Thursday, April 14, 2022

Lukan Lessons and Carols for Lent: Maundy Thursday (April 14, 2022)

(This is the eighth liturgy in a series of Lukan Lessons and Carols for Lent. The Ash Wednesday Liturgy and a more detailed explanation of the series can be found here; Lent 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, & 6 can be found herehereherehere, here, and here. I am excluding parts of the worship that were not directly connected to the series as well as parts that I give extemporaneously.)

I will post the liturgies for ensuing weeks as I write them. I'm happy for anyone to use any part(s) of this series in their own worship contexts with proper attribution, but I would request that you let me know in the comments that you're doing so.


Maundy Thursday Worship Service (Liturgy by Rev. Katey Schwind Williams)

Opening Words:

“Many people have already applied themselves to the task of compiling an account of the events that have been fulfilled among us. They used what the original eyewitnesses and servants of the word handed down to us. Now, after having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, I have also decided to write a carefully ordered account for you, most honorable Theophilus. I want you to have confidence in the soundness of the instruction you have received.” [Luke 1:1-4, CEB]

We read these words six weeks ago, almost to the day, as we began the undertaking of walking with Luke through his testimony to Jesus’ life. Since then, we have experienced many familiar stories anew through Luke’s words: stories of prophecy, of miracles, of healing, of revelation, of conflict, and of forgiveness. We have seen ourselves in these stories, learning along with the disciples, the Pharisees, and the Romans.

Yet today marks a turning point in the narrative. We have seen misunderstandings and confusion among the people throughout Luke’s gospel, but today, misunderstandings turn to betrayal. Today, friends become enemies and allegiance becomes denial. Today, we hear about the shadow side of humanity – and we see the most sinister parts of ourselves exposed.

So listen once again, Theophilus – “Lover of God”. Listen to Luke’s testimony as he recounts the hardest parts of this story. Do not turn away. Do not deny the part that we play in it. This is our story, too.

Let us call ourselves to worship using the words printed in your bulletin.

Call to Worship: Luke 22:1-6 (CEB)
Leader: "The Festival of Unleavened Bread, which is called Passover, was approaching. The chief priests and the legal experts were looking for a way to kill Jesus, because they were afraid of the people."
People: Let those with ears to hear listen!
Leader: "Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, who was one of the Twelve. He went out and discussed with the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard how he could hand Jesus over to them."
People: Let us face what was and what is unflinchingly.
Leader: "They were delighted and arranged payment for him. He agreed and began looking for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them—a time when the crowds would be absent."
People: Grant us ears to hear, O Lord.

First Reading: Luke 22:7-18 (ICB)

Communion: Luke 22:19-20 (ICB)

Invitation to the Lord’s Table
This meal, one that we know as a feast of joy, is tonight tinged with sadness. Tonight, as we eat the bread and drink from the cup, we anticipate with Jesus the abandonment and betrayal of his closest friends in his most difficult hour. And yet, even with full knowledge of what is to come, Jesus turns no one away from the table. He breaks bread with the one who will betray him. He shares the cup with the one who will deny him. He offers his very body and blood to those who will not even stay awake with him in his final hours. None of us *deserves* to be fed in this way, but *all* of us are welcomed to the feast in spite of our sin. Let us gather now, in full awareness of our own shortcomings and equal awareness of Christ’s deep desire to share this meal with you.
Great Thanksgiving
Leader: The Lord be with you.
All: And also with you.
Leader: Lift up your hearts!
All: We lift them to the Lord.
Leader: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
All: It is right to give our thanks and praise.
Leader: Let us pray.

Faithful God, we come before you in gratitude for all you have done for us. No matter how many times we disobey you, turn from you, ignore you, hide from you, or forget you, your devotion never wavers. You are more constant than the seasons, more steadfast than the mountains, more devoted than we could ever hope to be. You call us back time and time again to be in relationship with you, because your love is beyond measure.

Therefore, we praise you, joining our voices with choirs of angels and archangels who forever sing to the glory of your name: Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is the one who comes in the name off the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed indeed is the one who comes in your name, true God from true God. Jesus taught us what love looks, sounds, and acts like in everything that he did. His life is a testament to your grace, unchanged by human frailty and error, poured out abundantly on those you have chosen to call your own. Even as he faced a violent end at the hands of those who would make themselves his enemies, he demonstrated a love that is powerful and unconditional.

Luke tells us that on the night he was betrayed by his closest friends, “After taking the bread and giving thanks, [Jesus] broke it and gave it to [his disciples], saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, he took the cup after the meal and said, ‘This cup is the new covenant by my blood, which is poured out for you.’”

Therefore, we proclaim the mystery of faith: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

Pour out your Holy Spirit on us and upon these your gifts of bread and drink, that the bread we break and the cup we bless may be for us the body and blood of a Christ who would give all of himself for even those who reject him. May we, too, offer all of ourselves to you, Lord, serving as Christ’s true body in the world, united in his ministry for all the lost and the lonely, the hurting and the hopeless: all sinners, all beloved. Through your son, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit and in the unity of the entire Church in heaven and on earth, we pray this in your name, using the ancient words handed down to us from generation to generation, saying “Our Father, who art in heaven…”

Communion Hymn (GTG #521, “In Remembrance of Me”)

Prayer of Dedication
Let us pray: Holy God, the story ahead of us is a difficult one. Yet even as we face the failings of humanity, we give you thanks that you have fed us, body and spirit, and fortified us for the work that you call us to do. You have graciously accepted us, sins and all, to be your people, and you have promised that evil will never have the final word. Let us therefore tell the full story of your love, the terrible parts and the wonderful parts alike, without shame and without fear. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.

Second Reading: Luke 22:21-46 (ICB)

Special Music

Third Reading: Luke 22:47-62 (ICB)
(As each one of Peter's denials is read, hang a banner with his words printed on them)

Ritual: “Our Betrayal”
Leader: Peter didn’t realize what he was doing until the rooster crowed. Until that point, he didn’t understand that the cost of his personal safety was his relationship with Christ. He didn’t even know that he had it within himself to betray his Lord and best friend until the very moment it happened.

If even Peter, who learned directly from the master and saw miracles with his own eyes, was able to betray Jesus, we mustn’t believe that we’re somehow above doing the same. Sometimes, we deny Christ with our words. Other times, we deny him with our actions. Most often, however, we deny him with our silence.

Listen to the rooster crowing. Take some time reflect on how and when you’ve betrayed the Lord. Lift up your prayers of repentance. Then, when you’re ready, write your name on each of the [3] post it notes in your bulletin. Bring them up front and hang each one on one of Peter’s betrayals as a confession of your own denials of Christ—the times you’ve denied knowing him, the times you’ve denied belonging to him, and the times you’ve denied understanding what he asks of you. If you feel moved, you can also write a prayer of confession or repentance on the banners. We are not passive observers of this story; Christ’s betrayal continues even today, through all of us. Let us face our betrayals, confess, and repent. [Meditative music is played]

Fourth Reading: Luke 22:63-71 (ICB)

Stripping of the Sanctuary
(As the liturgists strip the worship space, symbolizing the humiliation of the cross and the disciples’ abandonment, the congregation sings Hymn #204:)

People (singing): Stay with me, remain here with me, watch and pray. Watch and pray.
(Repeat until music stops)

[Before the pastor leaves, she may choose to move the banners with Peter's denials on them to a more prominent place, such as the communion table.]

(All depart in silence. There is no benediction, because we are keeping vigil with Christ as his disciples were unable to. We will re-gather to worship together on Easter Sunday.)

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