Maundy Thursday

April 12, 2017

I realize it's Wednesday today and Holy Thursday isn't actually until tomorrow, but since I don't blog tomorrow, I needed to do this today. The next major day in Holy Week is Holy Thursday, better known in some faith traditions as Maundy Thursday. "Maundy" has come to refer to footwashing, especially washing the feet of the poor, so the day is named for Jesus' act in the Upper Room the night of his betrayal.

 

Now, don't get me wrong: I have nothing against a footwashing service, and I've participated in a few myself. But even that humble act on the part of our Lord pales, in my opinion, compared to what else happened that night. Jesus didn't just wash his disciples' feet in the Upper Room; he took bread and blessed it, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me." Then he took the cup, blessed it and said, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you" (words from Luke 22:19-20 and 1 Corinthians 11:23-25). Call me biased, but instituting Holy Communion, the Lord's Supper, the Eucharist, seems a little more important than the footwashing bit. And, after all, the footwashing is found only in John.

 

Yet the day remains named after the maundy and is commemorated by footwashing services the world over. And while there are different explanations for the origin of the word "maundy," they all connect to this event so frequently forgotten by evangelical Christians. Like me, we skip straight to the origins of the Table, but we bypass the humility and service required to prepare our hearts to receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Perhaps that's one lesson we can recover this Easter: that "he made himself nothing by taking on the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death -- even death on a cross" (Philippians 2:7-8). 

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