Thursday, April 21, 2011

Maundy Thursday Worship

Father Acker washing the feet of those who attend the Maundy Thursday service at Victoria House

Maundy Thursday has always been one of my favorite Holy Days. On this day, we recall Jesus' last full day on earth. In St. John's Gospel, the events of Maundy Thursday is spread over six chapters, Chapters 13 through 18, over a quarter of the entire Gospel.

Jesus starts the Last Supper by washing the feet of His disciples, probably something that they had not experienced since childhood as most of the disciples were not wealthy enough to employ servants to do this lowest job in the household. Jesus strips to the waist, wraps a towel around himself, and washes the feet of every disciple in the Upper Room. It's an act of service, an act of love, an intimate act of great meaning to the disciples as Jesus spoke:

"Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them" (John 13:12-17).
Not only did Jesus institute the washing of feet (which we will do tonight at the Maundy Thursday service at Victoria House), but He also instituted the Last Supper which He celebrated as part of the Passover with His disciples. He picked up the afilkomen, the Bread of Affliction, and instead of saying, "This is the Bread of Affliction," said instead, "This is My Body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me" (Luke 22:19).

And Jesus also took the Cup of Elijah that was set at every Passover table, never touched until Elijah's return to herald the coming of the Messiah. It was this special cup of the Messiah that Christ raised before speaking, "This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in My Blood" (Luke 22:20). The symbolism would not have been lost on the disciples: Jesus was declaring Himself the Messiah by using the cup of Elijah at the close of the Passover meal.

The word "Maundy" means "commandment," and Jesus told His disciples at this final meal together, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:34-35).

So in light of Maundy Thursday, I offer this original poem. It's still a little rough in places, but it does convey a little of the love I have for our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Maundy Thursday
Tipped to my lip,
I open my mouth, allow the wine,
Swallow, and attempt to grip
His holiness, not mine --

My eyes on the icon fix,
Set glowing upon the wall --
My hardened conscience pricks,
Knowing I do not love at all.

Yet He loves -- He Who died
On that cross, bleeding.
Meanwhile, my sin I hide,
His Word barely heeding.

What can I do? cries my heart.
How can I deserve His Gift?
Yet His grace doth impart
Love, joy, and mercy so swift.

My hands, my heart, heavenward I raise --
With tears streaming down my face,
Upon His loving visage now I gaze,
Accepting fully His blessed grace.

Susanne Barrett, Copyright 2009
So as we worship Christ this Maundy Thursday, may we all remember Christ's commandment to us, phrased so simply and perfectly by Saint John in his first epistle:

"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God....Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another" (1 John 4:7,11).
May we all love as He loves, this day and each day, now and always!

Abiding in Our Saviour,

(Partial repost from the Archives)

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