It’s Maundy Thursday. Well, it is for another hour.
We’ve always gone to Maundy Thursday service, as long as I can remember. I can remember once at my old church there was a night where we set up tables in the sanctuary and we all had our own little last suppers and there were plastic wine glasses I enjoyed the heck out of.
Tonight was good, too. We sang, we listened, and we had communion.
I like communion. I like the idea that we all come together. I like that everyone is welcome at the table. And I like that traditions aren’t always set in stone.
You always hear the words of institution: “Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night when he was betrayed, took the bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples and said, Take; eat; this is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me. In the same way he also took the cup after the supper, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them saying, Drink of it, all of you. This cup is the New Testament in my blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
I’ve probably heard that probably about a thousand times since I was born (more or less).
But I never did it in a circle. We never did it all together.
Despite our lack of practice we were all put in a circle around the sanctuary, and tasked with giving each other communion in a big circle. And circles are hard for us, I suppose, so it took a while. But we shared the food, and we sang.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
We prayed together, holding hands in that big circle-y square, booming the Lord’s Prayer while the snow slushed outside. It was the sort of circle that made you think, “This is what home feels like.”
We prayed, we sat, we waited. And then they came to strip the altar.
I never thought about it much before—it’s traditional, they’ve done it at every church I’ve been to. You take down the candles, the cloth, the books, the symbols. They pass everything down from the altar and all that is left is a naked slab of wood and we stare at it.
Except it’s not really the altar being stripped, is it. It’s Him. No clothes, no pride, nothing to hide behind, nothing to protect himself. Naked, alone, betrayed, and abandoned. And I hated looking at that altar—because why would someone submit to that shame? Why would anyone want that kind of sacrifice, when nothing could make it better again?
But in that building, with those people, with the candles and the memories and the certainty that’s never really certain… I also knew exactly why he did it.
He did it for home.
He did it for us.