Traditionally folks gather on the Thursday before Easter to remember key elements of the Passion story. We remember the stories of what happened the night before Jesus was executed. Here at St. Paul's it is our practice to gather for a potluck supper during which we have our worship service. This year's service will be at 6:00 in the West (or Small) Basement. Please use the Northwest door of the church if you are attending.
From the Gospel of John (which does not have a "Last Supper" story) we remember the story of Jesus kneeling down and washing the disciples feet as a model of servant leadership. Within the Roman Catholic church there is a tradition that the Pope re-enacts this every year, often with a group of prelates [although the current Pope has been known to go to a prison and wash the feet of women or Muslims]. In this same section of John's Gospel Jesus gives his disciples a New Commandment "that you love one another as I have loved you". It is from this that the name Maundy Thursday comes as the Latin for Commandment is maundatum.
From the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke -- this year we will be reading from Luke) the key piece that we remember is the Last Supper, the Passover meal that Jesus shares with his friends and at which he institutes the Eucharist/Communion meal.
The Scripture Readings we will share this year are:
- John 13:3-17, 34-35 Luke 22:24-27 (following which we will wash each other's hands)
- Luke 22:1-23, 1 Corinthians 11:20-26
From the beginning of the Jesus movement gathering at table has had a special place. On numerous occasions in the Gospels the people mutter how Jesus is acting inappropriately by eating with tax collectors and sinners and people of ill-repute. And after Easter, after they experienced Resurrection, the followers of Jesus continued to put gathering at table at the center of how they worshiped. Paul's words to the Corinthians make it plain how central the Lord's Supper (or Communion or Eucharist) was to the life of Christian faith -- and that the Corinthians weren't quite getting it right.
So it is that we continue to gather at the table to break the bread and share the cup. We continue to find it important to eat together as a fellowship. Because we believe that when we do this, we meet God.
Let us break bread together, let us drink wine [or some other liquid] together, let us praise God together...
On Friday there is a lot of story. Some places tell the story from arrest to trial to crucifixion to burial. Some only tell the last part of the story. This year we will be in the latter group.
There are other traditional Scripture passages to read on Good Friday. One is Psalm 22, a piece of poetry that the early church appears to have used as a resource as they told the story of Jesus' execution. Another is from Isaiah, one of the "Servant Songs". While there is a great deal of debate as to who the Suffering Servant in Isaiah was originally meant to be (the Messiah? the Israelites?) the Christian church has largely understood (or re-understood) it to refer to Christ.
The readings we will hear this Friday are:
- Psalm 22: 1-22 (VU p.744)
- Isaiah 53:1-9
- Luke 23:33-38, 44-49