Thursday, April 6, 2023

Liturgy: Maundy Thursday, Matthew 24:1-26:46 (Lessons and Carols; April 6, 2023)

 (Palm Sunday Liturgy here)

As we did last year, Boone Memorial Presbyterian Church in Caldwell, ID, will spend this Lent reading straight through a gospel from beginning to end: this year, Matthew. We will NOT have sermons during Lent, instead structuring worship around a "lessons and carols" model. All hymns are from the PC(USA)'s "Glory to God" hymnal.

The theme that will accompany this project is "Unlocking Salvation". As we work our way through Matthew's gospel, we will make note of the things standing between God and humanity (and specifically each of us) and how Jesus "unlocks" the doors that separate us. 

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.

*NB: If there is nothing written under the heading, it's a portion of worship that I do extemporaneously.*


Maundy Thursday Worship Service (Liturgy by Rev. Katey Schwind Williams)
(Bold words are to be read aloud in unison, * indicates an invitation to stand)

(Each person is given a key and a piece of myrrh resin before entering the chapel)

Opening Words: Matthew 24:1-3

Leader: These words that Jesus spoke in his final days on Earth must have sounded cataclysmic to his disciples. The temple was the center of Jewish life. It was what gave the Jewish people their identity – the temple was how the people encountered God. They couldn’t imagine life without it. But there can be no restoration without destruction, no resurrection without death.

Welcome to Maundy Thursday worship. Tonight, we will hear prophesy, parable, and the story of Christ’s preparation for his own death. We will take part in the final supper that the disciples shared with Jesus, and we will participate in their betrayal and abandonment.

Before the door to eternal life can be opened, we must face our own complicity in locking it. Like the disciples, we, too, struggle to imagine life without the walls that provide a comfortable structure for our faith. We close doors between us and God because it makes our lives simpler; it makes faith easy. It gives us less to think about, less to wrestle with, less to change. We keep closing doors until we’ve forgotten how to open them again – how to live our lives without barriers. These closed doors leave us with no path but the road of sin and death…until Christ gives us the key and reminds us how to unlock the door.

Let us now call ourselves to worship, preparing ourselves to face the consequences of the doors we’ve thoughtlessly closed behind us. Please stand in body or spirit.

*Call to Worship

Leader: Tonight, Jesus will reveal the path ahead of us.
People: Let us not close our ears to hard truths.
Leader: Tonight, we will abandon our Lord.
People: Let us not close our minds to our own faithlessness.
Leader: Tonight, it begins.
People: Open our hearts to your Word, O Lord.

Signs of the End of the Age: Matthew 24:4-35 (CEB)

Affirmation of Faith: (Adapted from the Heidelberg Catechism)

Leader: In light of these revelations from Christ, let us reaffirm our faith together using these words adapted from the Heidelberg Catechism:

What are the keys of the kingdom?
People: The preaching of the holy gospel and repentance.
Leader: How does the holy gospel open the kingdom of heaven?
People: According to the command of Christ: The kingdom of heaven is opened by proclaiming and publicly declaring to all people, each and every one, that God, because of Christ’s merit, truly forgives all their sins. God’s judgment, both in this life and in the life to come, is based on this gospel testimony.
Leader: How is the kingdom of heaven opened by repentance?
People: According to the command of Christ: Those who, after repeated personal and loving admonitions, refuse to abandon their errors and evil ways are not able to enter the kingdom of Christ. Such persons, when promising and demonstrating genuine reform, are received again as members of Christ and of his Church.
Leader: What is involved in genuine repentance?
People: Two things: the dying-away of the old self, and the rising-to-life of the new.

Leader: May God open our ears to hear.

Be Prepared: Matthew 24:36-25:13 (CEB)

GTG Hymn #350: “Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning”

[VERSE:] Keep your lamps trimmed and burning [x3] For the time is drawing nigh.
[REFRAIN:] Sisters, don’t grow weary; brothers, don’t grow weary;
Children, don’t grow weary, for the time is drawing nigh.
[VERSE:] Darker midnight lies before us [x3] For the time is drawing nigh.
[VERSE:] Keep your lamps trimmed and burning [x3] For the time is drawing nigh.

Parable of the Lazy Servant: Matthew 25:14-30 (CEB)

Prayer of Confession:

Leader: Let us confess the ways that we have impeded the kindom of heaven. When I say, “Forgive us, O Holy One,” you respond, “Lord, have mercy.”

Great and gracious Master and Lord of all, we confess that we have been poor stewards of your kindom. You have entrusted the keys to us through your Word, and yet we leave the doors sealed and the pathway unfinished.

We ignore your extravagant love and generosity, choosing instead to perceive a vengeful god. We threaten others with the wrath and anger that we attribute to you. We transform our own fear of your punishment into weapons that we use against our human siblings. We call you “a harsh master” as an excuse for our inaction.
…Forgive us, O Holy One: Lord, have mercy.

We accuse you of being selfish and unfair, “harvesting grain where you haven’t sown and gathering crops where you haven’t spread seed,” when in reality, all of creation belongs to you. All that we have and know and are and will be is yours; we are merely caretakers. Justice does not exist apart from your will; goodness does not exist apart from your Word.
…Forgive us, O Holy One: Lord, have mercy.

Although you have been nothing but kind and generous with us, we fear you. Although you desire nothing more than relationship with us, we shy away from you. Although you have proven your providence and mercy time and time again, we refuse to take risks on behalf of your kindom.
…Forgive us, O Holy One: Lord, have mercy.

But worst of all, Lord, we hoard that which you have graciously entrusted to us. Instead of nurturing and using your gifts in service to your will, we lock them away. We act as though our talents, our resources, our time, our treasure is ours alone, to be used for our own benefit and our own protection.
…Forgive us, O Holy One: Lord, have mercy.

We have not honored you with our actions, O God of Abraham, Moses, David, and Elijah. We have preserved the way things are instead of investing in your kindom. We have locked tightly the doors that you insist should be flung open wide.

We have sinned against you, and we are sorry. We lay ourselves at your mercy, Lord, trusting in your love and grace to redeem us. In your holy name we pray, Amen.

The Coming of the Human One: Matthew 25:31-46 (CEB)

Special Music (soloist): “This Is the Night” (GTG Hymn #206, vv. 1-3, 5)

Jesus’ Anointing: Matthew 26:1-16 (CEB)


Leader: Like the woman anointing Jesus in preparation for his death, let us bring forward our offerings of myrrh, which was used in biblical times for the embalming of bodies. In remembrance of the silver that Judas received in exchange for his betrayal, let us also bring forward offerings of our own wealth. All money collected tonight will go towards the PCUSA’s “One Great Hour of Sharing” offering to benefit those impacted globally by disaster, hunger, and oppression. Let us begin to reopen with our generosity the doors that Judas closed so long ago with greed and fear.

Preparing the Feast: Matthew 26:17-19 (CEB)

Leader: I invite you now to help prepare the table by bringing forward the communion elements and gathering around as a family preparing to share a meal.
(Predetermined members of the congregation can bring up the communion elements while everyone else gathers around the table. In a large congregation, the gathering can be omitted.)

Matthew 26:20-25 (CEB)

Communion Liturgy

Invitation to the Table

We know these words of our Savior to be true: “Ask, and you will receive. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Whoever seeks, finds, and to everyone who knocks, the door is opened.” We stand now together at this table, knocking on the door of God’s kindom, searching for communion with Christ, and asking to be fed in body and spirit. We come in certainty of faith knowing that we will all be welcomed, found, and nurtured by our Lord at this table.

Even as our savior anticipated his betrayal at the hands of a beloved friend, he invited Judas to share a meal with him. Jesus does not close doors, regardless of who you are or what you’ve done. There is nothing that can keep God from loving you. Therefore, let no human power place any barrier on this feast, be it sin, age, race, class, sexual orientation, gender identity, political or denominational affiliation, or any reason whatsoever. All who are hungry in body and spirit are welcomed to share in this feast, because Christ alone is the key to our salvation, and Christ says that YOU are welcome.

Great Thanksgiving

Leader: The Lord be with you.
People: And also with you
Leader: Lift up your hearts!
People: We lift them up to the Lord
Leader: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
People: It is right to give our thanks and praise
Leader: Let us pray...

It is truly right and our greatest joy to give you thanks and praise, O Lord. You created us out of love, for the purpose of being in relationship with you. Even when our sin forced us out of your presence and our actions closed the door to paradise, you refused to remain locked away from us. You gave us covenants and laws; you sent prophets, apostles, and martyrs to show us the keys to your kindom. They kept us near to you to you in spite of our wandering ways.

…Therefore, we join our voices with the choirs of heaven and with all the faithful of every time and place who forever praise your name:
People: 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 of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!

We thank you, Lord God, for your son, Jesus Christ, the giver of the New Covenant, the Key of David. Through his life, he unlocked the meaning of the scriptures for us – to love with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind. Through his death, he unlocked the meaning of humility and sacrifice for us. Through his resurrection, he unlocked salvation and everlasting life for all humankind.

We give you thanks that the Lord Jesus, on the night before he died, ensured that the door to you would never be closed again. We remember the words of your servant Matthew: “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take and eat. This is my body.’ He took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from this, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many so that their sins may be forgiven. I tell you, I won’t drink wine again until that day when I drink it in a new way with you in my Father’s kingdom.’” With thanksgiving, we take this bread and this cup and proclaim the death and resurrection of our Lord until he comes again in glory.

…Great is the mystery of faith:
People: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

Gracious God, open your heart to us. Pour out your holy spirit upon us and upon these gifts of bread and cup, that the bread we break and the cup we bless may be to us the body and blood of Christ. Open our hearts to you, that we may know your call on our lives to go out into the world opening doors and welcoming strangers, sharing your Good News with all that we meet. Through Christ, with Christ, in Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor are yours, Almighty God, now and forever. Amen.

And now, let us pray together the words our Lord taught us, saying “Our Father…”


Leader: We will be serving one another and taking communion by intinction, dipping the bread into the cup before consuming it. Once you have received communion, take the elements, and offer them to your neighbor.

After you have passed the elements, dip your hand into the [baptismal] water and leave your Lenten key in the box, symbolizing your own complicity in both betraying and abandoning Christ. Then return to your seat.

Prayer of Dedication

Leader: Let us pray – Lord, you have fed our bodies and spirits, sinners that we are, just as you fed the bodies and spirits of those who would deny and betray you so long ago. Rend open our hearts so that we might truly know what it means to love the way you do: by breaking bread with those who would forsake us for a handful of silver, by forgiving those who abandon us in our time of greatest need, and by praying for those who would take our very lives. Give us the courage to practice this kind of love in a world that rejects it until we share this meal in a new way with you in the kindom of heaven. Amen.

The Mount of Olives: Matthew 26:30-46 (CEB)

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)


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

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