5th Sunday in Lent – Passiontide begins – evening
Sunday 7th April 2019
Lent 5 – evening
2 Chronicles 35. 1-6, 10-16
Luke 22. 1-13
Revd Preb Maureen Hobbs
From here on in it is difficult to avoid the seriousness of the Easter story and the inevitability of Holy Week.
We had our ‘Sunday off’ – refreshment Sunday or Mothering Sunday – last week. But now Lent redoubles its efforts to get us to concentrate and to ponder the enormity of what is about to happen.
The mood seems to suit the turmoil that is going on in our political life as a nation. Much talk of ‘betrayal’ – whichever side of the argument you are on!
And political leaders balancing the risks of alternative courses of action. Trying to avoid the threat of civil unrest. Kicking against the constraints of a foreign power. Somehow the setting seems all too real this year – let us hope that no-one suffers a sacrificial death, real or metaphorical!
Of course there have been many preparations being made over the past couple of years as the date of Brexit has loomed ever closer… We may think that they haven’t been done very effectively, but that is a different argument! No-one can be ignorant of the various deadlines that have been mentioned. We have been getting ready…. indeed part of the irritation and anger that people are feeling is because they feel the time is now – we need to get on with it (whatever that ‘it’ is!)
We all know the importance of getting ready for Christmas – even if it is mainly about buying presents and shopping for the turkey and pud. But there is less of a sense of preparation for Easter – even if the hot-cross buns and easter eggs have been in the shops for months. In fact, that is part of the problem. The time of preparation has been largely made irrelevant because the day is anticipated too soon. Being somewhat of an old fogey and an obsessive, I still make it a rule to try and avoid the hot-cross buns until Holy Week itself – even though I love them! And Easter Eggs have to be left until after Easter Sunday, even if they are piled up at home and ready for the big day!
Jesus knew all about getting ready for the religious festival and big feast that was Passover. From a Jewish perspective, there was – and is – a great deal to be done in getting ready for it. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus asks Peter and John to lend a hand in getting everything ready, and while they are still talking about it, it seems that Jesus has planned everything out in advance. He knows the size and location of the guest room that they will use, and that it is already furnished. He has arranged for this messenger with the water jar to meet them and guide them through the Jerusalem crowds. It would be unusual to see a man carrying a water jar – that was normally women’s work as it still is the world over, so it would be easy to identify him. Luke shows us a Jesus who is in charge, even though it is all being done around him. All good Jews would have known what was needed at a Passover meal; the roast lamb, the bitter herbs, the salt water, the sweet paste of apples and nuts, cinnamon and wine to symbolize the mud they once made into bricks. All there to remind them of different parts of the most important story that Jews shared. The story of how their identity was forged out of suffering, betrayal and escape from oppression.
In our first reading this evening we see King Josiah being a model ruler. He reinstated many of the religious practices and brought the people of Israel back to their God. And keeping the chief festivals – especially that of Passover, was crucial. The date is set, the priests are appointed, the place is chosen, God is there. And then comes the great sacrifice with all those animals to be slaughtered and shared between the altars and the needs of the people.
(This is one of those accounts that make me very glad not to be an OT priest! It must have been a very messy and smelly business at this time of year!) But all was to be done properly and nothing is wasted. Josiah ensures that it will be a perfect Passover; a perfect sacrifice.
But while Peter and John are busying themselves with the preparations as in 2 Chronicles, Jesus is steeling himself not only to preside over this sacrificial meal, but even to sacrifice himself. He knows that as the Passover lamb set straight the Israelites’ relationship with God for another year, he is the most powerful Passover lamb that can be offered, once and for all. Josiah provided the animals for one occasion of cleansing; Jesus provides himself for a world to be restored to relationship with God for ever.
Jesus prepares the sacrifice, and is the sacrifice. He sets us free to celebrate him as the great, the perfect sacrifice. What care will you take in preparing not just your food and your hospitality, but your hearts for Easter? Time perhaps to get on with it?