Reflections On Maundy Thursday

Tonight at my church we will hold a worship service to commemorate this day in Holy Week, which is known as Maundy Thursday, Holy Thursday, or Sheer Thursday, depending on the context. 

The word "Maundy" is thought to be a derivative of the words of Jesus to his disciples at the Last Supper, translated into Latin:  “Mandatum novum do vobis” ("A new command I give to you.")

Most European countries call the day Holy Thursday, but there are some quarters where it is known as Sheer Thursday because of the ceremonial washing of the altars that takes place today. 

In many Christian faith traditions, this is also a night when the priests or pastors in some churches will wash the feet of 12 congregants, to commemorate Jesus' washing the feet of the disciples.  

There are many powerful moments in the Gospel accounts of the Last Supper on that fateful Thursday night.  

There is the moment when Peter refuses to let Jesus wash his feet, because of the shocking nature of his rabbi acting like a servant.  

Jesus tells him that unless his feet are washed, he won't be able to join with him in the coming Kingdom, which was his way of saying, "This lesson I'm about to teach you is one that you cannot forget, and the surest way to never forget it is for me to do this for you."  

Then there is the odd exchange where Jesus tells Judas to go and " what you have to do," which is very odd and disconcerting.  And so Judas gets up and goes out to meet the Temple guards he will eventually lead to Jesus. 

I guess the reason why these moments and all of the others that are mentioned in the narratives mean so much to me is that they tell the story of broken, messed-up, traitorous, and faithless followers of Jesus, who either turn on him or turn away from him even after he shows them how much he loves them.   

He even tells them in one account: "You are no longer my followers, you are my friends."  In other words, "You graduated."  

After all of this, they can't even stay awake with him in the Garden of Gethsemane as he prayed and agonized over what was going to happen next.  In his dark night of the soul, they dozed. 

Then they all ran when he was taken by the guards.  One of them even shed his cloak when he was grabbed from behind, and fled away in his underwear.  

Peter who had drawn his sword and tried to fight, drops it at last and runs, too.  Later that night, he would deny he ever knew Jesus not once, or twice but three times. 

It gives me comfort to know that this group of misfits was handpicked by Jesus to take his message and movement to the rest of the known world, in spite of all their blundering and stumbling. 

Sometimes when I preside over Holy Communion at my church, I'm overwhelmed by this thought.  I imagine I will be tonight as well.  It's like that old saying, "God doesn't call the qualified, God qualifies the called."  

May these last days of Lent be blessed to you, and may you know that you are chosen and cherished by the One who calls you "friend."  And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.  


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