Exodus 1-4, 11-14 establishes the Passover feast
Psalm 116 gives thanks for God’s saving grace.
In 1 Corinthians 11.23-26 Paul passes on the tradition that at the last supper Jesus said “this is my body… this is my blood.”
In John 13.1-17, 31b-35 Jesus washes the disciples’ feet and gives them the commandment to love one another.
The word “Maundy” is rooted in “commandment.” On this might we focus on the distinctive mark of Christian faith, not the Ten Commandments but the One Commandment: to love one another as Christ has loved us. Note that, as usual, Jesus raises the bar above the golden rule: we are commanded to love our neighbor not just as we love ourselves (which is admittedly imperfect) but as Christ has loved is, which is, in fact, perfect. Jesus embodies this love in washing our feet as a servant, and will do so in his forgiveness on the cross.
Two powerful rituals occur this evening. You may chose to observe either or both. Communion is most directly tied to the Last Supper, although it is also a re-enactment of every instance of Jesus feeding us. Notice how often Jesus “took, broke, blessed and gave” bread: the loaves and fishes, the meal at Emmaus, the Easter breakfast on the beach. Those four actions, or parts of them, occur multiple times in the gospels as well as here in 1 Corinthians. Powerful actions, they are. Jesus himself is taken, blessed, broken and given. And as disciples so are we.
On Holy Thursday we give special attention to the sacrament of communion; it may expand and take up most of the service. If you use one of the extended eucharistic prayers I offer, you might want to shorten the rest of the service.
The Last Supper was a Passover meal, a celebration of God’s liberation of the Hebrews from slavery, and a recognition of God’s desire for the liberation of all who are still oppressed. It is woven of past and present, celebration and confession, personal and political. (It wouldn’t have been what we knows as a Passover Seder: that was a later invention.) As we lament the oppression in the world it is appropriate to examine our complicity in injustice an participation in systems that benefit us at others’ expense: social sins including greed, racism, materialism, heterosexism, xenophobia, violence of all kinds, abuse of the earth, and systems that produce poverty…. At the same time that God judges these evils God loves us, forgives us, and redeems us, empowering us to live in new ways. Methodist baptismal vows ask us to “accept the power Gods gives us to resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.” So our confrontation of our sin is not gloomy but hopeful. This is the good news of the cross. God meets us in our sin, as both victim and judge, with love.
The Last Supper, in John’s gospel, is followed by a footwashing.Enacting this can be challenging in any American congregation, because of its awkwardness and intimacy. Of course that’s what makes it so powerful. Love invites us to risk feeling awkward and not in control, for the sake of another person. Of course in these days of the Covid pandemic it’s not only intimate but risky. And for those churches conducting worship online—how do we do a footwashing on Zoom?? I think we don’t. The whole point of the footwashing is personal presence. We can speak and sing about it but we can’t do it…(yet). But the image is powerful: of washing feet, of getting on our knees, doing something that feels beneath us, in love. And the image of Jesus, the Chosen One, getting on his knees and doing a lowly chore, tenderly, for our sake—well, there you have it.
Here is a Maundy Thursday liturgy that is an extended Eucharistic Prayer
Leader: Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha-olam,
hamotzi lechem min ha-aretz.
Blessed are You, Holy One our God, Ruler of the Universe,
who brings forth bread from the earth. Amen.
All: We praise you, God, for the abundance of the earth.
You give all creatures their food in due season.
We give thanks for your grace, that when we were slaves in Egypt, you set us free.
You commanded us to remember our bondage,
to remember your mighty acts, and to remember all those who are still oppressed.
We come to your table to share this bread that you give to all people.
We receive it with praise and thanksgiving,
and pray that by your grace we may bear it to all of your Beloved,
especially those who hunger, in the name of Christ. Amen.
Leader: God of love, in a time of fear you invite us in love.
All: In a time of division you make us one.
In a time of violence you give us your peace.
In a time of uncertainty you remind us of your Covenant.
Even Jesus, your Beloved, faces his death, he shares with us the joy of life.
We give thanks. Grateful, humble and hungry,
we come to the table of grace. Amen.
Leader: God is with you.
All: And also with you.
On this day we remember Jesus’ command to love one another.
God, we come to receive your love, so that we may pass it on.
Jesus said there is no greater love than to lay down your life for your friends.
We are the friends for whom Jesus laid down his life.
Grateful and humbled, we come to behold your love,
to feast upon your grace, and to die and rise with Christ in love. Amen.
Collect / Prayer of the day
Holy One, on this night we remember Jesus gathering with his disciples for a Passover meal. You have delivered your people from slavery, and you call us to celebrate. Tonight we give thanks for the love by which you set us free from our fear of death; we confess our part in the oppression of others, and we pray for all who are still in bondage. In wonder and gratitude we meditate on the mystery of this supper in which you give yourself to us. We pray that as we receive the bread of the earth we may also receive the bread of heaven. We pray in the name and the companionship of Christ. Amen.
2. [May also be read responsively.]
Loving God, you invite us to feast on your grace. We come.
Generous God, you give us yourself. We open ourselves to you.
Gentle God, you suffer our violence. We confess our sin and receive your grace.
Loving God, you renew us. Feed us your love, and we shall live.
Gracious God, as Jesus ate with his friends, we come to experience the grace of your table. As Jesus celebrated your Passover, we come to rejoice that your deliver us from sin and death. As Jesus washed the feet of his friends, we come to be washed in your love. Jesus commanded us to love one another,; fill us with the bread of our love, that we may humbly and lovingly serve the world in the name of Christ. Amen.
God of grace, as Jesus called his beloved friends to the table, so you call us now, to share in table fellowship as siblings, to give thanks for Jesus, and to receive him into our hearts. Fill us with the love of Christ, that we may be his faithful disciples. Amen.
Prayer of Confession
Loving God, we will betray you; yet you invite us to your table.
We will deny you; yet you give us yourself in love.
We will fail to pray with you; yet you pray for us.
We will crucify you; yet you forgive us.
We confess our sin. We receive your grace.
God of love, we give thanks for the mystery of this meal,
in which, even in our sin, you offer us love and grace.
Therefore we are bold to confess our sin to you with one another.
Merciful God, we confess that we have not loved you
with all our heart, nor loved our neighbors as ourselves.
In our fear we have withheld compassion.
In anger we have judged others. We have betrayed Christ.
We repent of our sin, and ask your forgiveness.
3. [May also be used as a follow-up prayer to #2 above.]
Gracious God, grant us Christ’s spirit of humility, obedience and love.
Set us free from our bondage to self,
that by your grace we may enter into the fellowship of his suffering
and the body of his love, trusting in your grace alone.
Grant that in his spirit we may freely serve one another
in all lowliness, for the sake of your will. Amen.
Jesus, I would not have you wash my feet. I am too proud.
And I am also unworthy.
Heal both my shame and my pride.
Let me feel your tender love, your strong hands, the cleansing of your love.
Wash my feet.
[See also these alternative (expanded) Eucharistic Prayers.]
[The body of the prayer may be read responsively with the congregation or by the presiding leader(s) alone).]
God is with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your heart.
We lift them up to God.
Let us give thanks to the Holy One, our God.
It is good and beautiful to give God our praise.
God, Holy One, Triune Mystery: Love, the Beloved and the flowing of Love:
we thank you. You create us in your image,
claim us as your children, and call us as your Beloved.
When our love fails you remain steadfast in your mercy.
You delivered your children from slavery in Egypt.
You delivered your children from slavery in America.
And even though we are still enslaved by sin,
by greed and fear, by injustice and oppression,
still you love us, heal us, and set us free.
Even though we will betray and deny you, you invite us to your table.
And so we come, singing your praise with all Creation.
Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ,
who fed the hungry and healed the hurting,
who embodied your liberation and stood with tender courage
against all the systems that divide us.
He proclaimed a new life, an Empire of Grace,
and stands among those who still are enslaved and oppressed.
Even as the Empire of Power threatened his death,
he gathered with his beloved to offer the gift of himself
and the gift of life that cannot be taken.
(The Blessing and Covenant)
As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.
Therefore, remembering these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
we offer ourselves as a living and holy sacrifice,
in union with Christ’s offering for us,
as we proclaim the mystery of our faith:
Pour out your Holy Spirit on us, O God,
and on these gifts of bread and cup,
that they may be for us the Body and Blood of the Beloved, Jesus Christ.
Renew your Spirit within us, O God,
grant us the peace of Christ,
and unite us with all who share in this meal.
In this meal you grant us solidarity with all who suffer,
that we may enter into the brokenness of the world;
May we, bearing the light of your resurrection,
live as signs of your covenant with all Creation,
and the coming of the Realm you have promised.
We pray that every oppressive force may be undone,
including those in which we have a part.
We ask for the courage and compassion of your Spirit,
that we may pray and work for justice for all people.
God of mercy, set us free, and free all your beloved children.
May your Spirit live in us, that we may be fearless in love,
and unafraid to give of ourselves.
Make us your humble servants for the healing of the world,
according to your will.
May your Word be made flesh by all your holy Church,
in the love of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Prayer after Communion
Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. In Christ’s self-giving we receive life. In his Spirit may we give of ourselves, lay down our lives for others, and join in his work for justice for all who are not yet free. In humility and hope, in courage and joy, we pray, as we go forth, in your name and your Spirit. Amen.
Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery
in which you have given yourself to us.
You have given us your covenant to be with us in blessing.
You have given us the Body of Christ,
and made us the Body of Christ:
you have united us with one another
and with the crucified and risen Christ.
God of Creation, God of our liberation, God of salvation,
it is your will that all people be free
from hatred, violence, persecution, servitude and poverty.
We pray that we may be freed from the bondage of all sin.
We pray for all those who suffer injustice and oppression,
that they may be set free.
Having set us free, send us to be servants of justice
for the sake of the world.
You have gathered us in a community of love and justice.
By your spirit may we make the world a community of love and justice.
In the grace of your forgiveness,
in the power of your resurrecting love,
send us into the world to be the healing hands of Christ
until we feast together in the Realm that you promise.
“This is my commandment,” Jesus says,
that you love one another as I have loved you.”
May we live in love according to your grace,
in the name and Spirit of Christ. Amen.
(Click on titles to view, and hear an audio clip, on the Music page)
At Your Feet (Original song)
Jesus, at your feet I bow.
I am yours completely now.
By your mercy show me how
to be loving.
Jesus, Master, you who save,
you have served me as a slave.
This, the perfect gift you gave:
to be loving.
In each hurting one I meet
it is you, O Christ, I greet.
Make my faithfulness complete,
to be loving.
Kyrie (Original tune)
Kyrie Eleison. Christe Eleison. Kyrie Eleison.
Grant us peace and mercy.
Behold the Lamb of God (Original song)
Behold the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
Come, let us follow, come let us follow
the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
This Is the Passover (Original Song)
This is the Passover you have desired to share
as you deliver us out of our slavery and fear.
This is the new living covenant sealed in your blood.
Grant that it may be fulfilled in the Kingdom of God.
Stripped in our suffering of all but our need for your grace,
join us to you in your dying and rising, O Christ.
Come, Holy Spirit, and grant us new life in our Lord.
gather us into your Body, made new by your Word.
You Feed Us, Gentle Savior (Tune: O Sacred head Now Wounded)
You feed us, gentle savior, the bread that makes us whole,
the wine of your compassion poured out into our soul.
the food of your own presence, your spirit, strong, within,
the grace that heals us deeply and overcomes our sin.
You bind us, gentle savior, and weave us into one,
one flesh and blood, made holy, the Body of your Son.
We gather here in hunger, one hunger, all the same;
and with one grace you bless us together in his name.
You call us, gentle savior, and send us in your name.
You teach and heal and show us how we can do the same.
So strengthened by your Spirit and nourished by your grace,
we go to be your presence in love, in every place.