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Pastors Corner: Where does 'Maundy' Thursday originate?

Next Thursday, April 6, many Christian churches host a "Maundy Thursday" worship which remembers the events of the last meal Jesus of Nazareth ate with his disciples, popularly called the Last Supper. Preceding their Passover meal, Jesus washed the disciples' feet as an example of servant leadership and love he expected from each of them toward others (John 13). Then, Jesus used the Passover meal's bread and wine to explain the meaning of his anticipated death on the cross, instructing his disciples to continue this practice, "in remembrance of me" (Matthew 26:26-30).

"What does 'Maundy' mean?" my friend asked me this week. "I'm sure I learned about it a long time ago, but I just don't remember."

I can relate to that, can't you? Here's some research I did to make sure I remember and share accurately.

Encyclopedia Britannica suggests that "Maundy" is Middle English slang for the Latin word "Mandatum" from the choral phrase "mandatum novum do vobis," which translates as "a new commandment I give you ... ."

Jesus' full statement was, "A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another" (Matthew 26:34-35).

The Rev. Dr. Gary Chapman who has written several books about the primary ways that people express love to one another. Two of his statements about love that I especially like, are: "love is a choice" and "love is an attitude that actively seeks to benefit the other person." His research suggested that people tend to express love to one another in five primary ways, that he calls "love languages": 1) words of affirmation, 2) giving quality time, 3) gifts, 4) physical touch and 5) acts of service. Chapman's premise is that relationships will thrive if we learn to speak each other's love languages ... if we choose to love one another well.

Consider Jesus' quality time with his disciples on that last night, as described in the Gospel of John. How does Jesus show love? First, with his own hands, he washes each disciples dusty, tired feet. Can you imagine how refreshing the cool water and the restoring touch of gentle hands holding and wiping each foot? But, what a surprising object lesson to his disciples! This was the work of slaves and servants in that culture - not the place of a revered Rabbi, let alone Messiah! Yet Jesus makes his point about love through this act of service ... that in God's Kingdom, leaders humbly serve and tend to the needs of others.

After the meal, we can see Jesus offering words to comfort and affirm his disciples even as he tells them of the pending betrayal, arrest, death and return to God. "I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you (John 14:18) ... because I live, ye shall live also" (14:19b). "He that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him and will manifest myself to him" (14:21b). "Peace, I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth ... . Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (14:27).

What about the love language of gifts?

In Sunday School, a little boy was asked what Jesus and his disciples did after their last supper. He responded correctly, "They sang a hymn" (Matthew 26:30).

"What hymn do you think they sang?" The boy thought a moment, then replied, "Jesus Loves Me!"

Jesus is the greatest gift of all - the love of God incarnate. Do you wish to experience this love? Take time to visit a church of your choice next week.


The Rev. Dr. Sue King, Van Orsdel United Methodist Church


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