Maundy Thursday Worship Liturgy

Maundy Thursday Worship

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Meditative Hymn: Oh, how He loves you and me

Call to Worship:

One: O what if we are Christ’s,
Is earthly shame or loss?
All: Lord, may that grace be ours,
Like them in faith to bear
All that of sorrow, grief, or pain
May be our portion here.

(Henry Williams Baker 1821-1877)

Opening Hymn: #314 God is love


O Lord, we gather in your presence. In this time of self-isolation and social distancing, with longing for each other’s presence, we gather in Spirit along with you. More than any other time in life as we bypass and side step each other in order to protect each other, we come in need of your presence.

In gathering this way, we remember how you prepared for your death bringing your disciples to be united with you as one. You prepared the table. You showed how to love in ways that many can be made as one. Through sharing of your body and blood, you instituted communion so that you would be one with all those who love you.

Like a hen brooding all her chicks under her wings, may you gather us this day. May we be secure and being built up in your love. May this worship be a time of communion with you and all your people here and everywhere.

In God who loves us, through the Son who call us, and by the Holy Spirit who guides us, we pray. Amen.

Confessing our faith together (Living Faith 8.3.1)

We bow before the mystery of God’s love.
From it came our creation.
By it we are daily nurtured.
Through it we find salvation.
A consuming fire of purity, God’s love
is yet warm and gentle compassion.
We respond to the God who is love
by loving in return.
(Copyright © The Presbyterian Church in Canada All rights reserved Used by permission.)

Anthem: God so loved the world


O Lord, give us the truth through your Word. May we come to hear, see, understand and receive the Truth in this time of trouble. Amen.

Scripture Passages: John 13:1-17, 31b-35

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. 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. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus answered, ‘You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ Peter said to him, ‘You will never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.’ Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!’ Jesus said to him, ‘One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.’ For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, ‘Not all of you are clean.’

After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 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. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

When he had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, “Where I am going, you cannot come.” I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’
(Selected verses of Gospel John of the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.)

Sermon: No Greater Love Maundy ThursdayL The day of the New Commandment

As we observe social distancing instructions in order to keep each other safe, I have been thinking about Dr. A. a lot. As a medical doctor it is not feasible for her to keep distance from her patients. She does not have the luxury to turn away from the sick in order to keep her and her family safe. It’s impossible for her to remain at a distance at birth. Giving injections and putting a stethoscope to listen to heart beats are full of risks, too. I cannot imagine how difficult it is for her to lose a patient whom she looked after with great care for so many years.

As I think about what she has to do I think about millions of doctors who are tending and caring for the sick, especially those who are treating patients with this deathly disease. Exhausted, worried for others, and refusing to lose to death, those Italian doctors do their best to warn us as they struggle. To save a few more, those Spanish doctors plead to us to keep apart.

Then there are others whom we know so well whether they are working in seniors homes, in hospitals as support staff, truck drivers or grocery clerks. They feel the weight of this pandemic on their shoulders. They do their best to meet people’s immediate needs.

I am deeply saddened to remember the doctor in that Bobcaygeon nursing home where so many elderly people died discussing how terrible it is for all who work there and how those workers would be treated for PTSD eventually. I pray for them on your behalf giving thanks and asking God to keep them safe and strong everyday.

From history we learn that there are always people who rise up to the challenges of keeping life flourishing in all human societies. As death descends on humanity, our neighbours of all backgrounds step up and fight against death. In an attempt to protect life some face certain death. We are beneficiaries of their courage, integrity, strength and will. Many do in the names of religions. Many do as secularists and atheists for the sake of humanity. All of them do so that humanity can continue in life and flourish.

Neuro-scientists, psychologists, psychiatrists and sociologists have done many researches to figure out why there are these people who willingly save others while risking their lives. They tried to get to the source of this altruism. Everyone wants to know why.

As Christians we worry less about why. Instead we begin our lives by confessing that it is our calling to lay down our lives for others. We do not concern ourselves over whether our brains are able to secrete more or less dopamine—happiness chemicals, whether helping others flourish makes us feel better, or whether we subconsciously have calculated that doing good will make our communities stronger.

Christians, even ones who are questionable Christians, begin in life with the understanding that the true source of human life is God’s love. For us, God created the world in love: God so loved the world that eventually God showed how this love ought to be among us in Christ. In a nutshell, this love is why we give thanks to God for our lives. This is why Dr. A. gets up at three in the morning to receive another baby in spite of her fatigue. This is why Ms. D. cleans up after the elderly who can no longer look after themselves. This is why we are free to serve one another without condition.

For us, then, this simple understanding of life’s origin is found through Jesus’ last supper gathering. There,God’s love for the world was crystalized as Jesus girded himself with a towel and began washing his disciples feet—doing the work of a slave. In this act of serving others God displays love in a small way that can easily be missed, but without it life does not flourish.

Without getting into overly theologizing Jesus’ action of serving the disciples like a slave, we need to fully experience this small ignoble gesture as the essence of God’s love and why we, very regular Christians, are continuing to do altruistic and selfless deeds persistently and with resolve without too much worries.

Two small things are important to note. The first is that Jesus got up during supper. (13:2). The second is that Jesus cleaned even the feet of the disciple who would betray him.

What’s so significant about Jesus getting up during supper? Usually washing of feet would have been done when they entered a house. In a well to do house, a slave would bring out water to wash the feet of guests as they entered. It appears that in this house no one washed their feet. They were soon seated and they began their supper. Jesus must have waited to see if anyone would care about cleanliness. Seeing no one, Jesus took upon himself the task of washing the feet of those who were at the table. This job which should have been done by the lowest among them all was left to Jesus. He stooped to that low position of slave and served the needs of his disciples.

As we read elsewhere, cleansing rituals were very important in Jewish tradition. That was why Pharisees always went after Jesus. Being unclean was seen as being in sin. When Jesus got up during supper to wash their feet, Jesus was saying that through this washing they were made clean—or their sins forgiven. No longer sinful they could sit at his table and have supper with him as his guests.

Remember how Jesus insisted that he came for sinners—he spent lots of time eating with sinners and being with prostitutes. Jesus declared to them that God’s reign (kingdom) was for them when they repented. Sitting at his table signified the arrival of God’s reign—sitting with him at meals would have meant that they were forgiven (i.e. Zacchaeus).

When during supper Jesus rose and washed their feet, we can observe Jesus’ proclamation of God’s reign being realized and sins forgiven. Of course, this understanding naturally leads us to see the importance of the giving of new commandment. No wonder we call it “mandate” and this last supper day, Maundy Thursday.

The second thing was that Judas who would soon betray him was present for washing and for the instruction to do the same among the disciples. If washing/forgiving was to be done among the disciples, Judas was included. He was part of the discipleship and was to partake in washing/forgiving each other. The Gospel John went into painful detail noting that Satan entered into Judas and that he would soon betray Jesus. From this, are we to think that Judas’ action was not his own and that he ought not be held accountable? Should he not be culpable because Satan was the instigator? Regardless, the instruction to all his disciples including Judas was to serve one another as he served them. Without casting out, Jesus washed Judas’ feet, too. Does this mean that we are to care for and love even ones who hurt us and are among us?

After all the new commandment to love one another as he loved was given to the disciples and through them to the world. Love that was unconditionally available to Judas at the table directs us to reach out to the entire world and serve them so that in God’s love they may flourish.

Every year on Maundy Thursday we come to his table to sit confessing our love for God and for each other. In worship we remember God’s love that was served through Christ. After being filled we go out into the world to serve the world so that the world may come to experience this love of God and flourish in life. It is no wonder, then, Christians like Dr. A., Ms. D and multitude of the faithful are doing their best to bring life in the face of death brought on by COVID 19. Serving others is their declaration of love of others. No wonder we find in John 15:13, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

May God bless all creation as Christians go forth into the world to bring this unconditional love that leads all to life!


Hymn: #225 A new commandment

A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another as I have loved you, that yo love one another as I have loved you.
By this shall all know you are my disciples: if you have love one for another; by this shall all know you are my disciples if you have love one for another.
(Words: John 13:34,35)


Hear our prayer, O God.
In your grace embrace us with your love.
As we relive the last supper of Jesus this day, remind us of your love as we commune with your Son our Lord and all those who are called through him.

O God who gives comfort…

Cries, tears and pain, fearing death, on hospital beds all around the world, when they rise to you, will you hear them?
Cries, tears and pain, fearing for the loved ones, isolated and distanced, when they are poured out, will you receive them?
Cries, tears and pain, caring for the dying, exhausted and exasperated, when they are swallowed in, will you know them?

O God who gives life...

Isolated, alienated, separated and estranged from their beloveds, when they breathe the last breath, will you be there to accept them?
Isolated, alienated, separated and estranged from their beloveds, when they can give no more in helping the infected stretch their breaths, will you be there to strengthen them?
Isolated, alienated, separated and estranged from their beloveds, when they feel powerless in loving and are burdened with love that cannot reach their dying beloveds, will you be there to embrace them?

O God who loves…

Where do we find you to know that our loves are not in vain?
Where do we find you to see that your love returns our love for you and for each other?
Where do we find you to bring our love deep in our hearts for our beloveds from whom we have been distanced by this disease at the moments of their deaths?

On this day as we remember the new commandment, we shout to you our love for our grandfathers, grandmothers, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, daughters, sons, and grandchildren. We have no where else to put our love for them for they lie dying on strange beds breathing their last breaths.

On this day as we remember Jesus gathering us to be together as one in communion, we extend to you our love even as strangers as doctors, nurses, care-givers, and support staff in medicare profession all around the world. We have no way of catching the breath and feed our bodies and souls to bring healing to those who are struggling to survive.

On this day as we remember Jesus girding himself and washing others’ feet, we kneel to share with you our love for the sick, the poor, the hungry, the forgotten, the abused, the ignored, the threatened, the anxious, the fearful, the lonely, the sad, the hopeless and the desperate. We have very little means or power at this time of isolation and distancing to make your love real for them.

Tend to this world, O God. Give us courage to love without ceasing in this time of despair. Help us to help each other to bring hope by following the way of service as your Son showed on that night as he held his last supper. May we always have steadfast faith to follow your way by laying down our lives for others.

You are the God who listens.
You are the God who is merciful.
You are the God of grace who never ceases loving.

O God, hear your children pray.
O Christ, give life through your love to all.
O Holy Spirit, send us into this troubled world to share your love abundantly.
May the world be filled with hope for life given through unconditional everlasting love that defeated death once and for all.

Hymn: 634 Will you come and follow me


Go into the world together as one in the love of Christ.
Go into the world serving always with the love of Christ.
Go into the world sharing the love of Christ.
Go with grace of God, always carrying the love Christ, and fellowship with God and the world in the Holy Spirit.