Our congregation meets for a communion service every year on Maundy Thursday. Sometimes we meet in our fellowship hall and share a simple meal of soup, salad, bread, and water. The food is on each table before the service begins; one person at each table serves the soup to the others. Sometimes we also include footwashing as part of the service. This particular service included both.
Welcome to this Maundy Thursday celebration. On this night we remember and celebrate the final supper Jesus shared with his disciples in the context of the Passover, when the people of Israel observed their liberation from Egypt. The Last Supper was Christ’s observance of the Seder—the Passover Eve Service. Hear this instruction that God gave to the people of Israel:
Scripture: Exodus 12:1-7, 12-14
Hymn: “Lift Up Your Hearts unto the Lord” PsH 309, SFL 63, TWC 771 (st. 1, 2, 4)
Call to Worship
Return to the Lord, God of all mercies,
for a feast of love has been prepared for his own.
I will bless the Lord at all times.
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
O taste and see the goodness of the Lord
Happy are they who take refuge in God.
Solo: “O Magnify the Lord” (Praise and Worship Songbook, Integrity/Hosanna Music)
The Call to Wash
One Another’s Feet
Reading: “He who would be great among you” (see box)
[The simplest tradition is for the pastor to wash the feet of a few leaders in the congregation, either elders or representatives from different ages or groups. They remove their shoes and sit in a place visible to all. The pastor kneels, pours water from a pitcher into a basin, and then wipes their feet with a towel.]
Hymn: “Jesu, Jesu, Fill Us with Your Love” PsH 601, PH 367, SFL 251, TWC 436 (Sung during the footwashing.)
Opened with the ancient Jewish table prayer:
Blessed are you, Lord our God, Creator of the Universe. Through your work, all things were made, and by your goodness we have this food to share. Blessed be God forever. Amen.
Confession and Assurance
The Call to Confession: 1 John 5:8
Most holy and merciful Father, we confess to you and to one another, that we have sinned against you by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart and mind and strength. We have not fully loved our neighbors as ourselves. We have not always had in us the mind of Christ.
You alone know how often we have grieved you by wasting your gifts, by wandering from your ways, by forgetting your love. Forgive us, we pray you, most merciful Father, and free us from our sin. Renew in us the grace and strength of your Holy Spirit, for the sake of Jesus Christ your Son, our Savior, Amen.
Hymn: “Just As I Am” PsH 263, PH 370, RL 468, TH 501, TWC 445
(st. 1, 3, 4)
Declaration of Pardon
To all who confess themselves to be sinners, humbling themselves before God and believing in the Lord Jesus Christ for their salvation, I declare this sure promise: “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
The Word of the Lord
Hymn: “As We Gather at Your Table” SNC 245 (st. 1)
Scripture: Matthew 26:17-30
Sermon: “At the Table”
The Celebration of the Lord’s Supper
[The elements are distributed by tables; each person is invited to pass the bread and cup to the next, saying, “The body of Christ was given for you”; “The blood of Christ was shed for you.”]
Our Response of Prayer and Gratitude
Hymn: “As We Gather at Your Table” SNC 245 (st. 2-3)
Reader 1: God may be speaking to us individually, asking whether we have fully and freely accepted his offer of freedom at the Festival of Redemption. Have we, for example, sprinkled the Blood of the Lamb on the doorposts of our hearts in the face of human and spiritual opposition, clearly trusting in God to deliver us?
Reader 2: This is the time when we must receive God’s gift freely, to give God his due. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might” (Deut. 6:5). “You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only you shall serve” (Matt. 4:10).
Reader 1: We are bound to thank, praise, glorify, extol and adore God who did all these wonders for our ancestors and for us. God brought us forth
Reader 2: from slavery
Reader 1: to freedom,
Reader 2: from anguish
Reader 1: to joy,
Reader 2: from mourning
Reader 1: to festivity,
Reader 2: from darkness
Reader 1: to great light,
Reader 2: from bondage
Reader 1: to redemption.
Hymn: “There Is a Redeemer” SNC 145
Scripture Readings: Revelation 21:6-7;
Jeremiah 31:33; Revelation 21:1-4
Parting Hymn: “You, Lord, Are Both Lamb and Shepherd” SNC 182 (Sung unaccompanied, very simply.)
He who would be great among you
You whose birth broke all the
social & biological rules—
son of the poor who accepted
the worship due a king—
child prodigy debating with
the Temple Th.D.s—you
were the kind who used
a new math
to multiply bread, fish, faith.
You practiced a
rehabilitated con men &
call girls. you valued women
& other minority groups.
a G.P., you specialized in
seeker, seer, motive-sifter,
you were always beyond,
above us. Ahead
of your time, & ours.
And we would like
to be like you. Bold
as Boanerges, we hear ourselves
demand: “Admit us
to your avant-garde.
Grant us degree
in all the liberal arts
Why our belligerence?
Why does this whiff of fame
and greatness smell so sweet?
Why must we compete
to be first? Have we forgotten
how you took, simply, cool water
and a towel for our feet?
—”He who would be great among you” by Luci Shaw, from Polishing the Petosky Stone. © 1990 by Luci Shaw. Used by permission of WaterBrook Press, Colorado Springs, CO.