A Meal That Tasted of Freedom

April 13th 2017 Maundy Thursday
The Garden Church
Rev. Anna Woofenden

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“On the night in which he was betrayed, our Lord Jesus gathered with his faltering friends for a meal that tasted of freedom.” These words from a communion liturgy have been haunting me.

A meal that tasted of freedom. Faltering friends gathered, for a meal that tasted of freedom. This evening we gather to remember the Last Supper, that Passover meal that Jesus shared with his disciples before he was crucified the next day. This evening we gather to mark the next movement in the unfolding story of Holy Week, to touch the dust, the feet, to break the bread, and pour the water, to take the towel and bend down and wash each other’s feet.

When we were last together, we gathered with Jesus on Palm Sunday, this triumphal entry, as the people who were struggling and oppressed flooded to the streets crying out “Hosanna! Lord save us!” We walked these steps, praying and longing for the coming of justice and compassion, seeking the peace of the city, calling for people to be fed, and for mourning to be turned into joy. We held our palm branches high and claimed the promises of a kingdom that is beyond the brokenness of this world, while directly embedded in it. And as the people in Jerusalem longed for Jesus to come and save and change it all, we cried out for a king to save us, while knowing that the story has a twist coming.

I wonder by the time the disciples got to this Thursday Passover if they might have started getting wind of the plot twist. That this king, this savior, would not be rescuing them in the way they had thought and that the freedom he was offering was something beyond the economic bondage of empire they were stuck in. As they sat down to share the Passover Meal together, gathered in that upper room, I wonder if that longing for freedom was still lingering in the room as they celebrated the Passover that their ancestors had been cerebrating since the exodus so many generations ago, and that they desired now.

And here, again, Jesus doesn’t give them what they are looking for in the way they were looking for it. Instead, he tells them that the bread is his body, the cup his blood, and that if they really love each other, to wash each other’s feet.

And here’s the thing that slays me: As he shared these poignant moments and gave these acts of love, not only did he know he was going to be crucified, he knew that some of them would betray him. He knew that people were still fallible, fickle, human people, and even while knowing that, he loved them. And shared a meal with them. And washed their feet. He knew that he wasn’t going to change everything about their economics or the systems that oppressed them. And yet he knew that the freedom he offered—the resurrection, the love, the new life he pointed to—was beyond that, and right there in it.

He knew that right there in the bread, the wine, the dirty feet and the warm water, there is a freedom beyond their comprehension. Freedom that doesn’t come from dropping bombs or inciting violence, a freedom that isn’t won by building walls or removing “those people” from our community. No, it is the freedom to share a meal, and love and forgive and wash the feet of the very people that may betray you. The freedom to not be afraid. A freedom that comes in the messy, in the confusion, and even to the very death. A freedom in which we participate fully in the revolutionary acts of love and forgiveness. Jesus shows us, gives us, and invites us to participate in this freedom with him, and with each other.

“On the night in which he was betrayed, our Lord Jesus gathered with his faltering friends for a meal that tasted of freedom.” May it be.

Being Church Together

The Garden Church gathered this Sunday to be church as we worked and worshiped and ate together.

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People were greeted in the parking lot of a local park, with a “Welcome to the Garden Church!” and handed a trash bag and gloves.

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Soon the hill was filled with people with black plastic bags in one hand, bending down and gathering up the litter and debris that was covering the area.

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And in what seemed like no time, the area went from a messy dumping ground to a clean slice of nature. I watched as people went from individually picking up trash in various areas, then slowly migrating together to form a trash-collecting cluster of community caring for the earth.

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After celebrating how much trash we’d picked up in a short half hour, we washed our hands, grabbed our picnic stuff, and headed over the hill to a grassy spot under a tree.

IMG_5936We spread out blankets and set up our worship table and put our picnic items in the shade.
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Our youngest community members helped me to begin our time of worship together by setting out the objects that mark our worship space together. We set out the Word, the bread, the cup, the light, the water, the bell, and the tree of life. As we unwrapped each one we talked about the meaning and the vision for who we are as a church and how God is present amongst us.

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As we moved into worship we spent time in silence that our bell ushered us into, finding silence in and amongst the sounds and movement around us. We noticed the wind blowing, the feel of the grass, and how the ocean had places that looked purple in it.

IMG_5900 We then shared the story of the Children of Israel and how when they traveled, they set up their tabernacle and we heard the story of the Manna, the bread of life that God gave them in the wilderness. And we talked about what this story means in our community, and our lives.

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Which led us into sharing the Sacred Meal, Communion, Holy Supper together, gathered around God’s table and feeding and being fed by each other.

IMG_5966 IMG_5965The Sacred Meal then led into our Community Meal and we enjoyed fresh sandwiches, delicious fruit and crisp creative salad.

IMG_5938During our meal we heard people’s stories about where they find belonging and feel at home in the world, and what it means to be church together.
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We closed in prayer as we stood together holding hands in a circle and thanked God for the gift of worship and community.IMG_5941

We packed up our tabernacle and cleaned up our picnic. Chatted and finished conversations and then walked back down to the parking lot together.IMG_5944

Good to be church together. Let’s do it again soon.