I think that one of the hardest and most beautiful parts of being human is saying goodbye. All of us, it doesn’t matter who you are, say goodbye to dreams and expectations we’ve held for our lives…goodbye to places that hold meaning and ground us…and, goodbye to people we love. When we say goodbye, whatever the circumstances of that parting, there is this unique moment of opportunity to look back on all the joy and pain of that human relationship and say some final, important things. These goodbyes are magnified moments of human living, where we feel again our failure, our joy, and the wonder of loving and being loved, and we say thank you: for the ways in which your life has helped me live my life.
As they gathered around the table that night for their last meal together, Jesus broke the bread and poured the wine and looked at each of his disciples. Imagine what his goodbyes must have sounded like: “James and John—sometimes both of you are way too intense; you’re always fighting over who is the teacher’s pet. But I admire your deep devotion, and I long for your tenacity and commitment. In the tough days ahead, hang onto that. Peter? Peter. I love you brother. I mean: you’re crazy and impetuous, always getting us in trouble in well-intentioned ways, but I do love you. Don’t forget it. Judas, I’m praying that I can remember you carry so much pain that you can’t let yourself recognize love, can’t even let yourself be part of this ragtag community that wants to embrace you. I want you to remember that God will never leave you, no matter what.”
Tonight it’s you and me around this table. We’re remembering that meal, as Jesus told us to do. And perhaps we may consider what Jesus might say were he looking across the table, straight into my eyes or yours. “Don’t let your fear direct your life—it will only lead you bad places. Stop trying so hard to get the world to love you. I wish for you that you would let go of the anger. Your heart will not feel like it’s breaking into a million pieces forever; I promise, it will get better.” And, most of all: “I love you. I will always be with you. Please don’t forget.”
As a matter of fact, we are invited to experience around this table a magnified moment of human living, where we feel again our failure, our joy, and the wonder of loving and being loved, and we remember: there’s a place for everyone at the table tonight. Everyone…as we come to say our goodbyes to a Savior who showed us what love means, and as we look toward him and say perhaps something like: Thank you. Thank you…for the ways in which your life has helped me live mine.