Celebrating Maundy Thursday At Home
This is meant to celebrate just before a meal. Place a Bible and a candle out. Notice what other religious paintings or knick-knacks can be seen from the dining table.
Before you begin your meal…
Light a candle so everyone knows this isn’t just any family meal. Something special and holy is about to happen.
Did you know Jesus’ last night with his friends was spent in a place called the Upper Room? That’s where they gathered around a table for their meal. They thought it was going to be a meal just like so many other meals they had shared with Jesus, but this one turned out to be unlike any meal they had ever known.
You may have seen pictures of the Last Supper where Jesus and the disciples are sitting in chairs, the way we do it. But actually, they reclined on cushions at a table on the floor. It was a “laid back” occasion.
There were two really important things that happened at this meal. It was the first time Jesus took the bread and wine, blessed them, and said, “This is my body” and “This is my blood.” Every time we celebrate communion, we’re remembering this night when Jesus shared himself with his disciples around the table. He’s promised that he continues to come to us, even today, in the bread and wine.
Christians celebrate Holy Communion when the community is together. The meal isn’t just about the bread and wine; it’s about receiving this gift from one another and with one another. During our love-distancing these days (a friend has renamed social-distancing love-distancing, and I really like that), we’re fasting from Holy Communion, and look forward to the day when we’ll all gather again to receive our living Lord who gives himself to us in this amazing way.
But before Jesus even got to the part where he gave his disciples Holy Communion for the first time, he did something to show them how much he loved them. He knelt before them and washed their feet. This was his way of showing them that, like him, they need to love and serve one another in humility. He gave them a new commandment, that they love one another as he loved them. In fact, the word Maundy means commandment.
Before you begin your meal together, read John 13:3-17, 34-35. You can read it from your Bible, or click on the link on the left.
If you’re adventurous (and I hope you are), and if you have someone else living with you, pour some water in a basin, get out some towels and wash one another’s feet. Be careful, though. This experience might transform you!
Before you start eating, here’s a table prayer you might use:
Lord, Jesus, on this holy night you washed the feet of your friends, and you shared your last meal with them. Bless this meal that we share tonight. Help us to remember that whenever we eat, you are here at the table with us, teaching us to love one another the way you have loved us. Amen.
Enjoy your meal
As you eat together, think about some of the special meals that you have shared with the people you love. What made them memorable? How is this like or different than Holy Communion? What do you miss about taking Holy Communion in this time when we are not receiving it?
When we come together to worship in our church building on Maundy Thursday, we end our time together with the stripping of the altar. As we hear a Psalm sung or said, all the sacred ornaments are removed: candles, bible, altar book, communion ware, linens and paraments. When it is finished, the altar is completely bare. It reminds us of the bareness of life without the hope of Christ that we have through his resurrection.
To remember this tradition, read Psalm 22. You get the gist of it from verses 1-5, but if you’re up for the full experience, read the whole thing. I hope you’ll notice how this Psalm foreshadows the death of Jesus on the cross and leads us into the sorrow of Good Friday. You can read it from your Bible or by clicking on the link above.
You can do a “stripping of the altar” in your own home.
- Gather any faith related items you may have in your house – icons, statues, religious art and symbols that can be easily removed. Pack them away somewhere, in a storage bin or a bag. (You might also cover any large items with a cloth.)
- Remove all items from your dining table so it’s completely empty and thoroughly wash it so it is both cleared and cleaned.
- Leave your table bare until Easter morning.
Parents: on Saturday night when everyone has gone to bed, unpack and uncover the religious items and decorate your dining room table with Easter joy so your family can awaken to a day of celebration!
God’s blessings to all of you as you discover new ways of worshiping God through these days of distancing. Even where two or three are not gathered together, I can assure you that Jesus is in the midst of us!
After the service
Sing the song “Stay With Me” together. (Repeats four times.)