« Sermon for the 4th Sunday in Lent - Rev. Jennifer Gleichauf

We Had Hoped - Rev. Jennifer Gleichauf »

Maundy Thursday Reflection - Rev. Jennifer Gleichauf

Posted on April 9, 2020 by Kathy Miller

Jennifer Gleichauf

Covenant Presbyterian Church


Maundy Thursday Meditation

Growing up here in Racine, we lived far away from any of our extended family.  My grandmother eventually came to live in town, but most of our family dinners, even on holidays, were just my parents, my sister, my grandmother and me.  But my parents were always happy to welcome guests, to set an extra chair or several at their table.  I, perhaps, took advantage of this hospitality in middle school, when I convinced my parents to regularly let me have huge sleepovers with 15 or 20 girls at our house. We packed in with our sleeping bags and pillows and would gather in a big circle to eat pizza on paper plates.  In high school, I was always bringing different friends home to join us for dinner. In college, I coordinated all kinds of big group gatherings.  I remember my first year organizing a parent’s weekend dinner for my entire floor of 25 kids and their parents at a nearby restaurant.  My parents couldn’t even come that weekend.  In seminary, I loved the community meals that followed worship on Wednesdays and the Friday night potlucks in the summer out in the courtyard.  And still today, I love to invite a bunch of people over for a dinner or celebration. For a while, we had dinner every week with a few families at our house – potluck style with our tables put together in the dining room in order to get 15 people around.  We throw big birthday parties for Evie with as many of our friends as hers, and summer nights when sometimes we’ll end up with 6 or 30 people all eating and talking and laughing together, kids running around all over.

And in each of these gatherings, it’s important to me to make sure everyone feels welcome and there is plenty of good food to enjoy and everyone finds someone to talk to and the kids have fun.  Ultimately, I love having a crowded table, trying to find one more chair for someone so they can squeeze in. 

Getting to bring people around tables together was definitely a reason I was drawn to ministry.  One of the joys for me as a pastor is the opportunity to bring big groups of people together.  To gather people for potlucks, dinner parties, discussions, and worship.  And, just like at my own house, it’s a priority to make sure everyone who comes feels included and welcomed and connected.

And, of course, at church one of the most important places we gather and try our best to make people feel welcome is around the communion table.  It’s why we start each communion with an invitation.  The invitation always comes first and is meant to set the scene – to assure everyone there that no matter who they are, where they are from, however many times they have come before, no matter what they’ve done or left undone, all are welcome to participate. 

It’s why we try so hard to make sure everyone who wants to participate can. We watch for anyone who can’t walk forward and take communion to them.  We find gluten free wafers or bread so everyone can eat.  We use grape juice instead of wine to include those who may need to stay away from alcohol. And, when someone can’t get to church anymore, we take a deacon with us and bring communion to them in the hospital or nursing home or wherever they may be.

And every time we have communion we tell the same story.  If you are a regular churchgoer throughout your life, you’ll hear the story perhaps a thousand times or more.  And we do this to make sure new people and children know and learn the story. But, that’s not the only reason we tell the same story over and over again.  We tell the story of Jesus in the upper room with his disciples, because it was there that Jesus told us to “remember.”  “Remember me each time you eat this bread and drink this cup.”  Remember – meaning to hear and consider something again and again.  To hear the words so many times they become written on our hearts and ingrained in our souls.

But Jesus may not be inviting us to the communion table only to remember who he is, but also so we would remember who we are meant to be.  Jesus invites us to the table as a place to re-member ourselves, as in the opposite of dis-member. Because so often, that’s what we are – dis-membered from one another - divided, fractured, alienated from one another.  We find ourselves separated in so many ways in this world - separations of our own making and created by outside forces. It is too often the case that, as a people, we are dis-membered. But at the communion table, Jesus invites us to be re-membered.  To be brought together.  To be made whole and healed and become, not a monolithic people, but a people who remember what it is to belong to one another, to be bound together, to be re-membered into the body of Christ.

And when we come to the communion table, the whole idea is for it to be crowded, to be as full as it can be, to keep squeezing in another chair and another chair and another.  To keep reaching out to invite more people.  To be looking out for who is missing.  And then when we are all together, you can look around the table and know that no one there is more welcome than you and also that you are not more welcome than anyone else – everyone belongs – it’s meant to be crowded. 

But tonight, we can’t come to the table in the same way.  We can’t all be in the same place and stand in line together and look into the eyes of the person who offers us the bread or juice.  We can’t exchange a knowing smile or grin at the child who skips up the aisle.  We can’t look forward to greeting each other after worship shaking hands and hugging and laughing together in the same way.  We’re in our own homes, watching through a screen, looking at our own tables, which can’t welcome any guests right now, even for an Easter dinner.  And I don’t know about you, but I miss my crowded table more than ever.  I pray when we can finally be together in the sanctuary again that I will never take for granted the simple joy of singing together and eating together and being together ever again.

And still.  And yet.  Here we are.  It’s not what we are used to, but perhaps this year Jesus invites us to remember that to be the body of Christ never required us to be in the same physical space.  Perhaps this year, Jesus invites us to remember that to be the members of Christ’s body is to know our place in the body even when we are apart.  To remember our tables are always God’s table no matter where they are. 

Perhaps Jesus is inviting us to remember that being the body of Christ can sometimes just mean making a phone call or dropping a card in the mail.  Perhaps Jesus is inviting us to remember the body of Christ is sometimes a parade of cars going through the hospital parking lot or chalk drawings on our sidewalks or heart pictures in our windows or lifting up the prayers of our hearts.  To remember that these things connect us, re-member us, as much as anything can.  Perhaps Jesus is inviting us to remember that even when we are physically distant our tables aren’t as empty as we think – that he is there and that we are all connected in ways far more important than physical proximity. 

After all, we were never meant to stay forever at the table in the Sanctuary.  We were always supposed to go there to re-member and then head out to invite some more people into that love and grace each and every day. 

So, tonight, the tables or couches or chairs we are all sitting in may be in rooms far from crowded, but only if we look just with our eyes.  If we look with our hearts, we would find that our tables are crowded.  They are bursting at the seams.  In fact, we might need you to find a few more chairs to pull up–because this communion table, wherever we find it, is filled with the millions who have come to this meal before us and the millions who will come after us and the sweet faces we can see on the screen right now.  We, who Jesus loved, to the very end.  We, who are called to love one another the way we are loved.  We, who have been re-membered again and again, stitched together by Christ’s love for us. 

So, when you hear the words of invitation tonight, know they are meant for you, just as they are meant for all of us.  When we have communion tonight, let us be truly re-membered as the body of Christ, sitting physically apart, but spiritually squeezed in tight at this very crowded table.

Google Calendar
Contact Us