Maundy Thursday 2020

Maundy Thursday 2020: The Last Supper Window
This is the window above the door on the south side of the sanctuary. Ironically it is the window over the door that leads to the parish hall where we break bread together every Sunday after church.
This window is unique among the windows in the nave. All the other windows are in the American style, slightly cubist, darker in color, a very modern design.
This window is in the Flemish style, much lighter colors, much more realistic representations.
It is of course a gorgeous window. It is recognized as among the most beautiful stained-glass windows in the world. Its design is in the archives of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
One of the reasons why this window was placed here is because of its design. It lets in a great deal more light than the other windows in the nave. At the time that this window was commissioned and installed there was a large tree on the other side of that wall that blocked a great deal of light. The concern was that there needed to be a window there that could let in as much light as possible.
There’s much to see of interest in the window. You can see that it depicts the disciples gathered with Jesus for dinner at the Last Supper. Judas Iscariot is in the front and slightly to the left of Jesus.
You know it’s him because all the other disciples have penumbra or halos around their heads indicating that they are saints. And while the other disciples look like northern European, French or British men, Judas Iscariot is depicted more darkly with a distinctly anti-Semitic nose. Its an expression of racism we would not tolerate today, but remember this window was created in the 1930’s.
His left hand is on the table. St Luke tells us in chapter 22 that “the Lord says, but see the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table.”And a knife is placed near his hand pointing, directly at Jesus, which symbolizes the betrayer and his victim. Juda’s wine glass has fallen over on the table representing the blood spilled. A vase of red flowers is on the floor next to Judas indicates that he is the one responsible for the bloodshed to come. And in his right hand he holds a money bag containing the 30 pieces of silver, the price he is paid for the betrayal.
There are other symbols that are interesting in this picture. At the far left on a shelf in the wall an hourglass appears with the sand running out, representing the short time remaining in this world for our Lord. And at the bottom far right panel of us of white lily suggests the resurrection on Easter morning.
It is a window which was designed and placed specifically to admit the light, And yet there are so many images of darkness.
This work of art that depicts Jesus and his disciples in a joyous community and loving meal, and yet there is evidence already of selfishness, betrayal, and death.
In the presence of light there is darkness. And the presence of joy there is sorrow. This is the essence of Maundy Thursday.
The light is still in the world, but the darkness is present at the table. And the disciples are blissfully unaware, enjoying one another and the time they have with their teacher and friend. Jesus’ betrayer, the person through whom Satan is working, is present at the table, and there is evidence to point to him, but the disciples do not know, only Jesus is aware of him.
Every time I look at this window, I am amazed at how clueless the disciples are. They don’t see any of the imagery, they don’t wonder at Judas’s hand, at the roses or the irises or the hour glass. Their attention is focused entirely on Jesus.
But even if they could see the darkness seated at the table with the light, what could they do.
The work of salvation is solely the work of Jesus.

From this scene Jesus will get up, take off his rope, tie on a towel, pour out water, wash and wipe the feet of the disciples. The disciples will sit by, surprised, a little bit alarmed. But, importantly all the actions of the rest of the scene, are Jesus.
The work of salvation is solely the work of Jesus.
We are like the disciples in this scene. Each of us in our own lives sometimes experiences joy and the presence of the light, but always part of that joy is sadness, always the presence of the light is defined by the presence of darkness. And often in our lives there is a way to force a change: So much of our reality is in fact in our power to change.
But not tonight. Not tomorrow, Good Friday. Not Saturday as we wait and watch.
The essence, the challenge, and the beauty of these next three days is that sense of powerlessness.
The work of salvation is solely the work of Jesus.
Only Jesus can see the threat, only Jesus can take the action, only Jesus can set us free. Like the disciples depicted in this Last Supper window, we are always in the presence of danger, of darkness, of the work of Satan.
And We are often completely unaware. But we are also, always in the presence of Light. That the darkness cannot overcome.
The work of salvation is solely the work of Jesus.
Tonight, tomorrow and Saturday, we are called to be resigned to that powerlessness. To be humble in our ignorance. To acknowledge in our humanity, that there is nothing we can do to save ourselves.

Amen

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