You can chose how you view today’s blog entry. You can either watch the video or just follow the text below. The text has some additional links to music videos that you may wish to see.
Today is Maundy Thursday, the day when we commemorate and re-enact the last meal that Jesus had with his disciples the night before he died. I think that tonight of all night will be the time that we feel most keenly the pain of not being able to come together to worship, for tonight is about communion and community. It is about expressing again the way in which we belong to one another and to Christ.
This service won’t be a communion that I celebrate and everyone else watches. I don’t think that would reflect our unity in Christ. I think it would be very frustrating for you and it doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t think it would be a communion at all.
I think that although we’re apart we can be together in our prayer for one another and in our deliberate intention to set aside this time for worship. (Even if we follow this service at different moments.)
Alwyn has helped me by suggesting some hymns and music. You will find the hymns in the body of the text. On Maundy Thursday we often keep a vigil of prayer after the service as though we were keeping vigil with Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. You may like to listen to some of the music suggested at the end of this blog and keep that time of prayer after the recorded service has finished.
A Liturgy for Maundy Thursday
HYMN: Lord Jesus Christ
In the name of the Father, and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Grace, mercy and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you
and also with you.
PRAYER OF PENITENCE
Our Lord Jesus Christ says:
‘If you love me, keep my commandments.’
‘Unless I wash you, you have no part in me.’
Let us confess to almighty God our sins against his love,
and ask him to cleanse us.
Silence is kept.
Have mercy on us, O God,
in your great goodness;
according to the abundance of your compassion
blot out our offences.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Against you only have we sinned
and done what is evil in your sight.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Purge us from our sin and we shall be clean;
wash us and we shall be whiter than snow.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Our sins are forgiven…
May the Father forgive you
by the death of his Son
and strengthen you to live
in the power of the Spirit all your days. Amen
GLORIA IN EXCELSIS
Glory to God in the highest,
and peace to his people on earth.
Lord God, heavenly King,
almighty God and Father,
we worship you, we give you thanks,
we praise you for your glory.
Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father,
Lord God, Lamb of God,
you take away the sin of the world:
have mercy on us;
you are seated at the right hand of the Father:
receive our prayer.
For you alone are the Holy One,
you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ,
with the Holy Spirit,
in the glory of God the Father.
Let us pray that we may love one another as Christ has loved us.
God our Father, your Son Jesus Christ was obedient to the end
and drank the cup prepared for him:
may we who share his table
watch with him through the night of suffering and be faithful.
This is the moment to pause and listen to the second hymn: A new commandment.
HYMN: A New Commandment
GOSPEL READING John 13: 1 – 17 & 31b – 35
Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John.
Glory to you, O Lord.
1 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. 2 The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4 got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5 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. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ 7 Jesus answered, ‘You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ 8 Peter said to him, ‘You will never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.’ 9 Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!’ 10 Jesus said to him, ‘One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.’ 11 For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason, he said, ‘Not all of you are clean.’
12 After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 14 So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16 Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.
Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32 If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33 Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now, I say to you, “Where I am going, you cannot come.” 34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’
This is the Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, O Christ.
And so we pray…
Lord Jesus Christ, you have taught us
that what we do for the least of our brothers and sisters
we do also for you:
give us the will to be the servant of others as you were the servant of all,
and gave up your life and died for us,
but are alive and reign, now and for ever.
The picture you can see of Jesus washing Peter’s feet was painted by the German artist and priest Seiger Koder who died in 2015. Koder lived to be ninety but as a young man he was conscripted towards the end of the Second World War and sent to France where he was taken prisoner. That experience and the legacy of the war and of the holocaust, informed his decision to become a priest. He combined his vocation as a parish priest with his work as an artist, producing numerous paintings, altarpieces and stained-glass windows for churches within and outside Germany. In essence he painted his faith. You may have seen his pictures before.
During this Holy Week we have been reflecting on the question asked by the onlookers when Jesus came riding into Jerusalem on a donkey – ‘Who is this?’ The answer to that question this evening is that Jesus is the one who ministers to us and who calls us to minister to others.
Here is the image – Jesus washing Peter’s feet. His own feet are bare. The bread and the wine are standing ready on the table reminding us that they are getting ready to sit down and eat together. The towel is laid on the floor beneath the bowl, Jesus’ head is covered with a Jewish prayer shawl –a tallit – and he’s kneeling before Peter. The drama of the picture lies in the body language between Peter and Jesus. To wash feet was the work of a slave or a servant. It was dirty work, the people wore sandals, feet were dusty, rubbed and bruised and tired. If there were no servants people would wash their own feet with water provided by the host when they entered a dwelling or a tent, – but on that evening when they were all together, Jesus took the towel and knelt before his friends, and because it was Jesus their friend and master it became an intimate and loving act of humility and love. The hands of Christ touching, tending, wiping, caring, cleansing. Physical, expressive, embodied contact and care.
Look at Peter’s hands. One hand laid on Jesus’ back in friendship accepting the ministrations of Jesus, allowing the intimacy of the act and the other hand pushing away not able to bear that Jesus should embrace him in this way. This is our dilemma too. John, the gospel writer and Seiger Koder, the artist both want us to sit in Peter’s place. Can we allow Christ through others to minister to us? And do we have the capacity to turn and offer that care to others, in his name, embracing their vulnerability and trouble?
It is difficult to accept the care of others. We like to be independent and self-sufficient. We like to think we can look after ourselves and cope with life and what it throws at us. To accept care, especially physical care exposes our vulnerability. We may become defensive as Peter was. But if we cannot receive care from another – how can we accept the way in which Christ wants to tend to us and our lives.
A quote from the film Shadowlands. “Self-sufficiency is the enemy of salvation. If you are self-sufficient, you have no need of God. If you have no need of God, you do not seek Him. If you do not seek Him, you will not find Him.”
But on the other hand, to give care makes us vulnerable too because that way we experience the struggles and sufferings of others. Yet this is what Jesus called us to. A new commandment I give unto you that you love one another as I have loved you. This is a challenge. Those who are or have been carers know about the struggles; the physical nature of caring, when to give care and when not, the frustrations and the demands of caring – but they also know the rewards and the satisfaction and the knowledge they can do no other.
This reflection is very relevant at this moment because the one thing our whole society is being asked to do is to care for one another. Yet it turns out this way of caring is not to get close to one another but to stand apart – even from our family and friends out of love for them and out of care for those who are elderly or vulnerable in our communities. We think of the members of our church as being one body, the body of Christ – all essential, all significant. I think it’s very interesting that the impact of coronavirus has shown us that the whole of our nation is interdependent, one upon another.
This is a hard way of ministering to each other but it must be done and of course we can offer that more tangible care and support – a phone call to cheer someone up, picking up groceries, whatever it might be, or we may be amongst the number who find they have to receive care – and with thankfulness.
Jesus commands us to love, commanded to care for each other – and the ‘other’ might not be someone we know. To love as Christ calls us to love means we are open to the struggles of one another and also dependant on each other. But it is in this love that Christ will be known. Christ will be at the centre of such love. Yet the result of such love will be blessing and suffering mixed up together. Love always costs. See the face of Christ reflected in the bowl of water and to one side his hand raised in the sign of blessing and yet already marked with the nail of his suffering.
Lord Jesus, during this hard time when we cannot meet or worship together, help us to receive your love for us and know your ministry towards us. We pray for those who are suffering or watching the suffering of those they love. We pray for all who are sacrificially nursing and caring for those in need. We recognise that this is where you too stand, in that place of love and sacrifice. Help us to follow your example.
In the power of the Spirit let us pray to the Father
through Christ the saviour of the world.
Father, on this, the night he was betrayed,
your Son Jesus Christ washed his disciples’ feet.
We commit ourselves to follow his example of love and service.
Lord, hear us
and humble us.
On this night, he prayed for his disciples to be one.
We pray for the unity of your Church.
Lord, hear us
and unite us.
On this night, he prayed for those who were to believe through
his disciples’ message. We pray for the mission of your Church.
Lord, hear us
and renew our zeal.
On this night, he commanded his disciples to love,
but suffered rejection himself. We pray for the rejected and unloved.
Lord, hear us
and fill us with your love.
On this night, he reminded his disciples
that if the world hated them it hated him first.
We pray for those who are persecuted for their faith.
Lord, hear us
and give us your peace.
On this night, he accepted the cup of death
and looked forward to the new wine of the kingdom.
We remember those who have died in the peace of Christ.
Lord, hear us
and welcome all your children into paradise.
Jesus says: ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.’
The peace of the Lord be always with you
In response to the reflection you may like to listen to this hymn
HYMN: Turn your eyes upon Jesus
THE WATCH OF PRAYER
When the disciples had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Jesus prayed to the Father, ‘If it is possible, take this cup of suffering from me.’ He said to his disciples, ‘How is it that you were not able to keep watch with me for one hour? The hour has come for the Son of Man to be handed over to the power of sinners.’
Christ was obedient unto death. Go in his peace.
Some Music Suggestions
‘Carissima’ – Edward Elgar
‘Nocturne Opus 9 No. 1’ – Chopin
‘Ave Verum’ – Philip Stopford
‘O Mensch, Bewein’ Bwv 622 – Johann Sebastian Bach
[“O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde groß” (O man, bewail thy sins so great)]