Welcome + Worship + Witness

The Rector: Maundy Thursday Sermon

Thursday 14 April 2022
Maundy Thursday
Revd Nicholas Mercer

There is a Church in Dorset called St Nicholas’s
It is in a village called Moreton near Dorchester
You may have heard of it not least because Lawrence of Arabia is buried there and the Church occasionally appears in films about his life
The Church is medieval in origin but was rebuilt in 1776 during the reign of George III
For reasons which are not clear, it suffered a direct hit from a German bomb in 1940
And, as result, had to undergo substantial repairs which took place over the next decade
The original stained glass was replaced with plain green glass which was not much liked by the congregation
As a result, the parish decided to commission a series of engraved windows instead
And they chose an artist called Rex Whistler – who was commissioned to produce thirteen engraved windows
One for each of the twelve disciples and one for Christ himself

Rex Whistler was an artist of some distinction
Who duly carried out his commission with great skill and creativity
The windows were installed/gradually/over the coming years and were received with great acclaim – bar one
It was the window commemorating Judas which caused the most controversy
The parish believed that Judas should be depicted as being in hell, or being hanged or his bowels gushing out as described in the Acts of Apostles
However, Whistler did something very different
Instead of showing Judas in some sort of torment he was, instead, depicted as being pulled into heaven by the rope that he used to hang himself
And the thirty pieces of silver Jesus were depicted as rose petals falling out of his pocket
As a result, the parish rejected it – clearly believing that Judas should be in hell
But what Whistler was doing was challenging us all, by having the temerity to suggest that Judas would be forgiven by God
And this story of Judas is particularly appropriate, because it is on this night, Maundy Thursday, that Judas betrays Christ

I suspect that most of us will have some have sympathy for the parishioners of St Nicholas’ Moreton
We all like to pigeon-hole people and tend to think of ourselves on the side of right of events rather than the wrong
However, Holy Week tells us something very different, not least that we are all likely to betray Christ in our lives
I preached on Palm Sunday about the crowds on Palm Sunday who welcomed Christ when he entered Jerusalem
But the same crowd were baying for his blood just a week later
Tonight, at the watch, we will hear of the disciples who betrayed Christ by not keeping watch with him in the Garden of Gethsemane
And then of Peter himself who denied Christ three times before the cock crowed
But as well as the disciples there are all the others too
The religious authorities, Pontius Pilate, the judge, the soldiers who put him to death and the rest of the disciples who fled at the first sign of trouble
In other words – us – despite the fact that we think we are the loyal disciples
The betrayal is made even worse by the fact that Christ comes to serve us
As is so wonderfully and tenderly represented by Christ washing the feet of his disciples – something we loving remember in our rituals today

So on this sombre evening, when we remember all that is about to unfold in the next three days,
I leave you with a poem by Peter de Rosa which is appropriately called Judas

Judas, if true love never ceases
How could you, my friend, have come to this?
To sell me for thirty pieces of silver
Betray me with a kiss

Judas, remember what I taught you Judas let’s pray and hang together
Do not despair whilst dangling on that rope You on your halter, I upon my hill
It is because you sinned that I have sought you Dear Friend, even if you loved me never
I came to bring you hope You know I love you still