Maundy Thursday reflections: longing and hope

My heart is nearly broken with sorrow/ Remain here with me/ Stay awake and pray

Tonight I shared in a remote Maundy Thursday service through the Anglican Diocese of the Upper Midwest’s Cathedral, which is sharing its social distanced Holy Week services with their many church plants due to COVID-19.

Maundy Thursday is another name for day we remember the Last Supper, when Jesus Christ celebrated Passover with his disciples before he was arrested and murdered. It’s an evening of celebration before their world was shaken.

Jesus gathered with his twelve best friends, washed their feet as a display of service and love, and ate with them, all while knowing that one of them would betray him just hours later. He let that person go to do his business, gathered the rest, and told them to watch and pray. You can read the account in Matthew 26.

Jesus earnestly desired to eat with his disciples at that last meal before his arrest and crucifixion. He longed to be together with his beloved ones, drinking from the same cup and eating of the same bread.

One bread, one body, one Lord of all/ One cup of blessing which we bless/ And we, though many, throughout the earth/ We are one Body in this one Lord

I too long for that. I want to worship in community, to sing with abandon and in the company of 50 other singers, to hug without fear, to HUG. I wish to be in the physical fellowship of my sisters and brothers of faith and with them partake in his Body and Blood as Christ, the Messiah, instructed us.

(My congregation is blessed to be able to partake in the Body “in one kind,” so just the bread, which has been blessed for us. The latter half of every service is devoted to communion, and there is also a liturgy for those who cannot eat the flesh in this time. We were even given palm branches and candles, delivered to our doorsteps for this Holy Week. I am grateful for all the measures the leadership has taken to allow us to worship in as much of an embodied way as possible during this pandemic.)

Despite the unfulfilled longings and the coming darkness, in his message tonight, Father Trevor reminded us of the unshakeable hope that we have as Christ’s disciples. At that last peaceful dinner, Jesus experienced the yearning we are experiencing now in quarantine, for he knew what was to come. Yet he also had hope, which he passed on to his disciples.

The Last Supper was Jesus’ last time drinking wine before his Kingdom is united. And we still await that day when we shall feast at the wedding of the Bride, which is the Church, and Lamb, which is Jesus Messiah, as the book of Revelation describes.

Even as the world crumbles around us — and for some it has always been crumbled or already been shaken — or even as we experience isolation that was not what God intended for humankind, Father Trevor reminded us to hold on to the unshakeable hope we have in Christ.

I can’t get ahead of myself.

It isn’t Good Friday yet, so as we reenact the story through the liturgical calendar, Jesus still has to die. Then we have to wait a dark day thinking that all is lost and everything we put our faith in was a lie. Then on the third day, we’ll be surprised by Jesus, who is full of grace and truth, actually fulfilling ancient prophecy and words promised to his disciples. (And, spoiler alert, he spreads that news through women.)

But tonight we watch and pray.

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