His people; the Covenant of His body and blood, given for us so that our sins would be forgiven.

Because Christ commanded that we remember Him in wine and bread, we have elevated it to the very formal ceremony of Holy Communion, the Eucharist . . . in which we acknowledge our great debt and honour His sacrifice. 

But Christ, the new sacrificial lamb of the Passover, wanted more than that.  He wanted to be in our lives beyond the walls of the churches.  He wanted to share our homes and our day-to-day activities.  He wanted His light to light our lives and His example lead us to love and care for others.  And in choosing bread and wine to be His memorial, He gave us the opportunity to remember Him in every meal we share.  And to go forth strengthened in both body and soul, to walk these streets with Christ everyday, meeting friends and strangers alike, knowing they too are God’s children, loved and beloved.

So let the lifting of each glass of wine recall to us our eternal debt to our Saviour and with morning toast, our luncheon sandwich, or the breaking of a roll at dinner, remind us that we all share in the feast of Christ’s life and rejoice in His gifts of life and salvation.

AMEN


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