‘Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.’
1 Corinthians 11:28
We come at last to the Great Three Days of Holy Week!
We begin with Maundy Thursday and the Celebration of the New Meal (the transformed Passover) which allows us to participate in and benefit from the New Covenant which Jesus established through his New and Greatest of all Sacrifices (Good Friday); a New Covenant which issues in the birth of New Creation (Easter Day), the glorious victory of the Creator over all the forces that threatened his plans for his good Creation- ourselves included!
But how are we to come to these three Great Days?
Paul tells us to come having ‘examined ourselves’ – but what does that mean exactly, and how might we do that well? Are we to hide ourselves in a corner and scrupulously judge our lives, and then if – and only IF- we somehow pass the exam feel good enough to come to the Feast?
I would take the Psalmist who wrote Psalm 102 as our guide (the psalm set for the morning office on Maundy Thursday).
Note the superscription: This is ‘a prayer of one afflicted, when he is faint and pours out his complaint before the LORD.’
The psalmist does not ‘examine’ himself by himself, rather he brings his life as he knows it and articulates it into the very presence of God (v. 1-11). And does so with an honesty and boldness that takes our breath away.
He cries out to be heard (sensing that he has not been) and describes his experience of the devastation of his people and of himself (he writes as one who survived the destruction of Jerusalem and the utter desolation of the Temple). He ends with his judgment that all of this is ‘because of your indignation and anger; for you have taken me up and thrown me down!’ (v.10)
But the psalmist does not end there!
He goes on to confession – not of his sins but of God’s greatness and faithfulness to his Covenant!
‘But YOU are enthroned forever…. YOU will arise and have pity of Zion… the LORD builds up Zion!’ – even now, even through these devastating events!
He even stops his present day confession to ask that it be ‘recorded’- written down ‘for a generation to come’ (v18)- so confident is he of the ultimate triumph of his God.
He then returns to his own time and his own sorrow and his own request (v. 23-24) but these now are incorporated into his confession (v. 25-28). He ends in hope!
So what has the psalmist done?
He has ‘examined’ his life – he has brought his life in all of its rawness into the presence of God through prayer – and has cried out to understand it –to see it – woven into the larger and greater Story that God is writing about and enacting in and for his world!
That, it seems to me, is the way we should ‘come’ to these Great Days.
May God give us the grace and the courage to do so!