Maundy Thursday is often a challenging worship time to put together because of its intimacy. With people gathered closely around the table to receive the bread and the wine. With foot washing in which we are removing socks and shoes, pouring water over one another’s feet just as Jesus did for the disciples. And yet today’s gathering is challenging for different reasons. In place of that intimacy gathering in the same space, we are invited to trust in a different kind of intimacy as we gather further apart.
Nevertheless those same elements are present in the space today. You see the bread and the wine on the table, The water pitcher and basin for foot washing. Another thing we share with Jesus and the disciples is we all still have bodies. I can’t see you right now, but if you’re listening at home, then I will trust based upon faith that you’re all embodied out there. And with bodies we are still partaking in meals in our homes. We are still washing and bathing. If you haven’t showered for a while, that’s fine too. This isn’t about confession.
Jesus had a body, which is why God is able to empathize with us so much. In the person of Jesus God experienced fears about his own health and wellbeing. Jesus was vulnerable to betrayal, even death on a cross. Even though this Maundy Thursday is odd, in some ways we understand the message of this day better than ever today. We all are increasingly aware of our vulnerability. That life’s fortune can change suddenly for anyone regardless of age or health condition. We ignore such basic human truths to our peril.
The upshot is that of the gospel narrative stretching between Holy Week and Easter. It is to journey through radical vulnerability on Maundy Thursday, through death on Good Friday, the stillness of Holy Saturday, and trusting in the power of resurrection on Easter Sunday. It allows us to value one another all the more. We feel the power of the unity of the body of Christ even as its members we are apart.
I have become much more aware of my neighbours during this time. Suddenly I see neighbours in their yards and front porches I had never noticed before. People are more aware of one another on the street, both carefully keeping physical distance, while also greeting one another more frequently than a few weeks ago. People are banging pots and pans each night at 7 PM for frontline workers.
One neighbour shares a thought of the day on a white board for all to read walking by. One day they shared a quote from author Wendell Barry. I can’t remember the exact quote, so I’ll share another quote from Wendell Barry that struck for this time:
“Healing is impossible in loneliness; it is the opposite of loneliness. Conviviality is healing. To be healed we must come with all the other creatures to the feast of Creation.” (p.99, "The Body and the Earth")” ― Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays
I think about people who may be feeling lonely right now. People who may be feeling vulnerability. Our gathering for worship on-line is also a real form of community. Whether we are relying on the strength of relationships we have built prior to physical distancing or even if you are new to the church community, you are included in the prayers and in Jesus’ grace this evening. That too is a healing of loneliness when we live it out embodied with all the other creatures in the feast of creation. The feast includes even the raccoons we now notice in the neighbourhood who may be less pleased that suddenly we are all spending more time at home, rather giving them the run of the place.
Our gospel reading concludes with Jesus’s words:
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
How will people know we are Jesus’ disciples in the time of COVID-19? What are ways we continue to embody that love today? Pr. Lyle, Communities of Care (formerly Board of Deacons), and I have enjoyed reading all your comments by e-mail, on-line, over the phone, communicated from a safe physical on a doorstep. We have witnessed so many expressions of love. If you are feeling lonely right now please give us a call and reach out. You can leave a voicemail on the church phone: 250-477-6222, via social media, or you can find our e-mail addresses on our web-site: lutheranvictoria.ca
Let us conclude with a prayer from Lenny Duncan:
This isn’t the way we thought we would be experiencing Holy Week. We call to the God of the Three Days, the God of the Table of Grace where all are welcome, the God of Love whom we will murder tomorrow simply for loving us, we call upon the God of the Tomb and a silent traumatizing Saturday where the world should have come apart. We are all here walking towards the Easter Dawn to meet a woman with a story that will change the very trajectory of humanity. God, we need you more than we have in a long time. We your flawed, handcrafted, people loving each other in our brokenness. We know you are with us, but we call on you in these Three Days. We proclaim your name Christ, help us in our proclamation and celebration in strange times and dire turns in our story. We your scattered people all still gathering in your name even while apart, and we invite you into all our homes this Holy Week. Amen