Maundy Thursday: March 24, 2016
Preacher: The Rev. Leigh Mackintosh, Associate Rector of St. Michael’s Church
“I give you a new commandment, love one another just as I have loved you.” Easy enough to remember, but tough to put into practice.
In his book, The Living Reminder: Service and Prayer in Memory of Jesus Christ, Henri Nouwen explores ways of following Jesus command to love one another by remembering the love of Christ as we live out our daily lives with others. Tonight, I’d like to share with you a few of his ideas and reflections in the hopes that it will nurture your own practice of loving one another as God loves.
Nouwen says, “One of the mysteries of life is that memory can often bring us closer to each other than physical presence. Physical presence not only invites but also blocks intimate communication…[in fact] many of our disappointments and frustrations in life are related to the fact that seeing and touching each other does not always create the closeness we seek…closeness grows in the continuous interplay between presence and absence.”
“In memory we are less distracted by each other’s quirks and better able to see and understand one another’s core.”
“In memory, we are able to be in touch with each other’s spirit, with that reality in each other which enables an always deepening communication. While memory can distort, falsify, and cause selective perception, memory also clarifies, purifies, and brings into the foreground hidden gifts. When we remember each other with love, we share spiritual union with one another. At the same time, the loving memory always makes us desire to be in touch again.”
“Memory is the way in which our love for each other is purified, deepened and sustained.”
On the night he before he died, Jesus says to his disciples, “Where I am going, you cannot come. I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. By this love everyone will know that you are my disciples.” Here Jesus reveals to his closest friends that only in memory will real intimacy with him be possible, that only in memory will they embrace the full meaning of what they have witnessed and experienced. Love one another as I have loved you. Do this in remembrance of me—do this as you remember my love for you.
Nouwen reminds us that “the great mystery of the divine revelation is that God entered into intimacy with us not only by Christ’s coming, but also by his leaving. It is in Christ’s absence that our intimacy with him is so profound that we can say he dwells in us, call him our food and drink, and experience him as the center of our being. The memory of Jesus Christ is more than bringing to mind a memory of the past. It is a life-giving memory, one that sustains and nurtures us here and now and gives us a real sense of being rooted amidst the many crises of daily life.”
Whenever we do something in remembrance of Christ’s love, our presence and our absence remind others of the love Christ has for us.
One way we answer Jesus command to love and remember is through the Eucharist. “We eat bread, but not enough to take our hunger away; we drink wine, but not enough to take our thirst away; we read from a book, but not enough to take our ignorance away. Around these ‘poor signs’ we come together and celebrate. These simple signs that can’t satisfy our needs and desires speak to us first of God’s absence. Jesus has not yet returned; we are still waiting, hoping, expecting, and longing. And so, we gather around the table to remind each other of the promise we have received and to encourage each other to keep waiting for Jesus to return. But even as we affirm his absence we realize that he already is with us. The One we are waiting for is our food and drink and is more present to us than we can be to ourselves.”
Jesus teaches us to remember his love in all that we do—remember the love of Christ when we wash one another’s feet, when we sit at the table together, when we serve and pray together. By carrying these memories of Christ’s love and service with us throughout our daily lives, we become living reminders of Christ’s love for one another. Such memories of divine love will save us in the times of trial and carry us through our darkest moments.
On this night Jesus gives us a new commandment saying: “remember my love for you in all that you do; and in all that you do remember me.” Amen.