St Andrew, Glencairn

Glencairn Methodist Church

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Holy Week and Easter 2016

I had intended to write his message over a week ago, but with one thing and another, the time available seemed to just slip away. Apologies for this. Still it is only a week since Maundy Thursday and that is where I want to start.

Everything that Jesus did during Holy Week was memorable and special. The last things that loved ones may say to us before they die are always memorable and special. And the words and actions of Jesus on the Thursday were extra special.

Jesus and his disciples had met to remember the Passover and the escape from Egypt, and to share the Passover meal. But during the meal Jesus gave extraordinary significance to the common foods of bread and wine - he said we were to think of these as his body and blood, the body about to be broken and the blood about to be spilt on the Cross the next day. As he broke the bread and gave each a piece, he said, in words reported by St Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, "This is my Body given for you, do this in remembrance of me." And as he shared the common wine cup with them he said, "This is my Blood of the new covenant poured out for you, drink this in remembrance of me." And so the Eucharist was born.

During the brief moments in the Holy Communion Service, or the Lord's Supper, or the Holy Mass, or whatever we call it, when Christians share the bread and wine, we are in union with one another, we are at peace with one another and with God, irrespective of our denomination or tradition, and not withstanding the different theological opinions we may have. This may only be for a few moments and distractions may interrupt our unity and peace even as we go back to our seats. Nevertheless we have those moments to savour and to rejoice over.

To truly remember some event means not just to recall the story of the event to mind, but to enter into that event spiritually so that the event of the past becomes for us - for those moments - a real event in which we are participating. Bread and wine nourish our physical bodies. But Jesus asks us to accept these tokens as his body and blood. In other words he asks us to accept that his "body and blood" - his whole being - is nourishing us spiritually so that we become more and more Christ-like, day by day.

And then, after supper, Jesus shows us what it means to be "Christ-like". He washed the feet of his disciples, a job usually done by slaves or servants. We Christians need to remember this as an example of how to live.

That was Thursday; then there was Friday; but all the time Sunday was coming!

In St Matthew's Gospel account of the Resurrection in chapter 28, when the women go to the tomb, they meet, not Jesus but an angel who gives them the Good News and tells them to instruct the rest of the disciples to go to Galilee where he will meet them. And there he gives his very last instruction to his chosen followers, "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit", and to teach these new disciples "to obey all the commands I have given you." And finally he reassures them that he will be with them always, even to the end of the age.

So there we are - that is the job-spec for Christians - to become more and more Christ-like by "remembering" how he saved us, then to serve others  and then to make new disciples.

Get to it boys and girls!

Footnote - I had said to the former Archdeacon of Belfast that I planned to "preaching on the Easter Rising" on the Sunday. And of course it was not the "Easter Rising" in Dublin in 1916, but THE "Easter Rising" in Jerusalem about the year 30AD. This message is based on sermons I gave on Maundy Thursday (ijn St Columba's) and on Easter Day (in St Andrew's)

Ken (31 March 2016)

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