by: Scott Van Ravenswaay
"Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth" – Amen
1 I lift up my eyes to you, to you who sit enthroned in heaven.2 As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a female slave look to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the Lord our God, till he shows us his mercy.
3 Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy on us, for we have endured no end of contempt.4 We have endured no end of ridicule from the arrogant, of contempt from the proud.
Reflections for Maundy Thursday
Do you want to know a secret? I don’t always know what I’m doing. Walking through Holy Week in a pandemic is one of those times. Here’s some evidence.
I’m 27 years old. I’ve spent those 27 years growing up in the local church. I’ve even gone to seminary to be a minister in the church. Despite that professed wealth of experience and knowledge, a few weeks ago I found myself googling the term “Maundy Thursday.” Good Friday I know, Easter, check, but what does Maundy mean. I’m sure I’ve learned before, but it never struck enough of a chord to lodge within easy reach of my recall. Through much of my childhood, far as I was concerned, Maundy Thursday was a weird contradiction in terms the church was hanging on to. Maundy is often pronounced “Maunday” which I confused with Monday. In the course of our week in and week out existence we rarely think of Monday or Thursday as days to be celebrated. Why once a year should we combine them into something important?
Well, Maundy has nothing to do with Monday. There are a few steps in between, but it comes from the Latin, Mandatum, which translates as “commandment.” That brings us to chapter 13 of the Gospel of John after Jesus had washed the feet of his disciples. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” We designate the Thursday of Holy Week, “Maundy” as a reminder of Christ’s commandment to love one another as he loves us.
How do we learn to do that? I printed Psalm 123 above because it offers some insight. When we don’t know what we’re doing the best thing we can do is look to God who sits enthroned in heaven like a servant looks to the hands of his or her master. Servants watch hands, especially at meal times, in order to anticipate and receive instruction to bring another dish, top off an empty glass or, offer a napkin etc. We look to God to show us his commands and in those we see mercy. He is revealed most clearly through Jesus who left the throne in heaven and became like usso that we might receive that mercy. His command today is that we love one another. We can do that because we know what love is through our experience of Christ and his example. “We love because he first loved us.” – 1 John 4:19
As you know, we’ve been looking to Jesus in our lives through the lens of Marks Gospel for the past few months so before we wrap this up, let’s look at his account.
And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.” And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.
And when it was evening, he came with the twelve. And as they were reclining at table and eating, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” They began to be sorrowful and to say to him one after another, “Is it I?” He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the dish with me. For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”
And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
This is quite the somber setting for the institution of the Lord’s Supper, a sacrament we celebrate with such joy. In this first setting the joy was mostly left to the future. Jesus predicts betrayal by one of his closest followers and soon they will all fall away from him, but there is hope in the end. Jesus will drink with them again when the church is resurrected and joins him in glory in the fullness of the kingdom of God!
Mark also records all sorts of assurances in the last chapters of his Gospel showing that Christ’s words can be trusted. One is recorded here in verse 16. Jesus tells two disciples where to find a room and they “found it just as he had told them.”
This week we won’t be gathering as physical body. As an act of love to those who wouldn’t be able to join us even virtually, we are refraining from celebrating communion together. These are tough times. Like the disciples we’re beginning to feel sorrowful. It’s okay to sit in that sorrow and to grieve over the loss and confusion we may be feeling, but let me also encourage you to look to Jesus who sits enthroned in heaven. Take some time today to focus on the ways in which you have felt his love this year and then thank him for that love. See the love with which he first loved us, trust that one day we will join that feast in the fulness of God’s kingdom. One day we’ll find things made right just as he says we will!
When your heart has been replenished with his love, turn your focus outward and consider how you might show love to others in the church and in the community today.
Grace and peace,
For additional in-home services this week see click this link to a guide put together by some Lutheran professors but offered for ecumenical use.
You can also copy and paste this into your address bar: