Today is Maundy Thursday. Maundy is from the Latin mandatum (from which we derive the English word "mandate").I was mulling on this, and one thing that came to me was that so much of Lent is focusing on ourselves (it doesn't have to be that way, but I think that's how most of us tend to approach it) and as we move toward Easter, we move toward being out in the world.
Today, we remember the commandment Jesus gave the disciples:
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:34-35)
Then later I was catching up on Will's blog, and today he had posted:
What do you want to do before you die?***
Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.
It's a question that reminds me of a parlor- game - if you knew you had one day to live, what would you want to do before you die? Sometimes it's called "the bucket list" i.e. things to do before you kick the bucket...
For Jesus it was easy; fill the bucket with water and use it to wash people's feet, even the person who was about to be responsible for your death.
In many churches around the world today, Christians will be ritually washing each others' feet to remember that Jesus' last hours weren't spent judging people, trying to convert them, attending ritualized traditional worship, studying scripture or arguing about theology. He spent his time washing people's feet.
I didn't grow up doing Lent, but I did grow up doing Maundy Thursday, and I think even at UCN I found it at least moderately moving and powerful. Looking ahead to Holy Week this year, I thought: I don't connect with Good Friday, but Maundy Thursday is so powerful and moving.
And yet tonight's was the most uninspiring Maundy Thursday service. Joint CAUMC-CWM, about a half an hour long. About an even split timewise between talking interspersed with "silent reflection" (which each lasted about the length of a breath) and Communion -- with a few other things in there as well.
I did really like (with some quibbles) this spoken segment:
Heaven is teetering. The basin is waiting. The action is joined. The holy one of God moves. The darkness encroaches. The light crumples. Bread breaks, and wine spills.And I did get choked up at this unison bit during the Invitation to Communion:
A questioning promise, a broken covenant, a wondering band of followers, and a worried Messiah. Won't you wait here a while? Won't you wait here a while? Long enough, long enough, to grasp even a glimpse, and hold even a fraction, of a broken heaven.
Here is the story of God, crucified and risen. This is the belonging place.(Ari, again with Rev.S's "this is not the place we pretend to be well" -- though of course it's not just that.)
Our service started a little after 7:30 and finished a little after 8. As I walked home, First Church's front door was still open. I knew their service had started at 7, but I also had the impression that theirs was much longer than ours, so I walked up to the sanctuary (creaky stairs made me feel really self-conscious) and there were still some people sitting in pews, and I walked up the front of the sanctuary and admired the cross they had constructed and the banks of tea light candles and stood for a while and then sat for a bit and then left -- partly because watching clergy etc. cleaning up was making me feel self-conscious on a variety of levels and also because I didn't really have anything to meditate about.
[FirstChurch Mailing List] Tonight: Maundy Thursday Tenebrae Service
You might hear people say that Maundy Thursday is their favorite worship service of the year. You might already feel this way, yourself. It has something to do with crying all of your tears, in preparation for smiling till it hurts on Easter. The salty makes the sweet, sweeter.
Tonight, we'll gather in the sanctuary at 6:30 for a simple supper: what the disciples might themselves have eaten at the Last Supper. At 7p, we'll begin our service: twelve readings from the last 24 hours of the life of Jesus, punctuated by modern poetry, and waning light, and sad song, and silence.
O sacred head now wounded...