O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
God our Father,
your Son Jesus Christ was obedient to the end
and drank the cup prepared for him:
may we who share his table
watch with him through the night of suffering
and be faithful.
Psalm 116.1, 10-17
I love the Lord,
for he has heard the voice of my supplication;
because he inclined his ear to me
on the day I called to him.
How shall I repay the Lord
for all the benefits he has given to me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call upon the name of the Lord.
I will fulfil my vows to the Lord
in the presence of all his people.
Precious in the sight of the Lord
is the death of his faithful servants.
O Lord, I am your servant,
your servant, the child of your handmaid;
you have freed me from my bonds.
I will offer to you a sacrifice of thanksgiving
and call upon the name of the Lord.
I will fulfil my vows to the Lord
in the presence of all his people,
In the courts of the house of the Lord,
in the midst of you, O Jerusalem.
Glory to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now
and shall be for ever. Amen.
John 13.1-17, 31b-35
Before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus answered, ‘You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ Peter said to him, ‘You will never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.’ Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!’ Jesus said to him, ‘One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.’ For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, ‘Not all of you are clean.’
After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord – and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.
‘Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, “Where I am going, you cannot come.” I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’
On Maundy Thursday we remember three gifts that Jesus is offering us. He is offering us the gift of service as he ties the towel around his waist, kneels on the floor and washes the feet of his disciples. He is offering us the gift of love as he gives us the new commandment of love as strong as his own. He is offering the gift of Holy Communion, the act of remembering and celebrating his physical presence among us as we share in the simple gifts of bread and wine. Today we remember these ultimate acts of generosity, Jesus’ parting and lasting gifts to all of humankind, for ever.
But … how good are we at receiving offers of service, love and remembrance? It is part of our culture that we should not feel the need to ask for help. We like to think we are able to stand on our own two feet and support ourselves and our loved ones without ‘interference’ from ‘outside’. How many times has someone offered to help you and you have rejected that offer with words like: I’m alright, thank you, or I can manage by myself or, I don’t need anyone’s help? It is something we do all the time. Even when our need is at its greatest we resist the helping hand of others because we perceive the acceptance of such help as a display of our own weakness.
Today, we find ourselves in the Upper Room sharing in the final night of Jesus’ earthly life. Following Jesus’ giving of his great gifts, he will move to the Garden of Gethsemane where he will seek help and strength from his Father in heaven. Jesus knows that he is about to be betrayed; Jesus knows that he will soon be denied; Jesus knows that his earthly life is coming to a close. And yet, despite all of this, Jesus pauses to share the generosity of his love and service with those closest to him. He does not share that love and service as a private act of friendship but as a commissioning. And, the gift of Holy Communion is given as a way of reminding us of this momentous turning point in the history of humanity.
The next couple of days are difficult days for all people of faith because of the sense of loss and emptiness that accompanies them. Jesus will die on the cross and Jesus will lie in the tomb. But … on the third day Jesus will rise again. Jesus will return and will remind us of the great commission to take his example of love and service out into every corner of the world. And, when we are feeling weak and powerless, Jesus will feed us and sustain us with his presence in the bread and wine of Holy Communion. As we prepare for the torment and desolation of the days before us let us hold out our hands and thank Our Lord for the gifts of Maundy Thursday, and let us make sure we pass those gifts on to all whom we meet, that their moments of agony and despair may be eased through the comfort and consolation that comes from Christ alone.
Prayers of Intercession
Let us pray, in the joy of the Lord’s sacrament and in the sorrow of his Passion.
Inspire the Church with the presence of Jesus Christ, here with us as he was with his disciples on the eve of his Passion. Draw us closer to you and to one another in the celebration of holy communion.
Recalling your great acts of mercy, we pray for the world, for freedom from the slavery of injustice and oppression, and all that holds people back from fullness of life.
As you gave to your disciples a new commandment of love, give the spirit of love to all among whom we live. Let the healing power of our communion spread beyond walls, to make many whole.
Have mercy on those who have not learned to love. Grant that those who feel themselves to be without value may be confident of their worth shown in Christ’s saving death.
We remember those who in this world followed Christ and died in the assurance of his love. May the grace of his communion fortify us until we rest with them.
We make our prayers in the name of Christ, who makes his people clean.
Prayer for Maundy Thursday
Son of Man,
who on the night before your passion
took towel and water
and washed the feet of your disciples:
give us understanding of what you have done,
and teach us to follow the example of your humility,
that by love we may serve one another for love of you,
our Saviour and our Lord.
The Lord’s Prayer
Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.
An Upper Room did our Lord prepare
for those he loved until the end:
and his disciples still gather there
to celebrate their Risen Friend.
A lasting gift Jesus gave his own:
to share his bread, his loving cup.
Whatever burdens may bow us down,
he by his Cross shall lift us up.
And after Supper he washed their feet,
for service, too, is sacrament.
In him our joy shall be made complete —
sent out to serve, as he was sent.
No end there is! We depart in peace.
He loves beyond the uttermost:
in every room in our Father’s house
he will be there, as Lord and Host.
Fred Pratt Green (1903–2000)