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Maundy Thursday 9/4/20

The Cross Country Parishes
Maundy Thursday 2020

On this page 
A sermon for  Maundy Thursday
Meditation for Maundy Thursday
Some Prayers
Maundy Thursday Watch

At 11.00 on Thursday Morning Bishop Keith will be livestreaming a Diocesan service from Bishop's Lodge on the Cathedral website at: https://chestercathedral.com/stream

Rev Anne will be celebrating Communion on behalf the Cross Country Parishes just after 8.00 (to allow time to support the NHS and other key workers) on Thursday evening.

Sermon - Exodus 12: 1 – 4, 11 – 14; John 17: 1 – 17, 31b - 35

Think about The Great Escape and you probably have visions of Steve McQueen heroically escaping from Stalag Luff 3 on a motorbike.  I understand that the film of The Great Escape was not an immediate success.  Like many cinema classics, it took time for it to be numbered among the greats.
The same might also be said of the two great escapes that we remember tonight.  For tonight we commemorate not one, but two great escapes which have shaped the history of the world.  Not that this was at all obvious to those who first witnessed them.  
So what are these momentous escapes which we remember this evening?  The first is the escape of God’s people from slavery in Egypt.  The second is Jesus’ crucifixion; an act which would enable the great escape from the sin of the world into the presence of God. Although, we don't really commemorate either of these escapes tonight; rather we commemorate the preparations for them.  
There is more in common with the escape of the Israelites from Egypt and Jesus’ crucifixion than is obvious at first sight. The escape of God’s people from slavery in Egypt prepared God’s people for Jesus’ death on the cross.  The escape from slavery in Egypt prepared people for the escape from sin which Jesus made possible on the cross.
The first thing to note is that like The Great Escape from Stalag Luff 3, the escape from Egypt and the great escape from sin involved relatively few people.  A few thousand rag tag and bobtail people of God fled the might of Egypt.  A motley group a dozen disciples, a wider group of loyal followers of Jesus, and a handful of Jewish and Roman officials witnessed the escape from sin.
Yet these two great escapes have shaped and moulded the world so profoundly that we remember the preparations for both tonight.  
The Exodus from Egypt and the Crucifixion were both preceded by highly symbolic meal.  Meals which God commanded should be celebrated for all time.  Through Moses, God commanded that the Passover was to be a perpetual ordinance throughout the generations.  Through St Paul’s reported words of Jesus in 1 Corinthians 11, God commands Christians that they should eat the bread and drink the cup of the Lord’s Supper until Jesus comes again. 
And so to this very day, Jews celebrate the Passover and hear again the story of Moses leading the great escape from slavery in Egypt. For Christians, that great escape has been superseded by the Passover of Jesus from death to life.  An event we remember each time we celebrate Communion, whether that is together in church, or as tonight, in an act of spiritual Communion.
Tonight we remember again the Last Supper which Jesus’ celebrated with his disciples on the night before he died.  We remember that, for the disciples, the meal began as a familiar celebration of a long-ago great escape from Egypt.  We remember that the celebration meal the disciples knew took on a whole new meaning.  The Last Supper began as a Passover meal remembering the Exodus from Egypt.  It finished with the symbolism which is so familiar to us from our Communion service. 
Communion.  A remembrance of Jesus’ death.  A celebration of the great escape which Jesus achieved on the cross.  An event we will each be able to mark in our own ways ‘together apart’ tomorrow.  The dramatic great escape in which Jesus passed over from death to life which we remember on Easter Day, 
Celebrations and commemorations of the great escape made possible by Jesus; the greatest escape in the history of the world.  Celebrations and commemorations which we will continue to hold until Jesus comes again in glory …
Which brings us to another similarity in the two Great Escapes we remember tonight.  Neither of these great escapes were entirely complete.
The Israelites escaped from slavery in Egypt, but it was 40 years before they entered the Promised Land.  Forty years during which they had to learned what it meant to be the people of God as time and time again they turned away from God and had to return to him once more and learn his ways.
Today, perhaps more than ever, as we live our daily lives surrounded by the realities of death and disease, we are aware that we too live in the now and not yet of the Kingdom of God.  Thankful that in his death, Jesus opened the way to God so that we can come into God’s presence at any time and in any place.  Yet conscious that, we do not yet live in the throne room of heaven.  We continue to journey through a very imperfect world, yet we do so continuing to learn how to live as those who are rescued by Jesus and loved by God.  Preparing for the day when we will see Jesus face to face and live in his presence forever.
Amen. 

Meditation - A Meal in the Shadows
John 13 and Synoptic Passion Narratives

(This meditation is written as if spoken by Peter in old age.)

The last low rays of warm spring sunshine shone into the stairwell casting long shadows across the door of the Upper Room.

John and I climbed wearily up the crooked spiral stairs with one last load.  We had been up and down, up and down all afternoon preparing the Passover meal for Jesus and the other disciples that evening.  Now, as the dying sun dipped below the horizon all was ready.

At last we could move slowly as we waited for Jesus and his guests to arrive.  The oil lamps were lit, but dark shadows still covered most of the room.  To light too many lamps would be dangerous.  It was better not to attract too much attention.  The shadows of darkness were not the only shadows falling across that meal.  The shadow of the Roman Authorities loomed in everyone's minds.  The shadow of death lurked only just out of sight.

Outside, the shadows of dusk darkened into night.  Thick and black.  The sound of footsteps sounded on the stairs.  John and I stiffened, lifting up our heads.  Listening intently.  Then we relaxed.  The sound was the sound of the Master's feet and ten other sandal shod disciples.

Seconds later there is a tap at the door.  The tap of the master.  John opened the door and welcomed Jesus whilst I greeted the other guests.

Jesus was the host of the feast.  John and I were acting as servants.  I hurried to fetch the bowl of warm water and a towel so that John could wash Jesus' feet.  But as I bent to place the bowl on the floor, the shadow of a kneeling figure fell across the bowl.  The shadow of Jesus.  Before I knew what he was doing, he took the towel from me and put it around his waist.

I was already tired when Jesus arrived.  Now I was confused and embarrassed as well.  I watched him washing John, James, Judas and Thomas' feet, but, to be honest, I couldn't really take in what the Master was doing.  Then, it was my turn.  Jesus told me to stand up and put my foot in the bowl, and I did it without delay, still not really taking in what was going on.

It was only as the water was poured over my feet that I came too and realised what was happening.  True to form I opened my mouth:

"Lord!  You can't do that!  That's my job!  You can't kneel on the floor to wash my feet.  You're the Master!"

"Peter, let me do this for you.  I know you don't understand now, but one day you will."

"If you insist on washing my feet, don't stop there.  Wash all of me!"

"Peter, it is evening.  You have already washed today.  Only your feet are dusty.  You don't need another wash, except for your feet."

Jesus continued to pour warm water over my big, callused feet.  They weren't a pretty sight.  They were hardened from walking on the rough bottom of Lake Galilee.  They were hot and sticky from climbing up to the Upper Room a hundred times that day as John and I prepared the feast.  But Jesus didn't care.  He took my worn and callused feet and wrapped them gently in the rough linen towel.

After this strange event, it was a relief to sit at the table with the other disciples.  The room was warm from the heat of the oil lamps and the warmth generated by thirteen large, working men.

The room was dark and shadowy.  What, with the effort of getting the feast ready and the warmth of the room, I allowed myself to drift dreamily as the familiar, comforting words of the Passover Meal washed over me.  I noticed that John, too, was already half asleep as he leaned against Jesus.

But then something else strange happened.  Jesus continued to speak, but these were not the well known, much loved, comforting words of the Passover Service.  These were strange, uncomfortable words.

"I have just washed your feet.  You are all clean ... But not every one of you is clean.  One of you eating bread with me will betray me."

John and I were fully awake now.  The others were listening, mouths open in horror.  One by one they examined themselves.  Asking the obvious question:
"Surely you don't mean me?"

The shadows of hands reaching to dip bread into the sweet mixture of apples, nuts and wine were frozen in shocked horror.

Jesus continued:
"I tell you the truth.  I will dip a piece of bread into the bowl.  The person I give it to will betray me."

Hands moved away from the bowl.  Automatically moved to allow the Master access.  Minds were too numb to think about the action.  The only thought in the room was: "Who is it?  It can't be me.  Which of us would ever betray Jesus?"

In the tense atmosphere, Jesus appeared to move in slow motion, although in reality it can only have been seconds before Judas took the bread which Jesus offered.

The shadow of betrayal was out in the full blaze of light.  It was Judas!  Judas the Betrayer.  The quiet authoritative voice of Jesus broke the silence:
"Go, Judas.  What you must do, do quickly."

Judas departed quickly after that.  His figure had almost disappeared by the time he reached the dark shadows in the far corner of the room.  No-one could see him as he left the building and slunk through the shadows of the dark, deserted streets to carry out his desperate deed.

After that, no-one wanted to eat any more of the feast.  Jesus drew the meal to an end.  But by then, all familiarity had gone.  He used none of the familiar words of the Passover Service.  Instead, he talked about loving one another, and how that would set us apart from other religious groups in society.

He didn't even bless the bread and wine at the end of the meal in the traditional way.  He gave it a whole new meaning instead.  Something we didn't understand about the bread being his broken body and the wine being his blood.  Told us we should keep doing it until he came back.  Well of course we'd keep breaking bread and drinking wine.  It's what all good Jews do.  But that night had been so strange.  So uncomfortable.  And all the time, the shadow of death lurked just out of sight.  Hiding behind talk of betrayal.  Concealed inside bread and wine.

And then Jesus ordered us out of the warmth.  Out of the familiar safety of the Upper Room.  Out into the shadows of the dark and dangerous night.  Out into the shadowy Kidron Valley into the shadows of the olive grove in Gethsemane.  Out into the shadows of an unknown future where death was no longer a shadow and Roman Authority became flesh and blood.


It took me a long time to make sense of what happened that night.  Good Friday was too terrible. All I felt was the dreadful pain of separation.  We were too confused and then too overjoyed by the events of Easter.  Too much happened between Easter, the Ascension and Pentecost to do more than keep up.  And then there was all the work involved in looking after the new church.

It's only now that I am an old man, in prison with Paul for my faith, that I have time to meditate and to think again about that last night with Jesus.

The memory is as clear is if it happened only yesterday.  The shadows have all fallen away.  But my thoughts are even more disturbing than the events of that last night with the Master.

As I've relived the details I’ve seen that the real shadows were not those cast by the sun or the oil lamps.  Judas' betrayal and even Jesus' forthcoming death were not the deepest shadows cast over that night.

The darkest shadows that night were the shadows of my real self.  I've thought ill of Judas all these years for daring to betray Jesus.  But I did exactly the same thing.  Each time I denied knowing Jesus, I too betrayed him.


And all that Jesus told us about the need to love each other; I didn't do too well there either.  As soon as my own life was in danger, I fled from the rest of the group.  Left them to look after themselves whilst I looked after ... me!

These are the really deep shadows of that last night with Jesus.  Shadows still cast over the story each time we betray Jesus and deny that we know him.  Shadows which we still cast each time we fail to love each other.

© S Anne Lawson  Holy Week 2002



Prayers for Maundy Thursday

The Collect
God our Father,
you have invited us to share in the supper
which your Son gave to his Church
to proclaim his death until he comes;
may he nourish us by his presence
and unite us in his love;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Post Communion Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ,
we thank you that in this wonderful sacrament
you have given us the memorial of your passion:
grant us so to reverence the sacred mysteries
of your body and blood
that we may know within ourselves
and show forth in our lives
the fruit of your redemption,
for you are alive and reign, now and for ever:  Amen.


Prayers of Penitence

Our Lord Jesus Christ says:
‘If you love me, keep my commandments.’
‘Unless I wash you, you have no part in me.’
Let us confess to almighty God our sins against his love,
and ask him to cleanse us.

Have mercy on us, O God,
in your great goodness;
according the abundance of your compassion
blot out our offences.
Lord, have mercy.

Against you only have we sinned
and done what is evil in your sight.
Christ, have mercy.

Purge us from our sin and we shall be clean;
wash us and we shall be whiter than snow.
Lord, have mercy.

May the Father for give us
by the death of his Son
and strengthen us
to live in the power of the Spirit
all our days.  Amen.

Prayers of Intercession

In the power of the Spirit let us pray to the Father
through Christ the Saviour of the world.

Father, on this, the night he was betrayed,
your Son Jesus Christ washed his disciples’ feet.
We commit ourselves to follow his example of love and service.
Lord, hear us
and humble us.

On this night, he prayed for his disciples to be one.
We pray for the unity of your Church.
Lord, hear us
and unite us.

On this night, he prayed for those who were to believe
through his disciples’ message.
We pray for the mission of your Church.
Lord, hear us
and renew our zeal.

On this night, he commanded his disciples to love,
but suffered rejection himself.
We pray for the rejected and unloved.
Lord, hear us
and fill us with your love.

On this night, he reminded his disciples
that if the world hated them it hated him first.
We pray for those who are persecuted for their faith.
Lord hear us
and give us your peace.

On this night, he accepted the cup of death
and looked forward to the new wine of the kingdom.
We remember those who have died in the peace of Christ.
Lord hear us
and welcome all your children into paradise.

Merciful Father
accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

© The Archbishops’ Council 2006


Maundy Thursday Watch

Traditionally, after the Maundy Thursday evening Communion, Christians have kept watch through the night until Morning Prayer. You may wish to spend time reflecting quietly on the events which followed the Last Supper as Jesus left the Upper Room and took his disciples across the Kidron Valley to the Garden of Gethsemane.  The following readings may be of help.

Moving into the Watch
After the Maundy Thursday evening Communion, the sanctuary is traditionally stripped.  This year, with churches closed, that is not possible.  However, you may find the following verses from Lamentations which are traditionally read as the sanctuary is stripped a helpful way into the silence of the Watch:

How lonely sits the city that once was full of people!
How like a widow she has become,
she that was great among the nations!
She weeps bitterly in the night, with tears on her cheeks;
among all her lovers she has no one to comfort her.
All Jerusalem, Jerusalem, return to the Lord your God.

The roads to Zion mourn, for no one comes to the festivals; all her gates are desolate, her priests groan;
her young girls grieve, and her lot is bitter.
Her children have gone away, captives before the foe.  Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?
Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow.
All Jerusalem, Jerusalem, return to the Lord your God.

From on high he sent fire; it went deep into my bones; e spread a net for my feet; he turned me back;
he has left me stunned, faint all day long.
For these things I weep; my eyes flow with tears;
for a comforter is far from me, one to revive my courage; my children are desolate, for the enemy has prevailed.
All Jerusalem, Jerusalem, return to the Lord your God.

All who pass along the way clap their hands at you;
they hiss and wag their heads at daughter Jerusalem;
‘Is this the city that was called the perfection of beauty, the joy of all the earth?’
The thought of my affliction and homelessness is wormwood and gall.
All Jerusalem, Jerusalem, return to the Lord your God.
/Over
Readings which you wish to reflect on during The Watch
John 13: 16 – 30
Psalm 113

John 13: 31 – end
Psalm 114

John 14: 1 – 14
Psalm 115

John 14: 15 – end
Psalm 116 1 – 9

John 15: 1 – 17
Psalm 116: 10 – end

John 15: 18 – 16:4a
Psalm 117

John 16: 4b – 15
Psalm 118: 1 – 9

John 16: 6 – end
Psalm 118: 10 – 18

John 17: 1 – 19
Psalm 118: 9 – end

John 17: 20 - end

The Watch ends with The Gospel of the Watch from Luke 22: 31 – 62.

The Easter before I was ordained, I was introduced to the idea of keeping the Great Silence from the end of The Watch until Morning Prayer on Good Friday.  I have kept the Great Silence on Maundy Thursday night ever since.  I invite you to join me.