Mark 14: 10-25, NRSV
Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.
On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, his disciples said to him, ‘Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?’ So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, “The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?” He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.’ So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.
When it was evening, he came with the twelve. And when they had taken their places and were eating, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.’ They began to be distressed and to say to him one after another, ‘Surely, not I?’ He said to them, ‘It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me. For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.’
While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘Take; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’
Preached Sunday, April 15 at Westfield Church by the Rev. Jonathan Chapman
The saddest thing I’ve ever heard is this: one day your parents set you down and never picked you up again. Every time I think about it, I nearly burst into tears.
It came to mind earlier this week when I was thinking about lasts. We had a funeral this past Sunday and another, more sudden death in the congregation, on Tuesday. Just yesterday, I stopped by a member’s home to pray with her dying mother. I’m headed back this afternoon. Lasts are a big part of my job. And really, they’re a big part our lives.
The trick is we often miss them. Rarely do we realize it’s the last of something until much later. That’s when that whole hindsight is 20/20 thing comes into play. That is, I doubt any parent sets down their child thinking, “That’s it! That’s all they get!” or “Whew, I’m glad I never have to do that again.” Lasts sneak up on us.
Today’s scripture is about a last no one really knew was a last. We know it as the Last Supper, but to the disciples gathered there, to everyone but Jesus and maybe Judas, it was just supper—that is, it was another religious ritual they were obligated to fulfill while some dude rattled on about bread and wine, body and blood. Sound familiar?
We tell this story every time we celebrate communion. We remember the words of Christ and his actions, we even go as far as to call this table his table. Every gospel gives a few different details, Mark’s is the quickest. But each of them share two common themes:
The first is that in God, the profane becomes sacred. That is, the everyday, mundane things of the world can become holy. It wouldn’t matter if Jesus used skittles and sunny delight, the meaning, the intent, the beauty of the story, would remain the same, if not a little more colorful.
The second is that, when it’s all said and done, we remember less about the big moments in our lives than we do the everyday ones. When we come to an ending, what we long to relive aren’t always the big things—often, it’s the small ones. It’s not, ‘I wish I could have my 12th Birthday Party again.” It’s “What I’d give to taste Mama’s fried chicken one, last time.” What we remember most are the lasts of those—those everyday occurrences.
A few months after my mother’s death, my Dad and I were chatting on the phone. “I think i’m going to eat the last of it,” Dad said. He was talking about the coffee cake Mama had made for the women’s bazaar that had been scheduled for the month after she died. She’d bake for months and freeze it, and what she’d already made, Dad had been quietly making his way through—each bite a taste of the life he’d shared with her. It’s sweet until you get down to the last of it. And then, this annual event—a decades long rhythm of preparation in our house—had new meaning—when we reached the last of it.
Here’s what’s difficult: it’s to hard to treat things as “the last” when we don’t know they’re going to be the last. So what do we do in the until then? And what do we do after?
Lucky for us, Jesus tells us. We remember. We tell the stories. When Jesus broke the bread and poured the cup, he said “remember and tell.”
Why do I talk about my Mama so much? Because I’m not going to let her funeral be the last time her stories are told. But here’s the thing: when she was alive, we told all those same stories. The funny ones and the sad ones and the hard ones.
Because as long as I keep telling those stories, the lasts aren’t the lasts. As long as we keep telling the stories, we keep them alive.
I’ve heard that we die twice. Once when we stop breathing, and the again when someone mentions your name for the last time. That’s why it’s important not just that we remember, but that we live lives that tell stories—not just our familial stories, but the stories of our faith that formed us. And we have to write new ones—ones that the next generation can take and hold onto and retell again and again, so that they’ll know that the lasts aren’t really the last, that in Christ, our story continues.
Maybe you don’t believe stories have that much power or that they can last that long. But then there’s one we’re about to tell because the people who witnessed it happened told their families who told their friends who told their grandchildren who told their nieces and nephews who told their kids who told their friends—who, somehow, someway, told us. Which means, the supper we think of as the last still happens today. Thanks be to God.