Thursday, April 01, 2010

Bread, Wine and Brutality

Thursday, April 1, 2010 -- Maundy Thursday 

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 957)
Psalms 102 (morning)       142. 143 (evening)
Lamentations 2:10-18
1 Corinthians 10:14-17; 11:27-32
Mark 14:12-25

NOTE:  Tonight's Maundy Thursday service is at 7:00

The last gift that Jesus can give to his friends before the cataclysm is to join them once again at a meal, to take bread and wine, to bless it, break the bread, and share this food and drink while identifying it with himself:  "This is my body; ...this is my blood."  At the family table with him is his betrayer. 

The group will be broken apart this night.  The leader Peter will deny Jesus three times.  Mark says they all fled in fear.  Jesus himself will be arrested, tortured, tried, convicted and killed in the particularly slow and gruesome manner that the Romans saved for those whom they wanted to humiliate particularly in order to discourage others like them.  Rome's pursuit of its justice was fierce and irrepressible.  No one could challenge the Pax Romana and not be utterly destroyed, the individual along with their family and allies.  Death haunts this table and last supper.

Within twenty-four hours of this evening, it should all have been over.  Another pitiful little group of Jewish rebels who dared to use their religion to raise nationalistic hopes -- destroyed.  These groups came and went.  Rome was skilled at suppressing them.

Their leader Jesus got branded "King of the Jews."  The Roman soldiers would show him.  They would put him on the stone checkerboard for the "Game of Kings."  The soldiers would cast dice and bet.  Each roll of the dice would determine the prisoner's next move.  Each stone had a consequence.  Spitting.  Beating.  Breaking.  Humiliating.  He would be hit and thrown from stone to stone.  The prisoner's possessions would be gambled away among the soldiers.  The game was so brutal that it was eventually banned by the Roman army, not known for discouraging brutality.  One square proclaimed the prisoner "King" for the day, so if the dice landed there, he would be dressed and taunted as pseudo royalty.  Landing on the king's square also carried the death penalty on the following day.  Many prisoners just died on the stones of the game.

Crucifixion was Rome's most brutal and humiliating execution.  Slow public death by torture.  Naked.  Exposed.  The carrion birds would sometimes begin their work before the prisoner expired.  After a crucifixion, it should all be over.  Rome knew how to stop seditious movements.

In the face of such violent repression, what is bread and wine? 

It was enough.  It has been enough for more than two thousand years.  From the first Easter when "they knew him in the breaking of the bread," the mystery of the table has communicated Jesus' presence and life -- nourishing, healing, inspiring, and uniting his friends into his mystical Body which has risen and continues to live beyond the brutality and death forever.

"This is my body;  ...this is my blood."  It is enough to overcome all else.



Audio podcast: Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week. Click the following link: Morning Reflection Podcasts

About Morning Reflections
Morning Reflections is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site at this location --

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

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Our Rule of Life
We aspire to...
worship weekly
pray daily
learn constantly
serve joyfully
live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas


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