Three Questions

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Sermon for Maundy Thursday 2019

Readings:

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi of the United Kingdom, has said in interviews that there are three big questions that any reflective person must ask themselves at some time:

 

Who I am?

Why am I here?

How, then, shall I live?

 

Science and technology don’t do a very good job of answering those questions. They are questions of faith and philosophy.

 

Who am I?

Why am I here?

How, then, shall I live?

 

These are the big questions. They are so big that many people may be afraid to ask them, perhaps for fear that they won’t find any answers. But we ignore these questions at our peril, because they are the foundation of who we are, not just as a community, but also as individuals. Our very identity is tied to those questions. Our sense of meaning, and purpose and direction are tied to those questions. Our values are tied to those questions. Our mental health, our stability, our culture…they are all tied to those questions.

 

Who am I?

Why am I here?

How, then, shall I live?

 

Those are the questions that religion attempts to answer. Religion is no hobby my friends, because if we as a society stop trying to answer those questions, we are in deep trouble. If we stopping teaching our children to ask those questions and if we stop providing them with answers to those questions, what will their lives be? What will they see, or who will they see, when they look in the mirror?

 

The church is always answering one or more of those questions in different ways, but tonight, Maundy Thursday, on this very special night of the year, we answer all three.

 

Who am I?

 

Well we are all individually many things, but together we are disciples of Jesus Christ. We are people that gather at his table, not just tonight, but week after week and what we receive is not just a piece of bread and a sip of wine, but his body and his blood. His life, that is what flows in our veins. They say you are what you eat, well this is who we are. We are individuals that have been invited, by God, to share in his life. Whoever I am as an individual, whatever my story is, as someone baptized into the life of Christ and who is called to the Lord’s table, my life is forever linked to his life; my story is linked to his story.

 

Why am I here?

 

We are here because we have been saved by God. Not just us but our ancestors before us. Our Lord’s last supper was a celebration of freedom from slavery. That is what the Passover meal is. And part of the tradition of Passover is making sure that the children there know what the whole night is all about. The ritual of Passover teaches the children the answers to those fundamental questions: who am I? Why am I here? How shall I live? Jesus was celebrating the fact that he belonged to a people that worshipped a saving God. He, and all of his people, were in the promised land and could worship at the temple in Jerusalem, because God had saved them. As Christians we are here because we have witnessed God’s saving power as well. God has saved us, Christ has saved us…why? Because he loves us.

 

How, then, shall I live?

 

Jesus makes that very clear for us tonight in his words and in his example. The God and creator of the universe didn’t think that it was too low a thing to stoop down and wash our feet. If he can do that, how can we, poor humans, think that any sort of service to our brothers and sisters is beneath us? How shall I live? Well, how did he live? He observed traditions. He worshipped. He prayed. He celebrated. He cried. He served others. He loved.

 

A wonderful life to emulate, but of course we know the story doesn’t end there, because he also suffered and died, and then three days later…rose again. You already knew that, I didn’t just give anything away. How then shall I live? As someone who already knows that his story doesn’t end in death. Make no mistake, like Jesus, death will be a part of our stories, but it won’t be the end of our stories. How shall I live? As someone that values love, more than his own life.

 

Who am I?

Why am I here?

How shall I live?

 

Our faith seeks to answer those questions all the time, but on tonight of all nights we are given some pretty clear answers. We must not neglect to share those answers with our children.

 

Who am I?

 

I am an individual loved by God. I am a part of a community, a family of people, that have been saved by God. I have been invited to a heavenly banquet, and every time I gather at the Lord’s altar I am offered a bit of his life. He feeds me, literally.

 

Why am I here?

 

I am here because God has sought me, and my ancestors before me, and saved me from the slavery I found myself entrapped in. I am here because I am loved. I was created by a loving God to share in his love, and when I have found myself trapped and suffering he has sought me out to set me free.

 

How shall I live?

 

I shall live as one who has already been redeemed from death. People will know me as a disciple of Jesus, not because of my t-shirt or my bumper sticker, but because of the love that I show. I shall live as one who knows his feet have been washed by Jesus, and who is prepared to wash the feet of others.