Thursday, April 13, 2006

Easter II

5:00 pm ~

I don't, as a rule, go to Maundy Thursday services. Maybe a couple of times in my life. This year is different, for a variety of reasons, although I have to admit, I'm a bit hesitant to write about it. The peals of laughter elicited by my Ash Wednesday Service entry, when I wrote about the veritable feast provided at out church prior to the service, in genuine innocence of the fact that certain readers had been taught to lean in the direction of fasting rather than feasting prior to penetential moments, has been etched into my memory. Looks from the church calendar like there's another pre-service dinner tonight. OK, I'm not going there, either literally or figuratively.

Anyway, today I skimmed through the Borg & Crossan section on Thursday, which was helpful in terms of sorting out the varying accounts of the Last Supper strewn across the four gospels and in developing a theme of failed discipleship as emerging from the Gospel of Mark. It seems that this is the year for Mark in the lectionary, so it's helpful that Mark is the focus of that particular chapter in the book. However, the authors do skip back and forth among all the gospels, and remind us that Thursday night is packed with action, with events that have been retold so many times that it's a surprise to find that they all happened within a few hours of one another: the Last Supper, the washing of feet and the first communion, the night in Gethesmane, the sleeping disciples, the arrival of the Roman soldiers with Judas, the trumped-up inquisiton of Jesus, the betrayal by Peter.

The focus tonight across most of the western Christian world, however, is the Last Supper. Or the First Supper, depending upon how you want to look at it. I think I've written before about how I'm not a very sacramentally-oriented person, and communion is the one that has often been troubling to me. Body and blood? Do I want to eat someone's body and drink his blood, whether for real or in a symbolic way? I'm hardly the first person to raise questions about this particular ritual of Christianity, but I find that this year, as with other aspects of this faith I'm kneading into different shapes, my feelings have changed somewhat. I'm a good deal more focused on the brokenness of Christ, which means on the personhood of Christ.

Which brings make back to the question I started the day with, and a first stab at an answer. One of the things God does in the person of Christ that God can do in no other way is that God has dinner. I certainly intend no disrespect toward my Jewish friends when I say that Christ does, indeed, change some things, for people who find the Christian story credible and compelling. Insistently compelling, actually. In the Exodus story, God tells Moses how the Jews are to celebrate Pesach for millenia to come, but God doesn't join them. In the gospel story, God in the form of Jesus celebrates what is probably that same meal with his friends, as a companion, and promises to do so for the next millenia. The body and blood, the brokeness and spattering of them, make sense when we think of Christ as emphatically human. He has the same physical parts and vulnerabilities that we all do.

As far as the original event is concerned, it's kind of intriguing to wonder where I would have been. The DaVinci Code and Leonardo's ambiguous rendering of the disciple John notwithstanding, there don't seem to have been any women present at the Last Supper. That's not terribly surprising to me -- in the Jewish community, as in my own social community, men and women often do things separately. And it doesn't bother me as a feminist issue -- if we want to have a competition, well, we all know which gender group showed up at the tomb on Sunday morning. That's really not the point -- but it's an interesting question. It seems to mean that Jesus' women followers were not privy to the same information that he shared with the twelve disciples at the Last Supper. They would have learned what was going to happen later -- as it was happening.

I think I will try to fit in a quick re-reading of the Thursday night portion of the gospels, looking for women, before I head out tonight.


LightYears2Venus said...

Welcomed the series very much and had a myriad of reactions too numerous to discuss here. One thing--you voice some thoughts that I've been too timid to say out loud for so long. Communion is incredibly renewing to me, but "Body and Blood"? Thank you for sharing your "kneading" and changing feelings. Christ's humanity has been cropping up this season for me as well in readings and conversations at my Episcopal church, along with the women. I'll be coming back several times through the weekend (in between walking the Stations along my church's desert trail tomorrow,the Vigil Saturday,and Sunrise Easter) to reread the entries and reflect. Blessings!

Cynthia said...

Your comments about communion are so strong to me. With my Southern Baptist upbringing, there was always a lot of emphasis on the blood of Christ, and honestly, it rather squicked me out. Blood, particularly human blood, has always been such a taboo digestible, yet here we are, take, drink, and it moves me. (I always wondered why the broken flesh never got the same emphasis as the blood in my ol denomination.)

peripateticpolarbear said...

food for thought ( no pun intended)

Kathryn said...

There was an unnamed woman at the last supper who came in and anointed Jesus head and feet (if I remember properly) with oil. She was chided by one of the disciples because they said that the oil could've been sold and the money given to the poor.

I'm fairly certain of this part of the story but don't know which gospel.