Many of you have responded to me about the Maundy Thursday… service? Event? Thing? However we might describe it, I knew how I wanted it to feel and I think the evening accomplished that. I’m grateful to all the people who helped to make it so. It felt… well, we’ll get back to that in a second.
Maundy Thursday is about the Last Supper and when you read about it, you’re reading it in the Bible. What I mean by that is that we tend to read the Bible with an air of solemnity and holiness. Reverence, I think would be the right word. But the thing about the Last Supper is that it’s a holiday week kind of meal. And I don’t know about you, but it my house and with my family, holiday meals are not solemn affairs. They’re fun! They’re loud and informal and about very little other than being together and enjoying it. That’s what the Last Supper was. Jesus knows it’s the last, but the disciples do not really. Jesus has tried to tell them, but they’re ignoring it or they just flat out cannot imagine that it could be so. As such, it’s a party!
That’s what the meal on this past Thursday felt like to me. It was fun and jovial and people were laughing and carrying on. People were getting to know one another and playing around with their roles. It was a blast. And let me pause there to say how much that was needed after the past few years. It felt good to eat and carry on again!
You know what was difficult? There’s all of these holy elements shoehorned into that meal in the Bible. There are blessings and toasts, the institution of communion, and the institution of washing feet. In pretty much every case, none of those events on Thursday felt particularly holy.
And I couldn’t be happier about it!
Don’t get me wrong. They are holy events! I take communion and foot washing incredibly seriously. But Jesus introduced these things at a party. How do you think they went over that night? Probably with as much noise and carrying on as happened this past Thursday. I wanted to mimic the Last Supper without falling into reenactment or parody. And it felt like it to me.
After the meal, when we retired to the Sanctuary, the mood shifted dramatically. It took a while for people to trickle in from downstairs and as soon as people entered the darkened room, they hushed. Silence ruled the room and it went from a party to… something else. Something hard to pin down. Dread, awe, grief. Some of all of those, maybe. The night ended with confusion, which is how it would have ended for the disciples that night. What do we do now? Is it over? Isn’t there more?
The answer is, there’s always more in Christ. What questions were left open on Thursday were answered on Easter Sunday. There’s darkness in the story, but it doesn’t end in darkness. It ends at dawn, with all things made new. That’s the end of our story, too. No matter how dark the night, in Christ there will be a dawn.