Maundy Thursday

"River God Tyne" from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.
“River God Tyne”
from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.

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.

John 13:34-35, The Voice Bible

“Mandatum novum,” a new commandment, a simple commandment, to love. In case we need a reminder the apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13 that love is not: envious, boastful, arrogant, rude, insist in its own way, irritable, resentful, and it does not rejoice in wrongdoing. Instead love is patient, kind, rejoices in truth, bears, believes, and endures all things. This is the new commandment that we have been given.

In case we needed a sign act for how this commandment was to be lived out Jesus gave us one:

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.

John 13:2b-4, NRSV

During the meal of thanksgiving, the meal that we are to partake as often as we gather, the meal where we meet Jesus, he chose to show us the way. To remove all of our pride, masks, pretenses, and security and take the form of a servant to all. The way of love is the way of humility before others, and I would say especially those that are not easy to love.

It is this sign-act that begins what the church has traditionally called the Triduum (The Three Days). These three days walk the faith community through a string of commemorations that begin with the service of Maundy Thursday at sundown today and end with the first service of Easter which traditionally has been the Easter Vigil.

At its cornerstone today reminds us of the reason why Jesus came, died, and rose again. So that we would know we are loved, so that we become the way of love in the world. The message of these days is still needed today. We often find ourselves immersed in sin and death out of our hunger to be loved. The world is filled with violence, hatred, war, and domination because it does not live the way of love. Instead so often that which the apostle Paul described as “love is not” is the human experience for so many.

One of the current conversations in our national life is around religious freedom. How do we live together in a growingly diverse community? How do we worship, live our discipleship in the world, and make a living as well as make a life? How are Christian people to behave when confronted with the other whom they disagree with in the marketplace?

We take off our outer garments, wrap a towel around our waist, and wash the feet of all that come our way. We don’t turn anyone away, we don’t become coercive with our political power, we don’t boast, become arrogant, or rude. We don’t insist on our own way . . . we follow Jesus’ new commandment.

May this Triduum birth new life in you . . .

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