Thursday, April 13, 2006


Call me churlish, but I find the annual Maundy Thursday money-laundering ceremony something of a charade. The Queen was at Guildford Cathedral today, doling out 80p to eighty 'ordinary people', in an enactment of symblic bounty to the indigent going back to 1210 or so. In the early days, reigning monarchs would wash the feet of their subjects, which at least gets nearer the bone. But then they gave that up and adopted nosegays - floral smelling salts which meant that the delicate ruling classes didn't actually have to endure the rank smell of degradation over which they presided for the other 364 days of the year. Er... you can tell I'm not going a bundle on this, can't you?

Anyway, today's elaborate ritual gave the Church of England a chance to exercise its ceremonial thighs, while the richest woman in the world distributed the majestic sum of £64 to a bunch of Chelsea Pensioners. That's right, sixty-four quid. Barely enough to twitch the anti-redistributionist muscle of the average raging Blairite, let alone those new-fangled compassionate-but-neoliberal 'Dave' Cameron Tories. Monarchism really is an extraordinary thing. Why on earth do we put up with it, let alone give it divine sanction?

Thankfully, Thinking Anglicans (who will probably have a less jaundiced view than me of these events) marked Maundy Thursday rather more appropriately with a meditation on the table-turning Gospel of foot-washing and table fellowship. Here's the first section of Feasting in God's Kingdom...

Maundy Thursday is a turning point too in the story of the relationship between God and humanity. Throughout his ministry we see Jesus acting out the very message that he was proclaiming. He tells his listeners that the kingdom of God is at hand, that it is among them — and all the while he is doing the things he is talking about. He proclaims that in God’s kingdom the blind will see, the lame will walk, and the sick will be healed — and he goes around restoring sight, raising the paralysed, curing the sick; he proclaims that the kingdom is like a feast to which all will be invited — and he goes around eating and drinking with everyone, from members of the Council to the outcasts of society and the ritually impure, in their ones and twos and in their thousands.

Jesus is not just proclaiming the kingdom, he is also living it: he is inaugurating it and embodying it. And he draws his disciples and others into this realization of the kingdom, above all when they share a meal together. And then in the last meal before his death, Jesus does something new.

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