Apr 1, 2010

Maundy Thursday Reflections

Every Maundy Thursday I celebrate the Holy Day in quiet reflection. It is most generally a celebration of one, and that is the way I plan it. And for the past 8 years (excluding the two I lived in California) my choice service is at Bethlehem Baptist Church in downtown Minneapolis. This year it was no different.

The sanctuary was packed to the walls. People groups of every generation, ethnicity, class, and each carrying a story all their own were represented not as segregated clusters, but as one community. You could taste the sweetness of the Spirit in the room, and in the aroma of his presence I could not help but pause time and time again at the sight before me. I thought of the Apostle Paul while I sat in my quiet space at the end of the balcony pew... Parenthetical comment... I can always be found in the balcony when the introverted, introspective, and contemplative side of myself takes over. Paul passionately journeyed from church to church urging them to live as a unified body of Christ. In his culture it was common to find people, Christians included, dividing their pledges of devotion and splitting over the smallest of disagreements; which is not entirely unlike today, but I'll save that for another post. I wondered what Paul would have thought if he had been a part of tonight's worship service. Would he exhort his tender love for the Church of Minneapolis? My soul was overwhelmed within me to have a seat among Christ's chosen Beloved and I do not doubt for a moment that Paul would say to Bethlehem - "I have not stopped praying and giving thanks for you."

When the first song of worship ignited, my heart was gripped by the loving hands of the Holy God. There was a sacred presence in the place, a power infused in every note harmoniously shouted, and a disarming invitation wrapped in the holy contrition of the communion of saints. I thought my entire being was going to explode. I was utterly undone by the beauty of it all. Hundreds of saints under one roof, singing together with one voice - my cheeks were a slope of draining tears collecting in the pools of my smiling lips. This is what the heavenly hosts who cry "Holy Holy Holy" must sound like.

Even greater still was the institution of communion. I am one who adheres to the theology that this meal is more than mere symbolism. The Eucharist is sacred and filled with the grace of Christ. Since I can remember I've never not cried during communion. There is something distinctly tender about witnessing broken people coming to the table to receive the redeeming love of Christ through the Eucharist. I like to watch the old couples walk up together hand in hand. The dad bending over to help his young son take the broken bread is one of the most breathtaking sights to behold. And the teenagers filled with contagious vitality for life drinking of the cup, produce within a desire to embrace and encourage them to continue the journey of following after the love of Christ, no matter the cost. Tonight was yet another opportunity to consider the joy found in the meal of Thanksgiving and reflect on the body of Christ that was - just as the elements - first blessed, then broken, then given for all to receive.

As I sit here now, yearning to live the Maundy Thursday service all over again, I try to cling to the last fleeting minutes of this day. 50 more to go before we are ushered into Good Friday and I am filled with reverence as I replay the words of tonight's hymns and bow in humility in experiencing once again the story of what this day represents....

No comments: