Friday, April 14, 2006

Maundy Thursday at Our Place

I'm an unapologetic smells-and-bells worshipper; so the first time I ever attended my church's Maundy Thursday meal, I did so with the heels of my heart dragging in the sand. Ugh. This is going to be gimmicky. I don't want gimmicky on Maundy Thursday.

That was, I think, about six years ago. Thing is, I kept coming back. I came back yesterday evening, too.

Here's how we do it.

We begin our observance in the sanctuary, with a brief greeting/gathering. Then we process downstairs to our candlelit fellowship hall, where we're met by members of our worship committee who very gently and carefully wash, dry and lotion our hands. The tables, which are usually organized in long rows, are split up so that people can sit in small groups of about eight.

Our service is incorporated into a real meal. It's not a Seder; it's a real Midwestern supper, with humble no-peek stew and wholegrain flatbread and a fruit dessert. Each stage of the meal is paired with lectio divina and a liturgical action; for instance, we have an appetizer course with little slices of cocktail rye bread and spinach dip; we hear the story of Jesus identifying Judas, dipping his bread, as his betrayer, and as we take our own bread and dip we ask the others at our table, "Is it I?" -- and hear words of forgiveness and reconciliation. Before the main course is served we celebrate the Eucharist; again, we hear the Gospel story, and hear Paul's reiteration of it; our pastor consecrates the bread and wine, and then we commune one another at our own tables with our own baskets of bread and carafes of wine.

As we eat our stew, our "holy listening" turns to our listening to one another; as our pastor points out, Jesus and his disciples spent much of this evening just talking, just being with one another. At my table, which I shared with a very nice family who were some of the first people to befriend my mother and I when we started attending, and with one of my fellow lay ministers, we talked about everything from elk in Atlanta (that's Atlanta, Michigan) to what was going on in our own lives right now.

Finally, at the end of the meal, our pastor reads Jesus' High Priestly prayer -- which, he reminds us, is something that Christ even now continues to pray on our behalf as our Great High Priest: prays that we may be bound together in love; prays that we be protected from the Adversary; prays that we might take care of one another.

And then it's over. Usually the pastor will ask if anyone wants to share their experience of the evening, and usually people are open in sharing, and thoughtful in their responses.

We had a couple of people who, at the last minute, were unable to attend, so we had a few empty chairs. As I was sitting there last night, I wished that you could be with us.

Artwork: "Phoebe of Chenchrae," Dina Cormick


OneEar said...

We do it similarly, only we wash, dry and lotion the feet.

Evelyn said...

You said "I wished you could be with us."
LutheranChik, I wish I could have been there, too. Reading your words, however, made it seem almost like I was there. I continue to marvel at the gift of writing that God has given to you.
May your Good Friday observance be just as meaningful, and may you have a truly joyful Easter!

MicahGirl said...

That sounds like such a beautiful celebration. I like the simplicity of it.

RuthRE said...

For the first time I attended the congregational seder that we do before a traditional Maundy Thursday service.

It was yer traditional seder...with a full explination...prayers, everything. I'd never experienced that I enjoyed it a great deal! It was wonderful to break bread with my "other family".

And our guest celebrant was a female in a synod office. I *loved* her chausable.

Rainbow Pastor said...

I love what your church does!

I am hoping that when we get into our own space, we can have a Maundy Thursday service. Yours sounds like the perfect way to do it.

I have serious theological issues with Christians doing a "Seder," so I don't want to go there at all. But yours sounds perfect--the shared meal, the memories, the Scripture, and the sense of service all rolled into one.

Tom in Ontario said...

That sounds really cool. We had soup and dessert for supper before we went into the church for our worship service.

We began with confession and forgiveness with laying on of hands and individual absolution. Then we read scripture, I preached a sermon, then I took off my stole and chasuble and washed my 7 11/12 year old son's feet. I pick one representative from the congregation each year and wash that person's feet. Then we had Holy Communion and stripped the altar.

I think maybe next year I'll incorporate some of what your church does. We can start in the church with Confession and Forgiveness and individual absolution, then go into the church hall and wash each other's hands then eat a potluck supper with scripture and sermon interspersed, and Holy Communion included, then return to the church for the stripping of the altar.

I wouldn't mind if you or your pastor could email me some sort of order for meal/worship if one exists.

We talked about maybe doing a seder next year but this sounds better.