A very long time ago,

a man and his friends sat down at a table for dinner.

They had been through a lot together, these friends.

They had given up a lot to be together—more than they knew.

They ate together most nights

and because it was the celebration of the Passover,

of course they would meet again

—nothing was out of the ordinary.

Something was coming—they all felt it—

but they didn’t know what.

The men and women around the table talked and joked

with the comfort of brothers and sisters.

They ate slowly,

savoring the plates of lamb, eggs, bitter herbs,

and unleavened bread they passed.

They drank wine and delighted in one another’s company.


And at the same time, even longer ago,

the people called the Israelites sat down for dinner.

In Egypt, in slavery.

They had been through a lot together already, these people.

They had given up a lot

—and had had a lot taken from them to be together—

more than they knew.

They ate together most nights, but this night was special.

They ate with their shoes and hats on,

their walking sticks in their hands,

their luggage packed for a journey. 

They ate quickly,

pausing only to pray to God for mercy.

They barely tasted the bread and wine and bitter herbs.

And they ate in both fear and excitement.


And at the same time, far in the future,

a group of brothers and sisters sat down at a table for dinner.

They had been through a lot together, these brothers and sisters.

They had given up a lot to be together—more than they knew.

They didn’t eat together very often any more, not as a whole group

at least not in one another’s houses.

But they did meet every week

to pass a plate of bread and a cup of wine.

They loved one another deeply

and yet didn’t quite know what to do about it

in the vast and changed world.

They talked and joked with the intimacy of family

and remembered all the times they’d eaten together,

every meal for 2,000 years.

They knew something was coming,

they knew what it was

—had heard the story, too, for 2,000 years—

yet they didn’t understand it, didn’t really know their part.

They ate, loving one another, loving God,

loving what they thought they knew.


*    *    *


The man and his friends, a very long time ago,

were about to depart:

the man would depart this life and he grieved to think about it;

his friends would depart from each other and from him,

running away in fear and grief.

Only Judas would have the courage of his convictions

and only the women would return.

    The man knew that this departure, this ending

would also be a beginning

        And he knew that beginning would not make the end less painful

    His friends knew something was ending

        Maybe they thought the rule of the Roman oppressors was ending

        Maybe they thought their poverty and directionlessness were ending

        They didn’t know that this would be their last dinner together

            That this was the last meal of a condemned man

            That this last supper would feed them in the wilderness


And at the same time, that people called the Israelites, even longer ago,

    Were about to depart:

        They would depart from Egypt and the slavery they had endured

        They would depart from the life they had known,

oppressive as it had been

and embark on a long journey into the wilderness

        but before they left, they covered their doorposts with blood

marking their homes

so that the angel of death would pass over them

they killed the lamb, and ate it in fear and joy

    grieving the loss of their old life,

ready to leave for a new life

terrified by what was happening outside their doors

    this people had leaders, brothers named Moses and Aaron and their sister Miriam

        they knew that this departure, this ending

            Would also be a beginning

        And they knew they would not survive this new story

They knew this beginning would not make the ending less painful


And at the same time, far in the future,

    The brothers and sisters gathered here were about to depart

    They didn’t know it

        They thought their weekly meal was comfort and beauty and joy

            And it was

        But it was also the last supper before the storm

    They would eat hastily, knowing something was coming

        They would pray to God to pass them over

            Marking their foreheads with ash

            And their hearts with regret

    These brothers and sisters are the ekklesia, the church

the gathering of people

the people, literally, “called out” of our normal lives.

We are that beloved community

    we will depart from the empire, from nation

from mammon,

from the way we’ve always done things

we are always on the move, always at an ending and a beginning

        our weekly supper of bread and wine

will be food for the journey

        our love for one another will sustain us in the wilderness


*    *    *


This [gesture to table] is the end, brothers and sisters.

    We will eat our meal together hastily,

our shoes on our feet and our walking sticks in our hands,

our luggage packed

    For we have been called to witness to the world

    We have been called to an ending

    We will depart from this place like the Apostles—the ones Jesus sent out

    We will leave the expectations of the world like the Israelites left Egypt

        We will travel in circles where our calling is foolish

            Where we will look ridiculous

for insisting on love and compassion and justice

            Where we will be insulted and misunderstood

            Where we will be desperately hungry for more than bread

    Every time we eat this meal together,

        We remember every other time we have eaten together for 4,000 years

        And every time we eat this meal together,

            God is present with us

            Jesus returns

    God is with us on this journey

        We are not alone


Yet, for now, it seems God has abandoned us

    We cannot see or feel God

    We feel battered and bruised

        By the Story we enact this week

        By its contradictions and problems

    The light is departing this world

        Jesus, our brother,

            Is betrayed into the hands of us poor sinners.