Meditation written by Cathy Tamsberg.
Read by Kevin Neiley.
Today is Maundy Thursday, which is also known as “Holy Thursday.” Most scholars agree that the English word Maundy is derived from the Latin mandatum, the first word of the Latin version of “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you.” (John 13:34) This is how Jesus explained the significance of washing his disciples’ feet after they celebrated Passover together on the night before he was killed.
This evening we will gather in the Pullen sanctuary to remember that on this night Jesus shared his last meal with his closest friends. It’s also the meal we remember each time we receive communion. Why do we do this? Why does it really matter that we come together as a community on this evening to recall what happened the night before Jesus was crucified?
There are many theological answers to this question and even more personal ones. Fellowship around a meal was and a still is a hallmark of community life. We share our food and our lives when we eat a meal together. And especially if we think we are about to lose a loved one, sharing intimate time with him or her is often our highest priority. So the meal represents the devotion of friends to one another and the memory of meals we’ve shared together in the past.
The meal also represents the courage of one with a Divine mission. Jesus and his followers would be easy to find if Herod or the leaders of the synagogue went looking for them. But it was important for them to share the Passover meal together and to remember when Yahweh delivered their ancestors from slavery in Egypt. Like bold people of faith who have come after him, Jesus did not stop doing what he was called to do in spite of the risks. According to John’s gospel, he also had a few things left to say to those dearest to him. So Jesus explains that “people will know you are my disciples if you love one another,” and then he washes their feet to show what that caring, humble love looks like.
Maundy Thursday is a call to remember. We remember the courage of one who worked daily at building the commonwealth of God regardless of the cost. We recall the love of one who showed us what real loving looks like by caring for not just his friends but also the poor and marginalized of his day. We are also reminded that ritual, the act of remembering together with those we love, binds us to each other in deeply meaningful and often mysterious ways. So wherever you are on this evening—with your Pullen family or elsewhere, don’t forget the “new commandment” that we love one another. Then recommit yourself to this kind of love.
This meditation is from “Lent: Sowing Season, Holy Time,” a collection of daily readings by Associate Pastor Cathy Tamsberg. Each day during Lent, from Ash Wednesday, February 13, 2013, to Easter Sunday, March 31, 2013, a new excerpt read by a member of the Pullen congregation will be made available. To hear each day’s reading as it is published, subscribe to Pullen’s RSS feed, or listen to the podcast in iTunes.