In our readings today, it is a day of making preparations. In our world of instant gratification and instant information, have we lost the art of preparation? When the 2 minutes in the Braum’s Drive up is too long and when we buy tickets for the play online only a few hours before curtain, I wonder how on earth we prepare at all – prepare for marriage…prepare for the SAT…prepare our hearts for God to use us and change us.
In scripture today, groundwork is laid – both good and bad. In Luke, the work of plotting against Jesus got a boost with the help of Judas Iscariot. It was his “work” that allowed the dreams of the chief priests and officers of the temple to carry out their plan. Meanwhile, the other disciples are busy preparing in another way – preparing for the Passover meal.
While on the surface these two preparations may seem like night and day, good and bad, remember what the Passover meal represented! It was a celebration of the misery of exile, the oppression, the eventual visit from the Angel of Death, and a release from captivity. It is a story of eventual release, but it is not all celebratory.
I think it is interesting that both of our “preparations” are for plots that begin with heartache and turmoil. Of course, we know how the Passover story ends. And remember how the story that involves Judas Iscariot ends? It does not end in the Garden with a kiss. It does not end when Judas hangs himself. In fact, that story doesn’t end. It is still going.
I remember being a part of a Passover meal in Israel. It was eye-opening. Many of you have heard me reminisce about the reality of that day, in that small apartment in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem, play acting so much of the Exodus story I felt wrapped up in the story itself, complete with stopping up the sink until it was overflowing on the tile floor, just to represent the Red Sea. Talk about parting the waters! (Or was it the neighbors in the apartment below us?) I remember mostly how these devout Jews celebrated this meal as if their story of redemption and hope was still playing out.
I thought to myself, IT SHOULD BE THIS WAY ALWAYS! To be caught up in the story. To create the story anew.
We Christians must capture that same feeling – at the Table, in fellowship with one another. Our story does not end at the foot of the cross, or with Judas’ suicide. The story blazes on. It passed from generation to generation, and it has made it to our doorstep.
And we must prepare – prepare our hearts for the this sheer gift of grace, prepare for the coming of the Savior of the World into our lives, our homes, our daily walk. We must prepare in understanding the foundation that way laid.
By arousing the imagination and the senses – this is creating the story anew. Often this means getting the kids involved. This is where we have much to learn from our Jewish brothers and sisters. At the Seder meal, the children read the questions and play hide and seek with the Afikomen. At Purim there is the building of tents. There are shofars on Rosh Hashanah. Prior to the Passover, there is the rambunctious cleaning of the house for any speck of leaven. Of course the kids remember! They have been active participants, creating new memories, and grafting themselves with the story.
And so let’s do some real preparations here. Of course, guess what…this takes PREPARATION!
Perhaps we create the Last Supper anew by talking about what Jesus would have eaten and not eaten. There was no McDonald’s, kids. Let’s talk about dates, or figs, or goat milk. Salads with strange vinegar-like dressing. Let’s build out this meal.
And then let’s put the bread and the wine as central symbols around a glorious feast that involves EVERYONE, where everyone has a speaking part. Who is going to be Judas this year? Oh, we don’t have to get gruesome about it, but it sure would be nice for someone to sneak out of the room with 30 pieces of silver, only for us to hear them drop in the temple offering plate in another room. Maybe Judas hides something along the way – some stolen “grace” that gets found once again before the meal can end.
This would energize the meal. It would get the kids truly involved. It would certainly get the adults involved too, asking why we are doing these things.
This is how we truly remember. By becoming part of the story.
And this is when the story truly begins. For if we do not understand the past, how are we to move into God’s future for us? How are we to be guided? God, where do you want me to go?
It is only in our past reflections that we will be able to focus on the present with eagle eyes, and move swiftly into our new lives of hope and joy and peace.