Called to Be Servants
Worship setting: Prepare the Communion table with earthenware or wooden plates, bowls, and cups, as though it were set for Jesus and the disciples. Include bowls of fruit, plates of non-leavened bread, and anything else that may have been present at the Passover meal in Jesus’ time. In front of the altar place a small bench and a low table containing a pitcher of water, a basin, and several small white towels.
Consider using a PowerPoint presentation or slides of Communion emblems, the Last Supper, and foot washing during the prelude.
Call to Worship
Reader: Our forefathers were hungering in the wilderness.
People: We too, are travelers in the wilderness, hungering and thirsting.
Reader: And God gave them bread, manna from heaven to eat.
People: Give us this bread, too, that we may be filled.
Reader: Jesus said, I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.
People: Lord, we come to you in this place; we believe your promises.
Reader: Christ is the living bread that came down from heaven to do his father’s will, to give his life for the world.
—Adapted from John 5:31, 34-35, 39, 51
*Hymn: “Eat This Bread” CCS 528
OR “Holy Woman, Joyful giver” CCS 464
Disciples’ Generous Response:
Open your hearts and feel the yearnings of your brothers and sisters who are lonely, despised, fearful, neglected, unloved. Reach out in understanding, clasp their hands, and invite all to share in the blessings of community in the name of the One who suffered on behalf of all.
—Doctrine and Covenants 161:3a
Jesus knew how to gather and give to his disciples. Tonight we are reminded that his giving was far-reaching. His sacrifice was for all – the lonely, despised, fearful, neglected and unloved. May we, too, be unreserved in our giving, so that our sharing may be a witness of God’s love for all.
Blessing and Receiving of Mission Tithes
Hymn or Solo: “How Long, O God, How Long?” CCS 455
OR “Let Us Break Bread Together” CCS 521
Prayers of Blessing on Emblems
Serving of Communion
Foot Washing of the Generations
Prior to the service, select five people to represent children, youth, young adults, middle-aged adults, and senior adults. Ask them to come prepared to have their feet washed, wearing easy-to-remove shoes and no socks. Have the reader read the following scripture slowly, as an elder washes the feet of each of the five people.
Reader: John 13:3-17
Hymn: “Make Me A Servant” CCS 597
OR “Make Me a Channel of Your Peace” CCS 605
Jesus’ Prayer in the Garden: John 17:1-8, 17-21, 25-26
Hymn: “’Tis Midnight, and on Olive’s Brow” CCS 456
OR “Jesus Remember Me” CCS 459
As we leave the table of the Lord, may we take with us the example laid here before us. Let the bread and wine of Christ truly live in us and through us. Let us take up the towel and basin into the world to which we are called to be servants of the Most High God. May we fulfill that calling through the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen
Hymns of Gathering
"As We Gather” CCS 73
"Lord, You Have Brought Us” CCS 76
"O Lord, Grace Our Communion” CCS 80
OR "As We Gather" CCS 73
"Come Away from Rush and Hurry” CCS 83
"O God beyond All Praising” CCS 90
Call to Worship: Psalm 100
*Hymn of Praise: "Great and Marvelous Are Thy Works" CCS 118
OR “ Now Sing to Our God” CCS 108
Leader: O Lord, forgive us when we fail to respond to your call with faith.
People: Through your Spirit we stand in the assurance of your acceptance.
Leader: Forgive us when we are shackled by our narrow understandings of discipleship and our clouded sense of purpose.
People: Through your Spirit we are drawn into the illumination of your empowering love.
Leader: Forgive us when we are frightened of the future or pull back from the demand of your calling.
People: Through your Spirit we will trust you to lead us into new opportunities.
Leader Forgive us when we fail to sense your presence in our past, to acknowledge your grace in the present movement, and to trust you for our future.
People: Through your Spirit we offer ourselves in discipleship.
All: We stand together as your disciples.
We seek renewed and renewing faith.
Touch us now with your Spirit, Lord.
Touch us now with your Spirit.
—Adapted from Prayers and Readings for Worship, vol. 2, Peter Judd, ed. (Herald House, 1996), 22.
Hymn: "Lay Your Hands" CCS 545
OR “The Church of Christ Cannot Be Bound” CCS 347
Prayer of Confession and Repentance
Below are three scripture readings concerning the Passover and Lord’s Supper. After each one is a short statement concerning the history and significance of the scripture. Each reading could be shared by a different person.
Scripture Reading: Deuteronomy 6:4–9 NRSV
Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Statement: These six verses may well be the most quoted portion in the entire Bible. Known as the Shema, they are recited every morning and every evening by orthodox Jews and have been for hundreds of years. They graphically emphasize the importance of God’s laws to the Israelites.1 The Shema is a recognition of a covenant of God’s intervention on Israel’s behalf against the Pharaoh of Egypt. The Shema starts with a confession that there is one true God and that this God must be loved with all your heart, soul and strength.2
Scripture Reading: Deuteronomy 6:20–22 NRSV
When your children ask you in time to come, "What is the meaning of the decrees and the statutes and the ordinances that the Lord our God has commanded you?" then you shall say to your children, "We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. The Lord displayed before our eyes great and awesome signs and wonders against Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his household."
Statement: This reading explains why the Shema is important. It is a reminder of the Passover when God passed over the houses of the Israelites, when the firstborn of all the Egyptians were destroyed. It is a remembrance for the children of Israel of their deliverance out of Egypt and slavery. The Passover meal follows a fairly standard pattern in the Jewish household. In response to a question from the youngest member of the family, the story of the first Passover is recounted.
Scripture Reading: Matthew 26:20 and 26–29, adapted
When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the twelve.
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take, and eat; this is my body."
Then he took the cup, gave thanks, and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom."
Statement: Jesus and his disciples met as a family to eat the Passover meal together. Jesus thought of himself as the Passover lamb, offered up for the deliverance of his people. The bread was his body which was to be given, and the wine was his blood that would be spilled. The Passover was transformed into the Lord’s Supper. At the Exodus, the nation of Israel was born. By Christ’s sacrifice, the church was born, which would become a people drawn from all nations. Until he comes again, we are to remember the significance of what he has done for us.
Hymn of Preparation: "O Holy Dove of God Descending" CCS 44
OR "Eat This Bread" CCS 528
While this hymn is being sung, the bread and wine should be prepared.
And as they were eating, Jesus took bread and brake it, and blessed it, and gave to his disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is in remembrance of my body which I give a ransom for you. —Matthew 26:22 IV
Blessing and Serving of the Bread
And [Jesus] took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it. For this is in remembrance of my blood of the new testament, which is shed for as many as shall believe on my name, for the remission of their sins. —Matthew 26:23–24
Blessing and Serving of the Wine
Offertory Statement and Prayer: John 3:16–17
Now it is our time to respond to the gift of God’s son. Jesus brought a view of God that humanity had not seen before. We are called to respond to the love of Jesus Christ with our abundance. We are the richest people in the whole world, rich in material things and rich in the love Jesus Christ has shared with us.
*Closing Hymn: "Sent Forth by God’s Blessing” CCS 648
OR "Christ Has Called Us to New Visions” CCS 566
We go forth, remembering what we have heard and said and done here in worship.
We go recalling that we are loved, forgiven, and renewed.
With faith we go out to be the Community of Christ.
—Adapted from Prayers and Readings for Worship, vol. 1, Judy Judd, ed. (Herald House, 1987), 128.
1 Quoted from the Student Bible New International Version, 180.
2 Information taken from The New Oxford Annotated Bible, 254.
Communion of the Disciples
Worship setting: This service is best celebrated in a fellowship hall or basement where tables can be set up for the entire congregation. There should be a head table with an empty space for Jesus, a loaf of bread, a pitcher of grape juice, and cups. Tables for all other worshipers should be set with pitchers of grape juice, small cups, and plates of bread. Candles would enhance the setting. The head table should also have basins, pitchers of water, and towels for the hand-washing activity.
Invitation to the Table
Scripture Reading: Matthew 26:17–20; John 13:1, 3–9, 12–17
Hymn: "Make Me a Servant" CCS 597
OR "Come Away from Rush and Hurry” CCS 83
Prayer of Invitation
We have come as disciples and are called to be servants. Lord, prepare our hearts and our hands for your service. Help us to take your example into our hearts, humble ourselves, and love one another. Forgive us and wash us clean. Amen.
Invite the congregation to come forward to the head table when ready and those designated will wash their hands. A pair of appointed ministers stands behind each pitcher and basin. The first one pours a small amount of water on the worshiper’s hands. The second minister wipes the hands dry, making eye contact with each person.
Hymns: to be sung during the washing of hands.
"Jesus, Remember Me" CCS 459
"In the Singing” CCS 519
Sharing the Passover; Remembering the Lord’s Supper
Scripture Reading: Matthew 26:26–30
Preparation of the Emblems
Ministers break the bread at each table and pour the grape juice into small cups.
Hymn of Invitation: "Eat This Bread" CCS 529
OR “ God Extends an Invitation” CCS 520
Blessing of the Bread and Wine
Serving of the Bread and Wine
Ministers are available at each table, handing the bread and wine simultaneously.
Ministry of Music (soloist or small group sings during the serving of the bread and wine)
"You Satisfy the Hungry Heart" CCS 531
“Is There One Who Feels Unworthy?” CCS 526
OR "Remember Him" —Don Besig and Nancy Price (Delaware Water Gap, Pennsylvania: Harold Flammer, A7353); SATB with flute
We Leave the Table
Scripture Reading: Matthew 26:36–40
*Hymn:”Joy and Wonder, Love and Longing” CCS 534
OR "Peace Be with You” CCS 662
Servant of All
Set up tables, round ones if possible, for the congregational seating in the shape of a horseshoe to allow the monologue to be done in the opening. A worship center stands in the middle of the horseshoe, not too tall, so it won’t You may choose to do this service in the fellowship hall if the sanctuary does not have moveable chairs. obstructed sightlines. It has water bowls and towels. Each table should have a pitcher of grape juice and a loaf of bread in the center, along with a cup and a paper napkin for each person. A priest or member of the Melchisedec priesthood (two, if possible) should sit at each table, with a basin of water and a towel for each. They will serve the Communion emblems and wash the feet. If possible the lighting should be soft, with no harsh overhead lights.
Prelude quiet and meditative
Scripture Reading: Luke 22:7–13 and John 13:3–11
Monologue: "First It Was My Donkey"
(copyright John Arthur Horner 2005. Used with permission)
A middle-aged man in biblical clothes stands behind the pulpit, using it as though it were the check-in desk at an inn. His name is Nahum, and he is the proprietor. He is going over some paperwork, when he senses the congregation and looks up.
First it was my donkey.
That was first. I remember because it was the morning after Sabbath. (short pause) My name’s Nahum [pronounced NAH-hoom] by the way.
I had used my donkey, Becky—her name is Rebecca, but I call her Becky—anyway I had used her to haul a couple of jugs of water back from the well, and when I came back out to take care of Becky, there were these two guys who told me that their boss needed to use my donkey. For some reason I said okay, and they took her.
So, first it was my donkey.
Then, a couple of days later, a couple of other guys found me—hauling more water with Becky—and asked if they could rent my upstairs room Thursday night to celebrate the Passover, and could I cater it for them. Well, I can hardly ever get anyone to rent that place—it’s kind of drafty—so, a big group of a dozen or so business folks? Yeah, sure. You betcha. Just tell Nahum what you need.
So, second it was my upstairs room.
All fine and dandy. I’m finally going to get a little caught up on my bills—I’ve got this friend who’s been ready to throw me in jail, just because I lost a piddling little bet to him and haven’t been able to pay him off yet—though I know he hasn’t paid back the loan from his boss that comes close to being about what he makes in a year.
As I said, all fine and dandy. I had ordered the lamb and the bitter herbs and was getting ready to bake the unleavened bread. We’d knocked the dust off the couches upstairs. Biggest night these rooms have seen in ages—
And then two thirds of my staff up and quits.
Okay, okay, so I only had the three—but still, going from three waiters to one doesn’t make for the smoothest sailing in the world. Not that I’ve ever gone sailing, but, you know, it’s a metaphor.
Or something like that.
So, what was I going to do? Big group coming in for Passover, hardly any staff on duty.
Luckily my cousin Saul, who’s a businessman from Jericho, stopped by and wanted the family discount for one of the rooms.
I drafted him to be another waiter. He’s a little clumsy and isn’t really used to doing real work, but it was an emergency, right, so what are you going to do?
He’s a good guy, and he tries, but he’d never make it as a professional waiter. (very brief pause) Well, he drops things for a start, and it’s a good thing this was Passover, because, I swear, he was getting the orders mixed up, even though everyone was having the same meal.
But I couldn’t have done it without him.
Big problem is that Saul has this focus problem. "Take the food in, bring the dirty dishes back out," that’s what I told him. (pause) He keeps trying to give me reports on what they’re talking about. Some retirement plan from what I could make out, but Saul’s information was kind of spotty at best.
Apparently their chief financial officer was pretty upset about it, because he took off before the entree was even served.
And I’ll tell you another thing—It’s a good thing there weren’t any Pharisees around, because that group took some real liberties with the Passover I was taught when I was a kid.
He takes a moment and then becomes more subdued and thoughtful.
At one point, after they had eaten, I slipped into the room with a basin and realized that everything had gone quiet, and the guy who seemed to be in charge had stood up and was moving back and forth, concentrating, trying to figure something out. Then he looked up and saw me. He motioned me over and asked if he could take the basin. I nodded, and he asked if he could have some water. I got the jug I had brought on Becky from the well and handed it to him. He thanked me and poured it into the basin. While I stepped back into the shadows, he took off his robe, knelt down by one of his group. And began to wash the man’s feet.
Then he moved on to the next one and washed his feet. And then the next. And the next. He made his way around the entire room, kneeling down and washing their feet. Until he finally came to this one pretty big guy, who put up something of a fuss, not wanting the boss to degrade himself like that, saying he wasn’t going to have his feet washed. His boss looked at him gently, shook his head, and told him if the big guy didn’t let the boss wash his feet, the big guy couldn’t be part of whatever he wanted to be part of.
Well, then the big guy went overboard the other way, telling his boss to wash his hands and face, too. His boss just kind of shook his head, then motioned me over. I reached for the water, but he guided me to sit, and when I did, he undid my sandals and started washing my feet. (He may start going through the actions.) "Do you understand? You call me Lord, and Master. Okay, if I have washed your feet, what should you do? The servant is not greater than the master." Then he dried my feet. "The greatest among you will be the servant of all."
They stayed kind of late, and we’re just now getting things cleaned up and packed away.
Their boss, though? I think he might go places. He had a real nice kind of quiet charm, you know? The kind of guy who’d really go to bat for you.
He shuffles his papers together, nods to us and leaves.
The designated priesthood members at each table wash the feet of those at their table and then wash each other’s feet. If there are not two priesthood members at each table, the designated priesthood at adjoining tables will wash each others’ feet. If participants do not want their feet washed, wash their hands instead.
Scripture Reading: John 13:12–17 and Luke 22:14–20
While the scriptures are read, those who have just performed the foot washing go to the worship center set up inside the horseshoe and wash their hands in preparation for serving the Communion.
Hymn: “As We Gather at Your Table” CCS 523
OR “For Bread Before Us Broken” CCS 524
During the singing of this hymn, the priesthood return to their tables and prepare the emblems.
Blessing of the Bread and Wine
Serving of the Bread and Wine
*Closing Hymn: "Jesus Remember Me” CCS 459
OR “What Wondrous Love Is This” CCS 454
In the Shadows
Worship setting: The setting should contain bread and grape juice, but not in the traditional Communion settings. The bread can be placed on two simple plates; the grape juice could be in small paper cups (bathroom dispenser size). On the table, there should also be two basins and pitchers with hand towels, one at each end. The center of the setting should contain seven small white candles and one large white one, all lit before the service begins.
Welcome and call to worship (John 6:35)
Maundy Thursday is the day on which we remember the last meal Jesus shared with his disciples. At that service, he reviewed his teachings, answered their questions, challenged them, washed their feet to remind them of their calling to be servants, gave them the promise of the Comforter...
Jesus said, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never thirst."
Hymn: "Meet Me in a Holy Place” CCS 162
OR “Oh God We Call” CCS 195 (Sung Taize Style)
Statement of preparation: Mark 14:22-25, adapted
When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the twelve. While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body."
Then he took the cup, gave thanks, and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sings."
We will be sharing tonight in a remembrance of that service--but in a slightly different format from Community of Christ's traditional Communion. While we will still be taking the elements of bread and juice, we will invite all who desire--including children--to take a piece of bread and a sip of juice, doing so in recognition that Jesus desires to share with each one.
The prayers we will use come from the Jewish tradition that Jesus was familiar with. they are the prayers he would have said over the bread and wine, statements of thanksgiving to God. As we bow in prayer--and we will simply bow, not kneel--we invite you to put yourself at the table with the Twelve and with Jesus--and to listen to what Jesus is wanting to share with you.
Blessed are You, our God, King of the Universe,
who brings forth bread from the earth.
Blessed are You, our God, King of the Universe,
who creates the fruit of the vine.
Serving of the Bread and Juice
Soft Taize music played during the serving.
Challenge and Invitation
Jesus knew that he had come from God and would go back to God. He also knew that the Father had given him complete power. So during the meal Jesus got up, removed his outer garment, and wrapped a towel around his waist. He put some water into a large bowl. Then he began washing his disciples' feet and drying them with the towel he was wearing.
But when he came to Simon Peter, that disciple asked, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?"
Jesus answered, "You don't really know what I am doing, but later you will understand."
"You will never wash my feet!" Peter replied.
"If I don't wash you," Jesus told him, "you don't really belong to me."
Peter said, "Lord, don't wash just my feet. Wash my hands and my head."
After Jesus had washed his disciples' feet and had put his outer garment back on, he sat down again. Then he said, "Do you understand what I have done? You call me your teacher and Lord, and you should, because that is who I am. And if your Lord and teacher has washed your feet, you should do the same for each other. I have set the example, and you should do for each other exactly what I have done for you. I tell you for certain that servants are not greater than their master, and messengers are not greater than the one who sent them. you know these things, and God will bless you, if you do them.
We have come tonight as disciples...and we are called to be servants. We come, asking God to prepare our hearts and our hands for service. We are challenged to take Christ's example into our hearts--to humble ourselves and to love one another. We come, asking for forgiveness, asking to be washed clean. When you are ready, we invite you to come forward to have your hands washed as a symbol of your willingness to be a servant.
Washing of Hands
Ministers stand behind each pitcher and basin. One pours a small amount of water on the individual's hands; the second wipes the hands dry.
There were shadows in the upper room that night...shadows that were sensed by the disciples but that could not be spoken. Jesus knew what the following days would hold for him...knew how much those experiences would test not only him but would also test his followers.
As they left the upper room this night, it seemed as though they were walking into a darkness with no ending. We know the ending--the ending that was the beginning. But as we prepare to leave, let us remember the dark time the followers experienced the next few days. Only in doing that can we truly understand what we will experience on Sunday.
After each of the scriptures is read, one small candle is blown out.
Matthew 26:20-25 Contemporary English Version (CEV)
Luke 22:40-44 The Message
Matthew 26:40-45 Contemporary English Version (CEV)
Matthew 26:47-50, 55-56 Contemporary English Version (CEV)
Matthew 26:59-67 New Living Translation
Mark 15:12-20 The Message
Luke 23:33-36 The Message
Ministry of Music: "What Wondrous Love Is This” CCS 454
Sending Forth: John 1:1-5 Contemporary English Version (CEV)
In the beginning was the one
who is called the Word.
The Word was with God
and was truly God.
From the very beginning
the Word was with God.
And with this Word,
God created all things.
Nothing was made without the Word.
Everything that was created
received its life from him,
and his life gave light
The light keeps shining
in the dark,
and darkness has never
put it out.
Go in peace. Amen.
A New Commandment (2018)
Worship Center Suggestions
Create a worship center with dim lighting, though bright enough for participants to read, and arrange the setting to create an intimate, communal feeling, replicating what it must have been like as the disciples gathered together on that night. If your congregation has chairs, you might put them in a circle around a simple worship center including a plate and chalice, and a bowl or basin with a towel to visually represent the significant symbols of the night.
Materials needed: basin of water and several towels, a loaf of bread (consider having gluten-free options available), pitcher of grape juice, and chalice.
Hymn of Invitation
“God, We Gather as Your People” CCS 274
OR “God of Still Waiting” CCS 58
OR “Uyai Mose/Come All You People” CCS 84
Invitation to Worship
We join with Christians throughout the world who gather around common tables to wash feet, break bread, and make the journey from the cross to life. We come to this place not just to remember the stories, but to live them and let them live in us. You are invited to this place to enter an ancient room where Jesus uses symbol, ritual, and word to communicate a final message of meaning to his disciples. Tonight, we observe, participate, and listen deeply for that message of meaning to be spoken in us.
Hymn of Wholeness
“Come and Fill/Confitemini Domino” (sing several times, prayerfully) CCS 235
OR “Come, Let Us Dwell” CCS 173
Congregational Sung Response
“Come and Fill/Confitemini Domino” CCS 235
OR “Alleluia” (sung at a slow tempo) CCS 117
Invite the congregants to enter a time of prayer using the story of Jesus washing the disciple’s feet. Explain that you will lead a time of prayer by first reading the scripture passage and then inviting the congregants to enter the scene using their imaginations. You may consider using light instrumental music in the background, quiet enough that the words of the meditation can be heard clearly.
Find a comfortable, grounded position and breathe deeply.
Spend a few moments simply noticing your breath as it enters and exits your body.
Pause for silent reflection.
Become aware of God’s presence already with us. Rest in the assurance that God gazes upon you with love.
Pause for silent reflection.
Listen to the Living Word
Allow the scene to come to life within you. Where do you find yourself in this story? Are you at the table with Jesus? Are you an observer? Are you a disciple?
Pause for silent reflection.
Notice details within the room—the lingering aroma of food from dinner or the dim light from the candles at evening. Do you sense tension…or ease? Are you close to the others or further away? Where do you want to be? What do you notice about this scene? Gently allow it to continue to unfold within you.
Pause for silent reflection.
Pay attention to Jesus pouring water into a basin, bending low and touching the feet of the people in the room. What do you feel as he begins to wash the disciples’ feet?
Pause for silent reflection.
As Jesus approaches you with the basin and towel, how do you respond? Are you eager to receive his act of love or, like Peter, do you find yourself initially resistant? What do you say to Jesus and what does he say to you?
Pause for silent reflection.
Jesus bends down before you, takes your feet into his hands, and dips them in the cool water. What is this experience like? How do you feel as Jesus washes your feet?
Pause for silent reflection.
After he is finished, Jesus says, “So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you” (John 13:14–15). Allow to surface within you the names, faces, or communities of people you feel called to embrace in humble acts of love. What is God’s invitation to you from this time of prayer?
Pause for silent reflection.
Song of Response or Ministry of Music
“Healing River of the Spirit” CCS 232
OR “Spirit of the Living God” CCS 567
Invitation to Share in Community
What was God’s invitation to you from this time of prayer? What was your experience of this story?
Invite the congregants to come forward as they feel led to share about their experiences of prayer or to simply receive the blessing of the washing of hands. Have a designated person “host” the basin of water and towel in the worship setting. When people come forward to share, they can dip their hands in the bowl and the host will dry them using the towels. If you have a large community gathering, you may consider doing this in small groups with a basin or bowl and towels for each group to wash one another’s hands.
Homily or Reflection
Based on John 13:1–17, 31b–35
We Participate in the Last Supper
Based on 1 Corinthians 11:23–26
Reader 1: After Jesus had washed the disciples’ feet, they gathered at the table for a final meal. Allow yourself to be present again to the story that is still happening. Imagine what it must have been like for the disciples to share in this last meal with their teacher and friend as you listen to these words from scripture.
“Eat This Bread” CCS 528
Sing together once, continue humming as the scripture is read.
Reader 2: For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night when he was betrayed, took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
Reader 1 takes the loaf of bread and breaks it in half.
Reader 2: In the same way, he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Reader 1 takes the pitcher and pours juice into the chalice.
“Eat This Bread” CCS 528
Sing together again.
Reader 1: So it is with us. We are active participants at the table of Christ. The invitation is for each one. All are welcome at this time to come to the table to share in the feast of God.
Reader 2 takes a piece of bread and dips it in the juice to demonstrate how to engage in the practice.
Meditative music is played as people come forward to break off bread and dip it in the juice.
The night ends with Jesus inviting the disciples to join him in the garden of Gethsemane, the last time they will be together before his death. He urges them to “stay awake” in the night as he prays and agonizes about what lies ahead. As we move into the night and throughout this holy weekend, may we be fully present to all that comes, daring to stay with him wherever he goes.
“Bleibet hier” (sing prayerfully, four or five times) CCS 468
If this song is unfamiliar, invite a vocalist to sing through once and then invite the congregation to join. The English text can be found below the hymn. You may also choose to listen to this song on Community of Christ Sings Audio Recordings or it can be purchased from iTunes (“Stay With Me,” Taizé Community Choir, https://itunes.apple.com/us/album /stay-with-me/id558488287?i=558488471).
Go in peace!
Sermon Helps - JOHN 13:1–17, 31B–35
Exploring the Scripture
This familiar text is a favorite when preaching on the topic of humility and service. Jesus washing the disciples’ feet typifies how he lived daily in service to others, giving self, meeting the needs of all. It is the gospel in action. Simply admitting we should live in such a way is an important message to share with others always. However, if we take some time to explore the depths of this scripture passage, we will find an even greater understanding of Jesus’ message and life.
An important question to ask when studying a scripture passage is, “How might the original readers or hearers of this passage have understood it?” Putting it another way, “If I listen with first- or second-century ears, how might I hear this text differently?”
One way to do this is to examine the text as it was written in Greek. When we look specifically at the part where Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, and examine the Greek words, the passage takes on a deeper meaning. The passage tells us Jesus, “took off his outer robe” (v. 4) before washing their feet. The Greek word can also mean “Lay down one’s life.” The passage further states that once Jesus washed their feet, he wiped them with a towel. The word the author used for wiped can also mean “anoint,” the sacred act of using oil as a symbol of God’s presence, an act of consecration.
The original hearer or reader of this passage may have pictured Jesus getting up and taking off his robe, washing the disciples’ feet and then drying them with a towel. But, they might also have had the other images in their minds, if they understood the double meaning of the words describing how Jesus got up, laid his life down for the disciples, washed their feet and anointed them—consecrating them and bringing them into God’s presence. This understanding takes a beautiful passage about servant ministry and further deepens our understanding of what it means to be a servant of others. The simple act of humbly washing feet becomes a message of giving one’s life for another, to understand God’s love and grace. Shortly after the meal, Jesus showed this even more clearly, as he walked to the cross as a final proclamation of God’s grace for all.
This small part of the longer passage, expresses the message Jesus came to share. We cannot forget the end of the passage when Jesus challenges his disciples (then and now) to live this message. He gives a new commandment that requires disciples to “love one another. Just as I have loved you” (v. 34). Jesus showed this love by washing the disciples’ feet. He now asks his disciples to express this same understanding to others. This is how everyone will know these are disciples of Jesus Christ—by their acts of servant ministry.
The word Maundy has its roots in the Latin word, mandatum, which has many meanings including mandate, instruction, decree, and order. The name for Holy Week Thursday is based on the new commandment Jesus shares during the Passover meal.
- Servant ministry in action is the call of the disciple.
- Jesus’ life is one of humble service to others.
- The Thursday of Holy Week is called “Maundy” [mandate, instruction], referring to the new commandment, “Love one another. Just as I have loved you.”
Questions for the Speaker
- How willing are we to “Love one another. Just as I have loved you”?
- Do our actions cause others to know us as disciples of Jesus?
- How can you “wash the feet of another” in today’s world?
- Congregations often share meals. What likenesses might there be between these meals and the Last Supper?
- Think of those who display humble service. What are characteristics of their ministry?