Friday, April 6, 2007

In the Upper Room

Mark 14:17-26

While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and
after blessing it…

Baruch attah Adonai
eloheinu melech Ha-olam,
hamotzi lechem min ha'aretz.

Blessed art thou, O LORD our God,
King of the universe,
Who brings forth bread from the earth.

… he broke it, gave it to them, and said, "Take; this
is my body."

Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks…

Baruch Attah Adonai
Eloheinu Melech Ha-olam
Bohrei Peri Hagafen.

Blessed art thou, O LORD our God,
King of the universe,
Creator of the fruit of the vine.

… he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it.
He said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant,
which is poured out for many. Truly I tell you, I will
never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that
day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God."

He is saying goodbye. He knows where he is going.

Jesus gathers his friends, his family, his household,
in the upper room – this is the abode of peace. From
here he will journey out – eventually alone, totally
abandoned – to where struggle, danger, death abide.

Already this week Jesus has opposed the Imperial
might of Rome, and the enmity of its collaborators,
throwing his body against the wheels of oppression.
Counter-marching against Pilate, he matched the
procurator's military parade with a procession of
peace – as Pilate entered the west gate of the city
armored, at the head of a column of troops, greeted
by the hails of sycophants, Jesus came in peaceful
triumph from the east – riding a path strewn with
palms, cheered by the common folk, on a little burro.

The people thronged about him in the days leading
up to Passover – he taught in the Temple, disputed
the scribes, turned over the tables of the powers that
hold sway in this world.

Then it came time for the Passover. A man carrying
water – a job ordinarily handled by women –
provided signage for where the disciples would meet.

Gathering in the Upper Room for the first time, the
disciples assemble to partake of the Passover meal.
Jesus presides over it. It is an anamnesis, an act of
remembrance that makes the past present. This is
the night unlike any other, the night to remember
how God redeems his people from bondage.

The disciples will gather again, in fifty days' time.
Fifty days from this night unlike any other, seven
weeks from tomorrow, they will return to the Upper
Room. They will gather on Pentecost – [or Shavu'ot,
the feast of weeks. That is] the day to celebrate the
giving of the Torah – the gift that freed God's people
from the chaos of sin, of immorality and idolatry.

But Jesus will not be with them. And that day will not
be the same as it ever was before: for the disciples
are now, on Passover night, encountering a great

This is my body, their teacher says to them,
indicating the paschal feast. The bread of affliction,
eaten in bondage: somehow now taking this in, like
taking up the cross, is the path to liberation.

The blood of the lamb that was slain, symbolized by
the wine, now becomes – his blood, his sacrifice,
that we might be redeemed from bondage. In those
days bondage was the oppression of imperial power
– a temptation today, certainly, but only a shadow of
the real hegemony, the power of sin, despair, death.

Jesus takes on the role that only he can – priest and
sacrifice in one (Christ the victim, Christ the priest)
- savior long expected, he has come to set his people free.

This is my Body – he says, taking the paschal bread
in his hand and breaking it: not my body is this, as if
he were a substitute for matzoh.

No, the bread is a foretaste, a trigger for memory.

It comes as a remembrance of things past, and a
promise of things to come, representing and
anticipating the fullness of the providence of God
that comes to us in the person of Jesus Christ.

In this act of remembrance, everything that came
before, everything that is remembered tonight, he
recapitulates in himself. His own act sums it all up.

He is the fulfillment of the promise – all that came
before was readiness, anticipation - preparation.

This is the culmination:
Now time comes to its consummation,
now the grain is ripe and the harvest can begin.

Blessed art thou, O LORD our God,
King of the universe,
Creator of the fruit of the earth.

Baruch Attah Adonai
eloheinu melech ha'olam
Borei peri ha'adamah.

Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.


In the Upper Room
Good Friday 2007

No comments: