Exodus 12:1–4 (5–10) 11–14 | Psalm 116:1–2, 12–19 | 1 Corinthians 11:23–26 | John 13:1–17, 31b–35
Theme: Our new life in Christ is grounded in Jesus’ humility, service, and self-sacrificial love which he expressed by voluntarily laying down his life for every one of us.
Communion elements—Fill individual communion cups with wine or juice. Prepare individual servings of bread. (How you do this may need be guided by local observance of COVID restrictions. In keeping with the theme for this week, you may wish to also provide gluten-free bread and/or grape juice as an alternative for those with dietary concerns.) Plan to have helpers carry the platters of bread and the wine, and as they bring the elements to each person, have that person serve the person next to them rather than taking it for themselves, giving their neighbor the bread and the wine.
Readings—Invite volunteers, youth perhaps, to read—see below for when to include the readings in the service: (R1) Psalm 116:1-2, 12-14; (R2) Psalm 116:15-17; (R3) Psalm 116:18-19; (R4) 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; (R5) John 13:1-17, 31b-35.
Prayers—Invite volunteers to give short prayers as follows—see below for when to include these prayers in the service: (P1) Thanksgiving to Jesus for being present by the Spirit, for drawing everyone together, and for reminding us of all he has done; (P2) Thanksgiving to Jesus for laying down his life and pouring himself out for us; (P3) Thanksgiving to Jesus for the people he brings into our lives whom we can serve, and offering ourselves up to Christ to be broken and poured out as he was.
Closing Song—A song or hymn of sending or service, or of communion/fellowship (CS).
Welcome, followed by the gospel reading (R5 – John 13:1-17, 31b–35).
Our new life in Christ is grounded in Jesus’ humility, service, and self-sacrificial love which he expressed by voluntarily laying down his life for every one of us. On this day of remembrance, Maundy Thursday, we participate in communion, serving one another in Christian love. And we are reminded of how Christ’s ongoing gift being poured out in our hearts by the Spirit is meant to be shared with others by pouring our own lives out through humble service, sharing, and sacrificial giving.
Prayer (P1) – Thanksgiving to Jesus for being present by the Spirit, for drawing everyone together, and for reminding us of all he has done.
On this day we are reminded of how often our focus drifts away from what is on God’s mind and heart. As the annual spring festival drew closer, the disciples may have been joining in the traditional singing of the Hillel psalms (Psalms 113-118) as they traveled. They may have participated in the cleaning of homes and businesses in preparation for Passover. And they may have been involved in the selection of a special lamb for sacrifice and as part of their fellowship meal. (Name of member) will read Psalm 116:1.2, 12-14 (R1).
I love the Lord because he has heard my voice and my supplications. Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live. (Psalm 116:1-2 NRSV)
What shall I return to the Lord for all his bounty to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord; I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people. (Psalm 116:12-14 NRSV)
But the disciples also participated in some heated debates about who would be greatest in the kingdom. This must have pained Jesus greatly. He reminded the disciples that those who desire to be greatest in the kingdom of God must be willing to be servants. (Name of member) will read Psalm 116:15-17 (R2).
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful ones. O Lord, I am your servant; I am your servant, the child of your serving girl. You have loosed my bonds. I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice and call on the name of the Lord. (Psalm 116:15-17 NRSV)
As they gathered in the upper room for their fellowship meal, the disciples were shocked the sight of Jesus rising from his place at the table to take on the role of a servant. He laid aside his outer garments and equipped himself with a towel. He knelt in front of each disciple and began to wash and dry their feet. Only Jesus realized fully at that point what the price of true leadership would be—he knew he was facing crucifixion as the cost for being the Lord of the kingdom. He chose in that moment to demonstrate for the disciples the inverse values of God’s kingdom by humbling himself and washing their feet. (Name of member) will read Psalm 116:18-19 (R3).
I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the house of the Lord, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the Lord! (Psalm 116:18-19 NRSV)
Peter was offended by the thought that his esteemed teacher would humiliate himself in this way. But Jesus said, “If I don’t wash you, you have no part with me.” Then Peter wanted him to wash his hands and his head as well. But Jesus said that since he had already bathed, only his feet needed washing. But then Jesus said that they were all clean except one—the one whom he knew would betray him.
As he finished, Jesus pulled on his outer garment and joined them again. He pointed out that as their teacher and Lord, he humbled himself to wash their feet. They were to have the same attitude toward one another, loving one another the way he loved them. The new commandment he gave them was to love one another in the same way in which he loved them. This would be how everyone would know they were his disciples.
The new covenant was ratified in Jesus’ own self offering. He was willing to be broken and poured out so that we could be freed from all that keeps us bound—evil, sin, and death. Jesus was willing to do whatever it took, even if it meant suffering and death, so that we could be liberated and receive new life in him. (Name of member) will read 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (R4).
For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:23-26 NRSV)
Prayer (P2) – Thanksgiving to Jesus for laying down his life and pouring himself out for us
When everyone is served, they will take the elements at the same time. As each person begins to take communion elements from the trays, they will symbolically serve one another, as a reminder of Jesus’ instruction to love another. Rather than simply taking the elements for themselves, they will hand them to the person to their left. [passing the trays to the right; or you may wish to have helpers hold the trays while each person serves the person to their left]. When all are served, invite the group to take the bread and the wine together.
Jesus offered himself in a tangible, physical way—allowing his body to be broken, and his blood to be shed. This was a powerful expression of God’s love for each one of us. In the same way, Jesus calls us to love one another, to be broken bread and poured out wine for others. We can only do this as we eat and drink of Christ, soaking ourselves in the Spirit, and allowing Jesus to love others through us. As Jesus lives in us by the Spirit, we respond to his grace by humbly offering ourselves in service to others, in gratitude for all Christ has done for us.
Prayer (P3) Thanksgiving to Jesus for the people he brings into our lives whom we can serve, and offering ourselves up to Christ to be broken and poured out as he was.
Closing Song (CS).
Benediction: Now may the God who sends you, sanctify you by his Spirit, keep you from the evil one, and fill you with his inexpressible joy, in Jesus’ name. Amen. (John 17:6-19)