“Cup of Sorrow, Cup of Joy”
Maundy Thursday, March 20, 2008
Matthew 26: 17-30
Jesus was celebrating a Passover Seder with his disciples. Many of us have participated in Seders in the homes of Jewish friends and we know that a Seder is a happy event with playfulness and laughter and lots of food and wine. It is not a solemn occasion. There is lots of joy there.
By every indication Jesus was a happy person. He went to lots of parties. People criticized him for being a wine drinker and a person who liked good food. He preferred to hang out with sinners, I assume, because they are more fun. (Matthew 11:19)
He told jokes, like the joke about the guy who tried to remove a speck from someone else’s eye while having an entire log in his own eye. (Matthew 7:3) That was a joke.
Or the one about rich people with their tuxes and evening gowns and heavy jewelry trying to get into heaven being like camels with all their humps and awkwardly long legs and knobby joints trying to get through the eye of a needle. (Matthew 19:24) A joke.
Jesus’ last Passover with his disciples would have included lots of happy memories.
Of course there was sadness too, as there are at Seders often today. At every Seder there are likely to be family members who are no longer at the table. And we are all too aware that there will come a day when you or I will not be at the table anymore. And every year brings us closer to that day.
The disciples were probably clueless, but Jesus would have been very aware of this. But it would not have stopped him from remembering the good times and the strange times and even the bittersweet times. It would have been especially important for him that he and the disciples remember together.
friend was in
drove up to
We told stories and laughed and laughed.
But we also remembered mutual friends who are retired now, and it is hard to believe. Weren’t they just at the peak of their ministries yesterday? We remembered friends who are ill, friends who have died. Claude died not long ago. Nobody told me and I missed his funeral. We talked about Claude. I used to call Claude when I needed help figuring out what to say about this or that topic in sermons. I shared a couple of the stories he told me that I’d used in sermons.
We remembered other people who have helped us throughout the years, our mentors and superintendents, and bishop. And lay people. We remembered lay people who had saved our ministries, saved our lives.
Until suddenly somehow it was past midnight, and they had to ask us to leave the restaurant because they wanted to shut down the place and go home.
Frankly, after a couple of difficult weeks, I’d gone to this gathering disheartened, but I came back restored. I’d been given my heart back.
There would have been lots of this between Jesus and his disciples – the memories, the sorrows and the joys.
The sorrows and the joys were what were in the cup Jesus blessed that night. That was the wine in the cup. That was Jesus’ blood. The times of disappointment and failure and betrayal and denial and cowardice and stupidity and grief. The moments of happiness and accomplishment and learning and serendipity and ecstasy and pleasure and satisfaction.
The sorrows and joys of their life together were in the cup. That’s what they were drinking that night.
There are four cups of wine in the Seder. The cup that is drunk after the bread is broken is the third cup – it is called the cup of redemption. Jesus says of this cup that it the cup of his blood – his life – with all its sorrows and joys and he says it is poured out for the forgiveness of sins. But the Greek word translated “forgiveness” here “a[fesiß” really means more like set free or deliverance or release.
All of the past is redeemed in this cup. Even the future is redeemed in this cup. All is forgiven. All is transformed. We are set free from the past. All of it the sorrow and the joy become building blocks of the kingdom.
And, Jesus says, the next time we drink this cup we will drink it together in the kingdom. Again we will tell stories and remember and think about those people who cared for us and for whom we care. We’ll think about the mistakes and awful, awful dumb things we did but they will have lost their power. We will be released of them.
So someday we here tonight will sit together in the Kingdom, and we’ll share a cup, and we’ll talk about these days here at Foundry – the ones we are living right now. Remember when? Remember him? Remember her?
We’ll tell stories. The dumb mistakes we made. The things others did that felt so bad at the time but which will have lost their sting. The accomplishments. The failures. The days we did well. The days we screwed up royally. The hurts and sorrows as well as the joys.
We’ll laugh and cry as we share the cup, and we’ll be released of the power of it all. The whole mess of it – the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly will be forgiven and redeemed. And before we know it will be midnight in eternity and we’ll have to go home to bed.
You know, we could share this cup of sorrow, cup of joy now if we decided to. We wouldn’t have to wait. It could happen in fellowship hall, or at Trio’s or JR’s. We could share the cup of our sorrows and joys now; we could laugh together and cry together. We could put it all in the cup and laugh and cry together about it and be released from its power. Today could be the day when we drink from this cup together new in Jesus’ kingdom.