It was on that night that everything came to a head. Maundy Thursday Reflections.

This reflection is set in the first century. The voice is that of person who was raised in the Jewish faith and who became a committed follower of Jesus. Seven candles may be lit and then extinguished one by one as the reflection proceeds.

 

Gathering

It was on that night that everything came to a head.

A gathering of friends and family;
a joyful occasion, with the drinking of wine,
some singing, some laughing; a meal shared together;
but then, a kiss … a betrayal … a denial … a trial …

Yet it began in celebration.

For years, it was so; for decades, for centuries,
on this very night, we would gather, joined as family,
to remember, to rejoice, to recall the act of liberation.

So we praise you, Lord our God, King of the universe;
You who have chosen us and made us holy.
Yes, we praise you, Lord our God, King of the universe;
You who create the fruit of the vine.
Yes, we praise you, Lord our God, King of the universe;
You who bring forth bread from the earth.

 

SEVEN CANDLES MAY BE LIT

 

It was on that night that everything came to a head.

But first, we recall the story …
the story we remember each year on this night.

Recalling the Passover Meal

 We remember the way that God saves his people:
The lamb, the herbs, the bread without leaven;
The lamb, the blood, the Passover of God.

And we follow the instructions given to the priests:
“On the tenth of this month, the people are to take
a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household.” [Exod 12:3]

THE FIRST CANDLE MAY BE EXTINGUISHED

It began in celebration.
For years, it was so; for decades, for centuries,
on this very night, we would gather, joined as family,
to remember, to rejoice, to recall the great stories.

But as the meal progressed, the mood began to shift.
One by one, those gathered together began to look back,
to ponder what they had been a part of…
for the joy of recent times had a shadow side, a menacing feel.

THE SECOND CANDLE MAY BE EXTINGUISHED

Just a few days before the meal, they entered the city,
coming for the festival, riding on a donkey;
crowds were gathered to cheer him on,
singing psalms and waving palms.

Hopes were high that indeed he was the one—
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

But days later, as the palms still lay strewn beside the road,
the signs were ominous.
Is this the one to redeem the people?
Silence, and fear, as the tensions rose … …

On that night, we remembered the festival of the Lord,
as we have remembered it throughout the centuries.

On the table, in the centre: the matzah bread.
“Our ancestors ate this bread in the land of Egypt.
All who are hungry, come in and eat! come and celebrate Passover!”

On the table, beside the matzah bread, were the cups for the wine.
Four cups: cups of judgement, a reminder of God’s punishments.
But the same four cups are also cups of celebration.
Reminders of the gracious saving actions of God.

So the table was set, with bread and wine,
for this festival of the Lord, the celebration of Passover.

We met around the table; a family extended,
with brothers and sisters, children and friends;
aunts … uncles … cousins … disciples;
a cacophony of colleagues, family and followers.

As we met around the table, we joined ourvoices,
with a psalm of celebration; a psalm of hallelujah.

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]

THE THIRD CANDLE MAY BE EXTINGUISHED

Recalling the Passover of the Lord

 It was on that night that everything came to a head.

For years, it was so; for decades, for centuries,
on this very night, we would gather, joined as family,
to remember, to rejoice, to recall the act of liberation.

And so, we praise you, Lord our God, King of the universe;
You who create the fruit of the vine.

Then he took the wine, as they had always taken the wine;
and lifting it high, he offered his prayers to God.
“May the one who blessed Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,
May the one who blessed our mothers,
Bless this house, this table, and all assembled here;
And so may our loved ones share our blessing.”

And when he had given thanks,
he gave it to them, saying: “Drink this, all of you”;
and then he spoke of the fruit of the vine, of the kingdom of God.

THE FOURTH CANDLE MAY BE EXTINGUISHED

We praise you, Lord our God, King of the universe;
You who bring forth bread from the earth.

So he took the bread, as they had always taken the bread;
And lifting it high, he offered his prayers to God.

Then the shank of lamb for the Passover, in the centre of the table:
“It is the sacrifice of the Passover of the Lord, for he passed over
the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt”.          
        [Exod 12:27]

And then, the herbs of bitterness;
“for their lives were bitter, with hard labour,
and mortar, and brick, and work in the fields.
All the labour which the Egyptians had forced upon them was harsh.”      [Exod 1:14]

And when he had given thanks for the bread,
he broke it, and he gave it to them,
speaking words which bled from familiar, to disturbing:
“Take this, and eat it; this bread of the Lord, manna from heaven;
take, and eat. This is my body, given for you.
Eat this in the remembrance of me.”      So they ate.

THE FIFTH CANDLE MAY BE EXTINGUISHED     A period of silence is kept

Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve,
went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them.
When they heard it, they were greatly pleased,
and promised to give him money.
So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.        [Mark 14]

The bitter moment of betrayal. Can it ever be retrieved?

It was on that night that everything came to a head;

And tonight, this year, as in every year, we remember.

THE SIXTH CANDLE MAY BE EXTINGUISHED

Recalling the Final Supper

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 Cor 11]

THE SEVENTH CANDLE MAY BE EXTINGUISHED

A period of silence is kept

It was on that night that everything came to a head;
and the shadows gathered, looming, menacing…

A gathering of friends and family;
a joyful occasion, with the drinking of wine,
some singing, some laughing; a meal shared together;
but then, a kiss … a betrayal … a denial … a trial …

It was on that night that everything came to a head:
a commandment to love; to love one another …
a call to discipleship; take up the cross, and follow …

It is on this night that everything comes to a head.

 

Adapted from a service devised by John Squires in 2008

Author: John T Squires

My name is John Squires. I live in the Australian Capital Territory. I have been an active participant in the Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) since it was formed in 1977, and was ordained as a Minister of the Word in this church in 1980. I have served in rural, regional, and urban congregations and as a Presbytery Resource Minister and Intentional Interim Minister. For two decades I taught Biblical Studies at a theological college and most recently I was Director of Education and Formation and Principal of the Perth Theological Hall. I've studied the scriptures in depth; I hold a number of degrees, including a PhD in early Christian literature. I am committed to providing the best opportunities for education within the church, so that people can hold to an informed faith, which is how the UCA Basis of Union describes it. This blog is one contribution to that ongoing task.

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