Lent

2015: A Justice Feast: Sharing the Table with All

Maundy Thursday

2015: A Justice Feast: Sharing the Table with All

Pray

Our Gracious God,
God of the Heavenly Banquet Table and God of the Communion Table,
God of the dining room table and God of the campfire circle,
God of the kitchen table and God of the lap,
God of the covered dish meal and God of
the tin cup,
God of the small bowl and God of the field,
You have called us today to be together.
You have called us to remember.
You have called us to love each other.
You have called us to invite everyone to whatever table we gather in Your name.
Because it is in Your name and in Your memory and in Your life and in Your love we pray. Forgive us. Cleanse us. Feed us. Transform us. Open us to Your overwhelming love. And open our hearts to be overwhelming love.

We pray for Melissa Crutchfield, Michelle Wood, and Strong Missions Loaves and Fishes in Costa Rica. Amen.

Learn

On Maundy Thursday (named so because of the Latin word mandatum or commandment) we reflect on Jesus’ direction to “love one another” (John 13:34-35). What is the context for this instruction? From John 13:1 we see the setting for the meal — before the feast of Passover, as a time of loving “his own” fully as the end of his earthly ministry was at hand.

In many settings in the gospels, when Jesus is speaking to a group generally described as “the disciples and the women,” this seems to refer to a flexible number of people in the inner circle around him. On this evening, however, it appears that Jesus was gathered with “the twelve” apostles. Of course, the conversation and actions around the table that evening took place in the context of close and continuing relationships, so we are joining a conversation that is already in progress when we join the story.

One of the themes that begins before that evening is the debate about leadership and the risks involved in being righteous. Jesus has received an appeal for the two brothers to be his key leaders and the conversation about that seems to have continued even in to this special meal. Jesus interrupts the normal order of things and, after the meal was already begun, he removes his outer garment and washes the disciples’ feet. This was an act that shocked the disciples and that challenged their preconceived notions about what leadership can and must be. Jesus is calling for a new kind of leader; a leader who humbles him- or herself, who honors and respects his or her followers, and who seeks just and right relations with all people.

Another theme is that the betrayer is already at the table. In fact, several different betrayals would happen that evening. Judas let the authorities know where Jesus was, during the wee hours of the morning. Peter and another other disciple followed Jesus to the courtyard of the high priest where Peter proceeds to deny his connection to Jesus to the servants and guards. The rest of the disciples seem to have fled altogether. What do we have to learn about justice from these betrayals? Are we like the betrayers, acting in ways that are too comfortable with the people in power? Are we often too ready to deny our Christian call to resist injustice because it is too uncomfortable or because acting will mean we are at risk of losing our positions or livelihoods, like Peter?

In many ways these same themes are already in our own lives today as we approach the commemoration of the Last Supper. We might even start with a discussion about who is at the table. I find myself thinking about the parable of the banquet that Jesus told, which the invited guests declined to attend and the householder sent the servants out to invite persons from “the highways and byways”. What if the call to love one another, and to desist from the jockeying for position is the call to include more and more people of all creeds, races, and ethnicities?

We remember that the householder had the servants make several forays into the community to gather people for the feast. What sort of a celebration would we plan if we took this as our pattern for what our observances this Holy Week should be about? How many invitations would we issue? What sort of breaking of racial and cultural boundaries and taboos would we have to address? What kind of risk taking and leadership would be required of the disciples, who have seen Jesus gird himself in the towel to wash their feet so that they might be “completely clean”?

We might have a new appreciation for how shocked the disciples must have been at Jesus’ actions of radical love, hospitality and humility that evening. What a celebration it would be if we did as Jesus did and the table was filled with folk who were in a new, restored and right relationship to Jesus and to the community!

This is the table prepared for us. Are we ready to partake in this justice feast?

Mentor

Think of those with whom you have regular contact. Talk with them about how you extend your relationships beyond the familiar. Who needs a friend? Are there people with whom you could begin relationships who seem very different from you? Can you find ways to share together in places that are comfortable for all of you? Could you take extra time to visit those in your community who are marginalized — to listen and share? Are there services during this Holy Week that are taking place at churches or community centers that could open up a relationship for cross-cultural, multi-racial friendships? Try it.

Transform

Think about the immigrants in our community. How are they treated? Are they invited to the table? What would radical hospitality with them look like? How might we take risks to welcome migrants in our community more fully? What does having a right and just relationship with migrants in our communities mean?
Use the tools below to explore the realities that many migrants live with and to take action for immigrant justice.

  • Tools for Leaders: Hope and Hospitality: This manual is deeply rooted in our biblical heritage. We are all created in God’s image, and we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves. It is also rooted in the Charter for Racial Justice, which, for more than 30 years, has guided United Methodist Women’s commitment to action for racial justice. We build on United Methodist Church policy and on the powerful stance taken by our bishops, by the United Methodist Task Force on Immigration, church agencies and leaders. Together we realize that God is calling us at this moment in history to boldly speak out and act for justice as brothers and sisters are demonized, persecuted, exploited, incarcerated and discarded.

  • Immigration and the Bible: This spiritual growth study shares the story of the Bible as a narrative of immigrants and migration. Exploring the biblical and theological understandings of immigration, immigrants and migration, this study seeks to enable the participants to examine what it is to be a sojourner and to live into the biblical mandate of hospitality for “the stranger” and “aliens” in our midst.

Harriett Jane Olson is general secretary of United Methodist Women. Janis Rosheuvel is executive for racial justice for United Methodist Women.

Posted or updated: 3/31/2015 11:00:00 PM
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