Sermons from St Faith's     

The Great Sacrament
Revd Sue Lucas, Maundy Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

Today is the day Jesus gives his Church the great feast of thanksgiving, the Eucharist – that perpetual memorial of his death until he comes in glory, in which we become what we eat, God’s friends, God’s adopted sons and daughters, Christ’s Body, the Church.

Great feasts of thanksgiving can, however, be deeply problematic, fraught and difficult – for all the joy of family meals when people gather for a feast, there is always the feast so eagerly awaited, so carefully prepared, when tensions boiled over, tempers frayed, someone stormed out, or said too much, or ended up weeping over the washing up.

This should not surprise us – for this is what it is to be human; and the Eucharist is the sacrament of the in-between times – when we, as an all too human church, live in the tension between being, and not yet being, God’s new creation.

And if the Eucharist is the great sacrament of unity, it is also the sacrament in which we are visibly the body of Christ broken, rent and divided;  between Eastern and Western Churches, in the West, between Roman and other Churches; and in our own Anglo-Catholic tradition, between those who find the priestly, and now episcopal, ministry of women a source of rejoicing, and those who cannot, in all good conscience, accept these developments, and for whom they are a source of pain.

In the matters – and the matter – that matter – there, we most forcibly confront our humanity – all that is best in it, and also our brokenness, our hurt and our anger, our violence and destructiveness.

We are about to enact this liturgically; for the washing of feet is not simply an act of service and humility; in this moment of acute vulnerability and intimacy, we prepare one another for death; Jesus washes his disciples feet, as an unknown woman washed his – to prepare them for their deaths.

Are we willing to do this?  Do we dare?  Are we prepared, with our Lord, fully to embrace our humanity and mortality, to see the great sacrament he gives us this night as assisting us in being mortal, in dying to self, and living to God and to others?

At Mirfield, before Compline, there is a reading from one of the monastic rules.  When I was there last week, it was from the Augustinian rule of Sister Agatha Mary, who wrote of the colossal difficulty of the vocation of really living in community, among those God has given us, rather than those we would choose; it is, she says, a vocation that can be properly formed only in failure – because it is only in failure that we are able to go to that place in us that dares to face the truth about ourselves.

Do we dare? For this colossally difficult calling – that we manage not in our own strength, but by constant reliance on grace – is our baptismal calling, to be one with Jesus in his death and resurrection – to live in the broken middle between the now and the not yet; and in this difficult, dangerous dark place; in this place of loss and letting go; in this place of failure in which we face the truth about ourselves; this is the place of broken bread and wine outpoured – the space, if you like, of the sacrament – and so this place in which we stand is a place of the profoundest hope – the very place in which, for our feet to washed, we take off our shoes – for it is holy ground, the place where, in the greatest possible intimacy, God is with us.  Amen.

The sermons index page

Return to St Faith's home page