Thursday, April 6, 2023

Maundy Thursday: Back to the Table

Here we are, Maundy Thursday again.  I am in a house that I didn't own last year.  Last year, Maundy Thursday was the day before I broke my wrist.  This year, I am hearing all the broken body parts of our liturgy differently.

Diana Butler Bass has already written the perfect Maundy Thursday essay, the type of essay where I almost decide I don't need to bother to write anything further.  She writes "Christians mostly think of Maundy Thursday as the run-up to the real show on Friday."  And then she writes a whole essay to address this idea:  "What if we’ve gotten the week’s emphasis wrong?"  She writes a whole essay to expand on the idea that the table, the meal, should be the main point, not the cross.

On this day, I'm thinking of Anselm and his ideas of atonement.  On this day, I'm wondering what would have happened if Christianity had emphasized something different, if the cross could have been a different kind of symbol.  More on that tomorrow.

On this day, I'm thinking of those earliest Christians, sharing all they had, not calling themselves Christians yet, just a group of people who had experienced something shattering.  They gathered to try to understand what had happened and how to move forward.  They expected Christ to come again soon, in their lifetimes.  Reading Paul in that context changes some of his letters for me.  I still wonder if we would be better off without them.

I still wonder what letters are lost to us, letters from other earliest followers of the new way.  I am dreaming of a recipe book from those earliest Christians, a book of recipes and stories about new life.

This week, with its mix of Spring holidays, including Ramadan and Passover this year, along with all the Christian holidays, also reminds me of a poem I wrote long ago now, while all these images swirled in my brain and my quilt group met. We wouldn't have had the meal that the poem describes, but everything else is factual. Well, I wasn't exactly the lapsed Lutheran in the sense that I once was, but like the rest of the poem, it's true, if not factual.

It was first published in Ruminate.


I knead the bread leavened with beer,
stew a lamb shank in a pot of lentils,
prepare a salad of apples, walnuts, and raisins,
sweetened with wine and honey.
No one ever had herbs as bitter as this late season lettuce.

My friends gather at dusk, a motley band
of ragtags, fleeing from the Philistines of academia:
a Marxist, a Hindu, a Wiccan, a Charismatic Catholic,
and me, a lapsed Lutheran longing for liturgy.

Later, having drunk several bottles of wine
with prices that could have paid our grad
school rents, we eat desserts from disparate
cultures and tell our daughters tales from our deviant days.
We agree to meet again.

Gnarled vegetables coaxed from their dark hiding places
transform into a hearty broth.
Fire transubstantiates flour and water into life giving loaves.
Outcasts scavenged from the margins of education
share a meal and memories and begin to mold
a new family, a different covenant.

1 comment:

Saoirse said...

Thank you for this. I'd already read Diana's essay this morning, and it leaped off the page into my heart. Yours dives even further into the depths and the excitement of this question: What if the table was the point? I've been working on an art piece that places Jesus and the disciples at a round table for "the First Supper" as I've been calling it. It all feels so invigorating ...