Maundy Thursday: Givers and Takers.

Givers and takers. 

For many years there was an old sign in the kitchen saying: “Please clean up after yourself, your mother does not work here!” And for all the wonderful volunteers preparing food, cleaning the serving trays, brewing coffee, and serving all kinds of goodies for the congregation week after week, this would always be a great reminder to all who was served: Remember to clean up – your mother does not work here! Please help. Please be helpful. Please serve. Or like another of these funny kitchen signs say: “Due to circumstances beyond our control our butler and maid have resigned. Your cooperation in helping to keep this place clean will be greatly appreciated.”

The Danish Kitchen here at the Danish Church is a great metaphor for the attitude of service and serving. We do serve here as a congregation. We serve as members of committees and councils. We serve the congregation and the community. We serve by serving and being servants to others. Like another great sign says:

“There are two kinds of people in this world: Givers and Takers. The takers may eat better, but the givers sleep better!”

The world defines greatness in terms of power, possessions, prestige, and position. If you can demand service from others, you’ve arrived and succeeded in life. In our me-first culture, selfie obsessed time, acting like a servant or even having the attitude of serving is not very popular. Maybe only if it serves to portray you as good servant or give you more likes and shares on Social Media. Even the disciples of Christ argued about who was the greatest and who deserved the best seats, and 2000 years later, people still argue about position and prominence.

We want to be leaders, not servants.

We rather be generals than privates.

We want to be shepherds, not sheep.

But to be like Jesus is to be a servant. Jesus measured in terms of service, not status. God determines your greatness by how many people you serve, not how many people serve you. And this is said and shown so beautifully through the words and the acts of Christ on the Maundy Thursday. Jesus is serving the bread and wine and he is giving himself. He is giving all of him, body, blood, mind, and soul.

He is washing the disciples’ feet and he is showing himself as a servant. Even if he was and is the master and the savior, he was only a great a master and savior through his service. Through these simple acts of service, he shows us how to be and what is important.

We remember this tonight. We remember and are reminded of the greatness of service. The kindness of service. The Christian call to serve.

Mother Theresa lived her life in service and said: “Give your hands to serve and your hearts to love.”

Mahatma Ghandi lived his life in service and said: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

And Martin Luther King Jr. said: “Everyone can be great, because everyone can serve.”

Or as the great boxer Muhmmed Ali said:” Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”

Tonight, the Gospel answers and guides us to serve by sharing meal and life, by washing feet and souls. By sharing a meal, we share life and time and humanity. By washing feet, we care for each other, wash away guilt and faults and give new strength. Meal and bath are central elements in our Lutheran Church: The Holy Communion that we celebrate and share every Sunday as a beautiful token of shared humanity and hope, forgiveness, and relatedness. Just a small piece of bread and a fresh zip of wine, give us a piece of heaven and of hope. The baptism that we celebrate whenever a child is carried into church or a youngster or adult walks to the baptismal font is also a beautiful token of shared humanity and hope, faith, and fellowship. Just 3 small handful of water, cleansed us and gives us new hope.

The moving meal of Maundy Thursday that happened almost 2000 years ago – still speaks to about forgiveness, fellowship, faith and importance of shared meal and humanity.

The humble act of service through washing of the feet that happened almost 2000 years ago – still speaks to us volumes about greatness in service and humbleness.

And the words about the new commandment, the new mandate, to love each other as Jesus loved – words spoken almost 2000 years ago -still speaks to us: love is all you need. Love is the greatest commandment to life, community, humanity, and hope.

This week, our oldest son Kristian turned 20, and we went down to San Marcos to celebrate him, embarrass him by singing in front of not only his roommates but also in the packed restaurant, and to share time. The best time is shared at a table. Eating, drinking, having good time and opportunity to talk, laugh, argue, eat, con-template, and enjoy the company of good people. Once again sitting at the table in the seafront restaurant in Carlsbad, looking at the burning sunset, watching the Pacific Ocean, eating wonderful food – I was happy. And Kristian said: “Oh, now mom is happy because we are all here….!”

A good meal is food for both body and soul. That is why a meal is so vital for our church and that is why a meal is so vital for our families.

A Prominent family expert Bruce Feiler who wrote the bestseller: “The secrets of Happy Families” gives his bids on happiness in a family. And one of the bids are: Eat together. Spend time together at a table. And he writes: “A new study shows that children who eats dinners with their family, are less likely to drink, smoke, do drugs, get pregnant, commit suicide and get anorexia. Studies also shows that children who participate a family dinner, have a great vocabulary, better manners, healthier diet, and better self-esteem. “ He concludes that “Shared meals has a greater impact that the time spend in school, studying, attending church, or playing sports.”

That is why I am so happy every time I sit with my family. A good dinner per day obviously keeps the doctor away, along with the drugs, the alcohol, the anxiety, the depression, the early pregnancies, - and gives better grades, manners, and self-esteem. So, who would not sit down and share a meal?!

Maundy Thursday is an evening to remind us how connected we are or should be. Maundy Thursday is an evening to remind us how depending we are on shared moments, talk, fellowship, hope, forgiveness. Maundy Thursday is an evening to remind us how much God loved this world: that he sent and gave his son to us: to live, to serve, to be with us. At the communion we share a meal with God, over time and space, we are connected with God through bread and wine, through words and actions.

We sing it so beautifully every Sunday and tonight:

“In this meal we taste your sweetness, bread for hunger, wine of peace. Holy word and holy wisdom satisfy our deepest needs.

Send us now with faith and courage to the hungry, lost, bereaved. In our living and our dying, we become what we receive.”

So, let us remember tonight. The night of meal and service. The night of how we should live and how we should serve.

“There are two kinds of people in this world: Givers and Takers. The takers may eat better, but the givers sleep better!”