Thursday, April 5, 2018

Life and Love out of Darkness (Maundy Thursday)

Each year, our community combines Holy Week services with another local church, Southminster Presbyterian Church. We alternate who takes point on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday--this year, we were up for Maundy Thursday. 

Now, Maundy Thursday is known as "the day when we wash each other's feet" in many communities, but in many others, the thought of touching another person's bare foot is enough to turn them atheist. You may recall that two years ago, we did a ritual involving broken pottery that was both beautiful and profound (from my perspective, at least). This year, since our Lenten focus was on symbols, I wanted to make sure we did something significant that tied into our theme.

So, here's what we did: before entering the sanctuary, each person was asked to take a small white cup and write a prayer request or burden that they're carrying on it.

I like to incorporate the palms from Palm Sunday in Holy Week as a reminder that we're continuing the story rather than beginning a new one.

Then, before sitting down, they placed their prayer cup at the foot of the cross.
Giving them up to God, yes; but there's more...

The text on the cup is 1 Corinthians 3:6.

About halfway through worship, we invited everyone to come forward and take a cup that wasn't their own. They filled it with dirt,

added a seed,
They're dwarf sunflower seeds.

and watered it with water from the baptismal font. The seeds were fed by the promises that we made to God and one another in our baptism.

We were then instructed to take our seeds home and pray for the person who had written their burden on the cup, and to care for the seed entrusted to them. In this way, we remembered the final commandment that Jesus gave to all those who follow him: 

"I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. just as I have loved you, you also should love one another." --John 13:34

They're already beginning to sprout, just 5 days later.

All Lent, we'd been talking about the symbols of our faith that point us to Jesus: the objects with which we surround ourselves that help us in our walk with God. Now, we were remembering that WE can be signs and symbols of God's love, too. WE can be what shows another person God's presence and goodness. WE can be God's very hands and feet in the world. When we lift up one another and help carry one another's burdens, God makes life grow out of darkness and buriedness. It takes time, work, and patience, but God is faithful, and life is persistent. 

Oh, and one more thing.

As we worked with God to create life from each other's burdens, we slowly uncovered a cross that had been buried in the dirt (this was a surprise to everyone but the worship team).

You see...when we love one another as Jesus loves us, it's often the thing that makes Christ most visible in our own lives. On Ash Wednesday, we had acknowledged the things that obscure Christ for us. On Maundy Thursday, we learned that serving others is one of the best ways to remove those barriers. 

We don't--or shouldn't--serve others for our own sake. But when we do it selflessly, we find that it causes us to draw nearer to Christ without even realizing it. Of the many lessons that Jesus tried to teach us during his earthly life, this may be the one that embodies them all.

Love one another. For Christ's sake.

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