Tonight's Holy Thursday feast is the bridge uniting the Hebrew Scripture with the Christian Scripture. It presents both the "Last Supper" celebrating the Jewish Passover and the first Eucharist celebrating the new Covenant of love. Tonight's feast is also what we at JOS are about. We are not an academic Scripture study club. We are not a foreign missionary organization. We are not professional church fundraisers. We are simply a people who gather at this Table to listen to and learn from the Scriptures, to eat the Bread and drink the Cup that is Jesus and thus become like Jesus, putting ourselves at the service of others.
The Gospel read to us tonight was written by John a good forty years after the original Last Supper took place. Matthew, Mark, Luke and even Paul all wrote the words describing Jesus changing ordinary bread and wine into the Living Bread and Saving Cup. John doesn't do that in his Gospel; he has a different agenda. John knows that Christians for decades were already celebrating the Eucharist meal at Jesus' invitation to "Do this in my memory." John's Gospel cuts to the very purpose of Eucharist. To do Eucharist is to give thanks, to be a thankful people. "Chareo" in Greek means to give thanks. But "Eu-Chareo" means to give thanks well. For John, that prefix "Eu" is all important. To give thanks well is to follow Jesus' own example at the Last Supper meal. It is to put oneself in the service of others, as Jesus did in washing the feet of his friends.
For us truly to be a Eucharist people, we must certainly gather at the Table to eat the Bread and drink the Cup; but we must also put ourselves at the service of others. At Jesus' Last Supper meal, the people needed their feet washed. Walking all day long wearing sandals or in bare feet on dirt roads results in having dirty feet. That was an immediate need that drew Jesus' attention and response : good Jew that he was; so he washed their feet. Jesus addresses each of us tonight with the very same words spoken to his friends at the Last Supper: "I have given you a model to follow, so that what I have done for you, you also should do for each other."
What are the needs in our communities? People need food and water. People need shelter. People need friends. People need healing of body and spirit. We can respond individually or we can volunteer in a program such as a food pantry, a free clinic or the Family Promise program of Washington County. But to be a truly Eu-charist people (that is, to give thanks WELL), we need to do more than gather at this Table. We need to become Whom we eat and drink so as to ably serve those in need. Tonight as we gather once more in Table fellowship, Jesus again speaks to each of us; he says: "I have given you a model to follow, so that what I have done for you, you also should do for each other." Are we listening? Are we giving thanks well? Are we really a "Eu-charist people?