Tonight I was struck as to why we need to celebrate/remember Maundy Thursday. It is a traditional time in which the church remembers the events leading up to Christ’s death by celebrating The Lord’s Supper (communion) and foot washing. It was on this night that Jesus shared those practices with his disciples and instructed them that they too should do the same (John 13). Tonight at Martins Creek Mennonite Church, we celebrated Maundy Thursday.
The evening did not start out well for me. The candles were lit, the bread and juice were present, all those involved in the service were present and on time. Then the service began and one was thing was clear: this was not going to be a well attended event. Many people were on spring break trips, at sporting events and enjoying the beautiful spring day with friends and family. I get it and, at some level, don’t blame them. Life is busy and we need time away from “stuff” and so we do that in a variety of ways. But I was still disappointed and we began.
Our service tonight was a journey through the scriptures beginning with Palm Sunday through the arrest of Jesus in the Garden, all through the book of John. There were seven parts; the palms, the practices, the predictions, the promises, the prayers, the passion and the possibility. Somewhere along the way, I forgot about the lack of people in attendance and began to be drawn into the story of Jesus. I even noticed myself reading slower and more relaxed, as if I was actually enjoying the evening! By the end of our service, Lee Miller meditated on the arrest of Jesus and the question posed to Peter, “Am I not to drink this cup?” Jesus reminded Peter, and all of us, that he had to suffer.
I was immediately drawn to the feelings I get before every funeral. About 15 minutes before the family enters the sanctuary for the start of a funeral, they all gather with the pastors in room for a short devotional and prayer. Then, as the pastor says the last amen, the overwhelming sense that it is time to go to the funeral appears. The mood shifts. We all stand and slowly walk out to the casket for one last good-bye, one last chance to see a loved one. Then the casket lid is closed. The casket leads the procession of family and pastors down the aisle. The funeral has begun. We have now moved into the reality of the death of a loved one.
I get the same feeling with Maundy Thursday. I see myself in the story. I see Jesus leading his disciples out to the garden, out of the room. It is their last chance to say good bye. But then soldiers come and take him away and he is arrested and beaten and whipped and mocked and tortured and the crucified. The reality of death hangs in the air on Maundy Thursday. The reality of what is going to take place next is vivid. The reality of my sin and shame seems to be on display for all to see. I do not want Christ to go on. I don’t want to leave that room. I don’t want what will happen to him to take place. If it does happen, then I am forced to admit that I am a wreck, a sinner and in need of him to do what he must do. He must drink the cup.
I need Maundy Thursday. I need to be taken to that room, led out to the garden and watch as they take Jesus away. I need to be reminded of the great love and sacrifice that he suffered. I need to be surrounded by my brothers and sisters in the faith who are also experiencing the same thing. I need to eat the bread, drink the cup, wash their feet and have them wash mine. We need Maundy Thursday. We need it to bring us together so that we can experience the love of Christ and stand together as we see him drink of his cup.