Maundy Thursday Communion
Our theme is prompted by conversation with Judi Marsh who showed me an article by Tim Hastie-Smith, Scripture Union National Director
What does it mean to be truly servant hearted? SU’s National Director, Tim Hastie-Smith, reflects on this...
A few years ago I found myself celebrating a Maundy Thursday communion service in a cold, damp Gloucestershire church. As the passage from John 13 was read out it was as if I was hit by an express train. Those familiar words ran through me, over me, and overwhelmed me. As the foot-washing Christ declares ‘a new commandment I give to you. Love one another as I have loved you’, I found myself shocked and in awe of God’s amazing humility, kindness and love. Of course I knew that ‘Maundy’ is a corruption of the Latin word ‘mandatum’ which means commandment, and that this holy evening when we recall the Last Supper and Jesus’ arrest also reminds us of his great commandment. Furthermore, I was well aware that as he washed his disciples’ feet Jesus was showing them in graphic terms that just as he acted as their servant at the meal so he would serve the true needs of all mankind on the cross – a clear visual aid for the confused disciples to recall at a later date.
But what struck me overwhelmingly for the fi rst time were the following realisations.
First: When Jesus commands us to love one another as he loves us, he is calling us to a level of servant love that is unprecedented and utterly open-ended. If foot washing and his death on the cross are taken as ‘models’ of his love, we are called to a servant love that knows no limits. It is extreme love that counts service a joy, and a freedom. By demonstrating what love looks like he is showing us the very heart of the Godhead, a Trinity within which love is continually fl owing.
Second: ‘By this all will know that you are my disciples’, is quite explicit. This quality of unconditional total love will attract and challenge others. This love will tell others who we serve, and draw them to the one who loves us as a servant. Just as Jean Valjean in Les Misérables is overwhelmed by grace (The Bishop of Digne’s complete love for him) and has his life transformed, so we are invited to live this transformational love. There is a famous letter by Julian the Apostate, who, as Emperor of Rome after Constantine, attempted to restore paganism as the empire’s religion. In it he explains to the Roman Governor in Alexandria that unless the pagans outdid the Christians in acts of love and care for the poor of the city, paganism didn’t stand a chance! The Christians were known for their love to all!
Third: Jesus redefines the meaning of greatness, power, leadership and, indeed, the very nature of God as he suffers on the cross. As the incarnation shows us, God doesn’t pretend to be a man. He fully becomes a human being. And on the cross he doesn’t pretend to suffer. He endures and takes upon himself an eternity of suffering. We can all too easily allow Good Friday to appear to be Jesus suffering for the sins of the world for a mere few hours, confident of a throne, a crown and vindication.
This is to misunderstand the depth of the ETERNAL suffering God took to himself on the cross. Whilst God is, of course, outside of time, is it too much to say that if Jesus endured eternal suffering, he suffers still? We worship a suffering servant God. We serve the One who serves us. God has utterly redefined what it means to be God. All human constructs of power and leadership are grotesque corruptions of true power and leadership.
Leadership is service, which is why at the heart of SU is the invitation to come and serve, that we might become like God. What an invitation! Back to the Cotswolds – having moved to a different village in January, I was asked to set up a youth club. I declined to do so, but offered instead to run an out of school club for 6- to 11-yearolds which older young people could help to run. To give the young people an opportunity to serve was the most valuable thing we could do. A few weeks on we have a flourishing kids club with a number of young people (and now parents) helping on a regular basis. Some are Christians. Most are not. But in inviting them to join and serve, they have been invited to share in the glory of God. As I observed to one lad who has been to Tajikistan three times to help build the SU camp site there and who runs the football: ‘You are building the kingdom through service. One day you will meet the King. Service teaches us about God’s love.’
We are going to share in words first from John 13-16, words Jesus shared at the Last Supper. Then we are going to draw on words form Luke 22 and share in the cup and in the bread.
We will finish back in John 17 with prayer prompted by the prayer Jesus prayed that night. I am using the translation in the Voice Bible.
To draw us into our communion service, a moment of quiet prayer and a hymn
MTS 7 From heaven you came – the servant king
Before the Passover festival began,
Jesus was keenly aware that His hour had come to depart from this world
and to return to the Father.
From beginning to end, Jesus’ days were marked by His love for His people
Jesus, knowing that He had come from God and was going away to God, 4
stood up from dinner and removed His outer garments.
He then wrapped Himself in a towel, 5 poured water in a basin,
and began to wash the feet of the disciples, drying them with His towel.
Simon Peter (as Jesus approaches): 6 Lord, are You going to wash my feet?
Jesus: 7 Peter, you don’t realize what I am doing, but you will understand later.
Peter: 8 You will not wash my feet, now or ever!
Jesus: If I don’t wash you, you will have nothing to do with Me.
Peter: 9 Then wash me but don’t stop with my feet. Cleanse my hands and head as well.
Jesus: 10 Listen, anyone who has bathed is clean all over except for the feet.
12 After washing their feet and picking up His garments, He reclined at the table again.
Jesus: Do you understand what I have done to you? 13
You call Me Teacher and Lord, and truly, that is who I am. 14
So if your Lord and Teacher washes your feet,
then you should wash one another’s feet.15
I am your example; keep doing what I do. 16
I tell you the truth: a servant is not greater than the master.
Those who are sent are not greater than the one who sends them.[a] 17
If you know these things, and if you put them into practice, you will find happiness.
Jesus: Now the Son of Man will be glorified as God is glorified in Him.32
If God’s glory is in Him, His glory is also in God.
The moment of this astounding glory is imminent. 33
My children, My time here is brief.
You will be searching for Me;
and as I told the Jews, “You cannot go where I am going.” 34
So I give you a new command:
Love each other deeply and fully.
Remember the ways that I have loved you,
and demonstrate your love for others in those same ways. 35
Everyone will know you as My followers if you demonstrate your love to others.
HTC Song 26 A new commandment
Simon Peter: 36 Lord, where are You going?
Jesus: Peter, you cannot come with Me now, but later you will join Me.
Peter: 37 Why can’t I go now? I’ll give my life for You!
Jesus: 38 Will you really give your life for Me? I tell you the truth: you will deny Me three times before the cock crows.
Jesus: Don’t get lost in despair;
believe in God, and keep on believing in Me. 2
My Father’s home is designed to accommodate all of you.
If there were not room for everyone, I would have told you that.
I am going to make arrangements for your arrival. 3
I will be there to greet you personally and welcome you home,
where we will be together. 4
You know where I am going and how to get there.
Thomas: 5 Lord, we don’t know where You are going, so how can we know the way?
Jesus: 6 I am the way, the truth, and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through Me. 7
If you know Me, you know the Father.
Rest assured now; you know Him and have seen Him.
Philip: 8 Lord, all I am asking is that You show us the Father.
Jesus (to Philip): 9 I have lived with you all this time, and you still don’t know who I am?
If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father.
How can you keep asking to see the Father? 10
Don’t you believe Me when I say I abide in the Father and the Father dwells in Me?
If you have trouble believing based on My words,
believe because of the things I have done. 12
I tell you the truth: whoever believes in Me will be able to do what I have done,
but they will do even greater things, because I will return to be with the Father. 13
Whatever you ask for in My name,
I will do it so that the Father will get glory from the Son. 14
Let Me say it again: if you ask for anything in My name, I will do it. 15
If you love Me, obey the commandments I have given you. 16
I will ask the Father to send you another Comforter, another Helper, the Spirit of truth,
who will remain constantly with you. 17
The world does not recognize the Spirit of truth,
because it does not know the Spirit and is unable to receive Him.
But you do know the Spirit because He lives with you, and He will dwell in you. 18
I will never abandon you like orphans; I will return to be with you. 19
In a little while, the world will not see Me;
but I will not vanish completely from your sight.
Because I live, you will also live.20
At that time, you will know that I am in the Father,
you are in Me,
and I am in you. 21
The one who loves Me will do the things I have commanded.
My Father loves everyone who loves Me;
and I will love you and reveal My heart, will, and nature to you.
25 I have spoken these words while I am here with you. 26
The Father is sending a great Comforter, a great Helper, the Holy Spirit,
in My name to teach you everything and to remind you of all I have said to you. 27
My peace is the legacy I leave to you.
I don’t give gifts like those of this world.
Do not let your heart be troubled or fearful.
I am the true vine, and My Father is the keeper of the vineyard. 2
My Father examines every branch in Me and cuts away those who do not bear fruit.
He leaves those bearing fruit and carefully prunes them
so that they will bear more fruit; 3
already you are clean because you have heard My voice.4
Abide in Me, and I will abide in you.
A branch cannot bear fruit if it is disconnected from the vine,
and neither will you if you are not connected to Me.
5 I am the vine, and you are the branches.
If you abide in Me and I in you, you will bear great fruit.
Without Me, you will accomplish nothing. 6
If anyone does not abide in Me,
he is like a branch that is tossed out and shrivels up
and is later gathered to be tossed into the fire to burn. 7
If you abide in Me and My voice abides in you,
anything you ask will come to pass for you. 8
Your abundant growth and your faithfulness as My followers will bring glory to the Father.
Jesus: 9 I have loved you as the Father has loved Me.
Abide in My love. 10
Follow My example in obeying the Father’s commandments and receiving His love.
If you obey My commandments, you will stay in My love. 11
I want you to know the delight I experience, to find ultimate satisfaction,
which is why I am telling you all of this.
12 My commandment to you is this:
love others as I have loved you. 13
There is no greater way to love than to give your life for your friends. 14
You celebrate our friendship if you obey this command. 15
I don’t call you servants any longer;
servants don’t know what the master is doing,
but I have told you everything the Father has said to Me.
I call you friends. 16
You did not choose Me.
I chose you,
and I orchestrated all of this so that you would be sent out
and bear great and perpetual fruit.
As you do this, anything you ask the Father in My name will be done. 17
This is My command to you: love one another.
33 I have told you these things so that you will be whole and at peace.
In this world, you will be plagued with times of trouble,
but you need not fear; I have triumphed over this corrupt world order.
Hymn 399 Come, risen Lord, as guest among your own
Jesus: 15 It has been My deep desire to eat this Passover meal with you
before My suffering begins. 16
Know this: I will not eat another Passover meal
until its meaning is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.
17 He took a cup of wine and gave thanks for it.
Jesus: Take this; share it among yourselves. 18
I will not drink another sip of wine until the kingdom of God has arrived in fullness.
19 Then He took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and shared it with them.
Jesus: This is My body, My body given for you. Do this to remember Me.
20 And similarly, after the meal had been eaten, He took the cup.
Jesus: This cup, which is poured out for you, is the new covenant, made in My blood.
24 Soon they found themselves arguing
Disciples: Which one of us is the most faithful, the most important?
Jesus (interrupting): 25 The authority figures of the outsiders play this game,
flexing their muscles in competition for power over one another,
masking their quest for domination behind words like “benefactor” or “public servant.” 26
But you must not indulge in this charade.
Instead, among you,
the greatest must become like the youngest
and the leader must become a true servant. 27
Who is greater right here as we eat this meal—
those of us who sit at the table,
or those who serve us?
Doesn’t everyone normally assume those who are served are greater than those who serve?
But consider My role among you.
I have been with you as a servant.
8 You have stood beside Me faithfully through My trials. 29
I give you a kingdom, just as the Father has given Me a kingdom. 30
You will eat and drink at My table in My kingdom
Hymn 469 All for Jesus
It is the prayer of Jesus that we be one even as Jesus and the Father are one.
May we not be taken out of this world
but in all things may we be protected from the evil one.
May we be immersed in the truth that is of Jesus
Just as he was sent into the world by the Father,
So he sends us into the world.
It is the prayer of Jesus that we all be one
As the Father is in Jesus and as Jesus is in the Father;
May we be in in Christ and in the Father
For by this unity the world will believe that the Father sent Jesus.
The glory that is the Father’s, passed on to the Son is passed on to us
May that glory unite us and make us one as God is one
that all will know that You sent Me, and You love them in the same way You love Me.