Saturday, 14 April 2012

Easter reflections 2012 : 2 - Maundy Thursday

Each year, three churches in the Mitcham Hills combine for ecumenical services for Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday and Blue Christmas. This year, we were hosting Maundy Thursday, and the worship team decided they would like to hold a Last Supper gathering. So Bek researched the menu, drawing on the Passover traditions that would have shaped Jesus' meal with his friends, according to the stories, we gathered volunteers to prepare the lamb (and rice and salad, for a fuller meal), bought bread and wine / juice, collected jugs and chalices, and prepared the stories for telling.
I felt incredibly underprepared going into this gathering, as I did for Holy Week overall - last year I pretty much worked full time in the weeks leading up to Easter, because this is the pivotal festival in the Christian calendar, and the telling of these stories takes a lot of preparation. This year, I didn't have the time for this, as I am not only part time in a congregation, but adjunct faculty teaching two topics at the theological college. So I was disappointed not to be able to learn the stories, having instead to read them aloud with feeling.
The evening started with the story of the Exodus, in which the Jewish Passover tradition is rooted. Bek introduced the meal, including the questions - asked by children - and the various elements of the meal that we found on our tables - chariest for the mortar representing slavery - and the strength to endure, lamb, whose blood was splashed above Hebrew doors in Egypt, salt water for tears, bitter herbs also for slavery ... and we ate.
I met with a colleague to talk through the shape of the stories, and we used the idea from Seasons of the Spirit to have someone represent Jesus - I took on the role of narrator, and narrated Jesus taking the bread, giving thanks and breaking it at the start of the meal, as Adam enacted it. We invited people to pass bread around the table, sharing it together.
We heard stories from the Gospel according to Mark of that meal, the preparations, the revelations, and as our meal drew to a close, Adam stood again, as Jesus is said to have done, took the cup and asked his friends to drink of this new covenant made in the blood of the Son of God, and remember.
Finally, Adam got up from the table, and left, as we heard the story of Jesus leaving the city to go out to a garden and pray. We sang his prayer, his request to his friends - the haunting 'Stay with me' from Taizé. Then we left the table in our own time, in silence.
You could feel the raw emotions revealed through this encounter as people walked out into the night, looking sombre, contemplative, moved by the story.

It was strange, and somehow OK, that the mood once we moved back inside, shifted almost to frivolity, as young and old together cleared the tables, washed the dishes, put candles away and swept the floors. Through the story, we had been present together as a community, from our three various communities of faith, that night one, at table as Jesus had been with his motley band of disciples, disturbed, discomfited, by the unfolding story of Jesus' journey towards crucifixion.

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