A Lutheran Says What?

Sermons and random thoughts on God, the world and the intersection of the two

If It’s Your Last Night Maundy Thursday April 2, 2021

This sermon was proclaimed in the community of Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Holladay, UT on Maundy Thursday April 1, 2021. It can be viewed on YouTube on our channel: Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church SLC.

The texts were:

Exodus 12:14
1 Corinthians 11: 23-26
John 13: 1-17, 31b-35

If tonight were your last night on earth what would you do? What experiences would you want to have for your life to be complete or fulfilled? Or what is on your Bucket list?  Mike and I went to Paris four years ago this month as Mike had always wanted to go to Paris, as a side note, we did meet in 10th grade French class. He had a list of the museums, sites and activities that he wanted to do while there and we ran around the city (literally it seemed) for seven days trying to squeeze as much in as possible. It’s our human tendency to think that for our lives to mean anything, they have to be filled with novel and exciting experiences, something that stands out as special and unique. Going to Disney Land, climbing the Himalayas, visiting that faraway and exotic location, meeting a certain celebrity, or writing the great American novel. We worry that if we died tomorrow, we would feel incomplete, unfulfilled and that our lives were meaningless. How would people remember us? Will we be remembered for the book we wrote, the building we built, the money we had, the trips we took, what we completed, or is there something more?

We enter the scene in John’s gospel on the day before Jesus would die. Jesus knew that this night, was the last night of his earthly life. Jesus gathered with his disciples, his friends, for one last meal, one last time to be together. We tend to romanticize this scene, Jesus stooping to wash the feet of the disciples, Peter protesting, Judas walking out on Jesus. We focus on sentimentalizing all the words on love, loving one another, turning this scene in our heads and hearts into a Hallmark moment. But it’s anything but that. Jesus knew, perhaps like a cancer patient knows, that death was very near. He knew that it wouldn’t be a passive, peaceful death but one of horror, violence and suffering. It’s his last night on earth and Jesus wants it to mean something.

Jesus doesn’t pull out his bucket scroll and look forlornly at all of the places he didn’t go or things he didn’t do, such as float in the dead sea, or create a carpentry masterpiece, no Jesus knows that his life, the lives of his disciples, and our lives, mean more than that, and mean everything in the love of God. Jesus knew he had one day left and he didn’t worry about what he has or hasn’t completed, because that’s for God to worry about. Jesus trusted that God will complete God’s work and mission of love beyond his earthly existence. What Jesus does with his last night, is give the disciples a foretaste of what is to come in God’s unending love that completes them just the way they are. Jesus knew that they wouldn’t get it. We don’t get it when someone acts in a way that is utterly for the sake of someone else, even to their own detriment. Why would someone give away their money when they could buy some bucket list experiences? Why would someone choose exposure to a deadly virus to care for others? Why would someone offer water and food to undeserving people? Jesus doesn’t try and squeeze in as many activities as he can in his last night, instead he pours water, uncomfortably washes feet, grieves Judas’ decision to walk away from love and community, eats a simple meal, and reveals an active, decisive love that not only means something, but means everything for us and the world.
If tonight were your last night on earth what would you do? On this night, Jesus did what truly mattered, offering us the truth of God’s presence and love. Simple bread, a sip of wine, and an extraordinary love. A love that fulfills all needs, draws us together, satisfies our longings, and sends us to live each day as if it were our last, imitating Jesus, loving with God’s love to the fullest. Amen.