I don’t think I’ve ever been to a church service on Maundy Thursday before.
I’ve been to a Good Friday service. Once or twice. If my friends were going. But church on Thursday, Friday, and Sunday? That’s a lot for one week.
But this year, I’m trying to switch my focus from me to Christ. I’m giving up something meaningful for Lent for the first time ever. And if I’m taking this Easter season seriously, I want to experience it more fully than before. Going to church on Thursday felt like a way to do that.
Maundy Thursday — or Holy Thursday, if you’re part of the Catholic or Orthodox church — is when Christians remember the Last Supper.
- Jesus washing the disciples’ feet
- The first Holy Eucharist / Communion
- Judas betraying Jesus
- Jesus’ prayer of anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane
My church didn’t have a Maundy Thursday service this year, so I found a nearby church I’ve visited before and decided to crash theirs.
I was excited. See, I have been killing it at this whole Lent thing so far. With less than three days to go until Easter, I’ve successfully avoided all desserts. It’s been hard, but not unbearable. Basically, I sort of rock at Lent this year.
Then the service started, and I promptly realized I hated it. It wasn’t at all what I expected. I wanted something quiet, contemplative. I wanted to hear the story of the first Communion — to read the verses about Jesus washing people’s feet — but none of that happened.
Instead, the band played a bunch of contemporary worship songs. Which is fine. I don’t mind pop rock church music. But on a normal Sunday, not today. Today is supposed to be different. It’s supposed to be special.
The pastor’s sermon wasn’t my cup of tea, either. It felt way too mega churchy for me. There was too much hip lingo and too many pop culture analogies. Couldn’t they just read the text? I wanted to hear about Jesus washing the disciples’ feet.
See, earlier today, Pope Francis washed the feet of Muslim, Orthodox, Hindu and Catholic refugees. In a time where anti-Muslim sentiment is running ramped because of ISIS attacks, he bent down and washed the feet of three Muslim men, and called them “brothers.” Because that is what Jesus would have done. And that is the sermon I wanted — on learning how to be more like Jesus, in shocking, radical, and counter-cultural ways.
I didn’t come for silly pop culture analogies and a feel-good sermon that only vaguely referenced the Last Supper story. I was upset.
And it wasn’t until we started Communion that I GOT OVER MYSELF and started to see the evening a little more clearly. (Started to see it not for what I WANTED, but how Jesus sees it.)
We took communion in small groups, each standing around a table with about 10 other people. We took the bread, tore off a piece, and passed it to the person next to us.
Then we took the cup, dipped our bread, and passed the cup. This wasn’t just receiving communion together, this was sharing communion. It wasn’t passive. It was active — a group activity shared between 11 people.
In our group were three grandmas. A mom and her young son. A middle-aged couple. A woman about my age. A grandpa. And a woman in her 40s.
When I take communion, I’m used to being with my church family. Lately, it’s been a powerful experience. The day after my grandpa died, I cried during communion. It was the most beautiful, safe, and peaceful feeling. I felt so overwhelmed by God’s love and presence.
But I didn’t feel that here. I didn’t know these people. But maybe that is sort of the point. I don’t know these people, but Jesus does. And he loves them just as deeply as the love I felt the last time I cried at church.
How can I take Pope Francis’ approach to loving other people? How can I wash the feet of those around me — people outside of my social circle? People I don’t run into on an average day?
How do I get out of the way of myself — when I’m tired, selfish, and want things my way? How do I set what I want aside and be more like Jesus?