A Meal of Friendship -- Thoughts for Holy Thursday
This evening many congregations (at least those in the Christian West) will gather to remember the last meal Jesus shared with his disciples. That meal became a foundation for the Eucharist or Lord's Supper. We observe this celebration in different ways, but it is important remember that we gather at the Table as friends of Jesus. With that in mind I wanted to share a paragraph from a book by feminist theologian of the cross and student of Luther, Deanna Thompson. In her book Crossing the Divide, Deanna invites to re-envision and re-engage with the cross of Christ, bringing Luther into conversation with feminism. It's a wonderful book, but what I want to share speaks specifically about the Lord's Supper. Her comments are rooted in her conceptualization of the atonement as a transformative meeting of friends.
The sacrament of the Lord's Supper also binds the church to the crucified and risen Christ. A tight connection exists between the sacrament and Jesus's relationship to his friends, for sharing a meal "is the oldest ritual of friendship, [and] it is also a ritual so basic to Christianity that a case could be made that it is a, if not the, central motif in Jesus' ministry and in the early church."" Jesus's friendships often included a shared meal, culminating in the last meal shared with his closest friends. The last supper before his crucifixion, however, is marked not only by friendship, but also by betrayal. The sacrament of communion recapitulates that meal, including the betrayal and the cross, but "It does so as the Easter feast"" A feminist theologian of the cross emphasizes along with Luther that the sacrament of communion implies more than the subjective experience of remembering. To claim Christ's real presence in the Lord's Supper points to the objective status of Christ's presence as the risen crucified victim, the one in whom hope is also embodied. The Christ encountered in the meal is the one we encounter as a stranger, as our victim, to whom we confess our sins, admit our brokenness. The hope experienced in the Last Supper comes from standing before the risen Christ as a restored betrayer, a beloved friend." Like Mary Magdalene, we are offered back our past as a past that does not ultimately define us; instead we are defined as forgiven, as justified, and we are opened to a vocation that calls us into friendship with any and all friends of Christ.[Deanna A. Thompson. Crossing the Divide (Kindle Locations 2056-2065). Kindle Edition.]
She writes that when we come to the Lord's Table we stand before the risen Christ "as a restored betrayer, a beloved friend." We may be implicated in the actions that lead to the cross, but as our friend Jesus transforms us from betrayer to friend.
May we come to the Table this evening ready not only to remember but to be transformed by our encounter with the crucified and risen Christ. Yes, this meal precedes Good Friday, but it leads to Easter. As Deanna declares, this is an Easter Feast!