The word “last” should have conveyed a degree of finality. But they didn’t know it was the “Last Supper”, did they? We coined the term. It wasn’t even supper or dinner. It was the Passover meal; a religiously proscribed sharing of food, as outlined in the Book of Exodus, to recall the Israelite journey from slavery to freedom. The Passover was meant to be done forever, into perpetuity. There is no expiration date on remembering God’s goodness and mercy. There can never be a last Passover.
It will be the final time Jesus celebrates the Passover, in this most traditional of forms, with his disciples. The meal doesn’t change; the meaning doesn’t change, the way we remember Jesus changes. Passover is about sharing memories of God and family around symbolic food. After this night, what happens? New memories are added to our recollections of God’s grace. To categorize any aspect of this evening as the “last” is an injustice to the traditions we inherit and the faith we claim to believe. To call the central moment of Maundy Thursday worship, “The Last Supper”, implies that little, perhaps nothing will follow. Did we get that wrong!
The Christian Eucharist (the celebration of Holy Communion) and the memories (remember and do…) on which it centers are the unique stories which frame our lives. We know who we are, where we are, and what matters most because we share a similar narrative; Jesus’ story. The Eucharist creates within us a common language of virtue, love, and grace. It gives us a story to tell when we’re around the table with our family. Here we find words to speak with those who are grieving. The liturgy is the story of our lives. We might not see it through the filter of work, apathy, agnosticism, atheism, doubt, or anger. Yet, those stories too, are being retold on Maundy Thursday.
When we come to the altar and dip a bit of Hawaiian bread in grape juice, it’s not a random ritual. We are sharing real memories and reconnecting with our most important stories. Our lives take place within an overarching story. It is on Maundy Thursday, when I come to the altar, I realize, life isn’t a mere accumulation of perennial events. On Maundy Thursday, I realize I am shaped by the story I am able to tell. My present, the story I tell today, is informed by memories of the future. I call that resurrection.