Maundy Thursday, marks the last conversation Jesus has with his disciples, a conversation grounded in what he calls a new commandment... “Love one another as I have loved you.”
Rev. John Brosky
Mark tells us in his gospel that Jesus sent his disciples into the city instructing them that they will be met by a man carrying a jar of water and that the man will lead them to a large upstairs room furnished and ready. There in that Upper Room, the disciples were to prepare for the Passover meal, a meal that would become known as the Last Supper.
“While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said ‘Take, this is my body.’ Then he took a cup and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.’ (Mark 14:22-24 NRSV)
By these actions in that upper room, Jesus instituted the sacrament of Holy Communion. Today, Maundy Thursday, we remember this moment as the beginning of the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ.
On our recent trip to the Holy Land, we visited the Upper Room. According to the book The Land of the Bible,by Lamonte Luker the room we visited was reconstructed in 14th Century Gothic from the Franciscan Monastery built in 1335 CE. (p. 124)
It was a huge room, comparable to a hotel ballroom today. Voices of those touring that day echoed throughout the space and I could only imagine the sounds of all the disciples and Jesus gathered around the table. The disciples talking to one another, perhaps laughing as they shared what they supposed would be just another celebration of the Passover meal.
Perhaps they heard the sound of water being poured into a basin as Jesus prepared to wash their feet as we read in our lectionary scripture for today in John’s Gospel.( John 13:1-7, 31b-35) The awkward and uncomfortable silence that occurred when Jesus revealed that one would betray him. The whispers perhaps exchanged when Judas left the room. Then the sound of our Lord’s voice as he made the promise that ends Mark’s passage: “Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” (vs. 25)
One item that caught my attention was a carving that adorned one of the pillars in the room. It depicted a mother pelican who was sacrificing her own body in order to feed her hungry chicks. It is an artistic representation of what our Lord Jesus Christ was about to do for us at Calvary. Submitting to death on a cross in order to provide our salvation.
When we celebrate the Sacrament of Holy Communion together at our Maundy Thursday services, we will receive the elements as Jesus instructed “in remembrance of me.”
But it is important to remember that Holy Communion is not just about remembering the Last Supper and Jesus’ crucifixion. As we pray in the Great Thanksgiving: “And so in remembrance of these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ we offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving as a holy and living sacrifice in union with Christ’s offering for us as we proclaim the mystery of faith. Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again.” (UMH, p. 14)
In her book This Holy Mystery, A United Methodist Understanding of Holy Communion, Gayle Felton writes: “Holy Communion always offers grace. We are reminded of what God has done for us in the past, experience what God is doing now as we partake, and anticipate what God will do in the future work of salvation.” (p. 23)
John Wesley believed we should come to the Lord’s table often for sustenance on our journey’s as brothers and sisters in Christ. As we approach the Lord’s table and celebrate Holy Communion on this special day, let us receive reverently and thankfully not simply as ritual, but as a truly Holy moment, listening with our hearts as we pray: “By your spirit make us one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world until Christ comes in final victory and we feast at his heavenly banquet.” (UMH, p.14)
Prayer: Almighty God, we praise you and give thanks for the constant flow of forgiveness, mercy, grace and love that surrounds us each day. Thank you for providing sustenance to us for our journey together as pilgrim disciples in faith. Fan the flames of the Holy Spirit in our hearts anew and embolden and equip us to be faithful bearers of your light and love into the world. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Janet L. Flanagan
WV Caring Hospice & Wesley United Methodist
At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’” But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in Peace and be freed from your suffering.”
I have been privileged to visit the Holy Land on three separate occasions. Each time there has been one location that has touched me in a deep and special way. During this trip, we visited the site of Magdala which was discovered in 2009 and is being excavated. There the ancient meets new. A beautiful modern church is being built near the site of an old synagogue. Magdala is the town where Mary Magdalene lived and where Jesus taught and healed many, including the woman with an issue of blood. That encounter is beautifully depicted in the mural shown here.
She touched him, and he felt the power go out of him. He pronounced that her faith had healed her. Jesus wants us to reach out to him in faith with the big and the small things of our lives. And, He wants to touch us with his power, his love, and his peace for whatever our circumstances. In the work that I do with hospice patients, I find myself praying for just this touch for their lives. Healing may happen on either side of heaven but believing that Jesus cares gives them comfort and peace. It is sometimes visible as calmness replaces anxiety.
As we experience this Maundy Thursday, I invite you to join me in contemplating our need for Jesus’s power and healing in our lives, in our church and in our world. What is making us anxious? Where do we need to experience our Lord’s compassion and peace?
Gracious Lord, we give you thanks for your love and compassion. Help us to reach out in faith, knowing that you will respond to us in the way that we need most. Help us to keep our hearts and minds open to you. Amen.