I got an unusual phone call yesterday.
Of course, in my line of work, most of the random phone calls that I receive are unusual in some way. On occasion, people I have never met will leave messages on my voice mail asking questions ranging from my thoughts about to Scripture to my opinion on the godlessness of the latest Hollywood blockbuster. I love responding to these messages, because I am always fascinated to hear people wrestle with their faith. Needless to say, I am also entertained by people’s creative and often surprising interpretations of Scripture and theology.
The call I responded to yesterday started out like any of these other phone calls. A woman left a message wondering where to find the story of Easter in the Bible. Thinking it might be a quick conversation, I dialed the number and prepared to give her a simple answer to what I thought was a simple question. But, when I tried to give her the simple answer (Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, and John 20, in case you’re curious), she said “I don’t have a Bible with me.” It quickly became clear that the call was not what I had expected. The woman proceeded to ask me, not about Easter, but about Maundy Thursday. She kept asking, “Why did Jesus have the Last Supper with his disciples?” I tried to explain the liturgical, theological, and historical significance of the Church’s Eucharistic celebration, but it wasn’t making sense to her. It seemed that I wasn’t going to be able to help her.
But when I was about to end the phone call, to tell her that I had to attend to other matters, she asked very cautiously, “Do you think that God loves me?” Oh. Suddenly I realized that this woman did not call the church to find out where the story of Easter is or why Jesus instituted the Lord’s supper. She called because she had come to doubt that she was in relationship with God. While I could have responded to her with Scripture passages and theological treatises, I called her by name and said simply, “Yes. I know God loves you.” And then an amazing thing happened. Through her tears of joy, she professed that she understood everything that had mystified her only a few minutes before. The stories of Easter and the Last Supper suddenly made sense because she had been reminded that God loved her.
Ultimately, this is what we are called to remember this evening as we celebrate Maundy Thursday. We remember that Jesus Christ took bread and wine, called them his body and blood, and gave them to his disciples, essentially telling them, “I love you so much that I have given myself to you, not only in this bread and wine, but also in my very body.” None of our celebrations this week make any sense unless they remind us of God’s deep and transforming love for the world. I pray that as we enter the next three days, we will remember that love which transforms us and helps us make sense of who we are.