A high school teacher who also happened to be my football coached invited our family to join him at a Maundy Thursday service. The church was located in a strip mall in a renovated movie theater. As we walked toward the church we passed several people heading to the bank, restaurants and a liquor store located right next to the church entrance.
We hurried through the doors to escape the unexpected heavy spring snow fall – yes, snow! We all could sense something special going on as we found seats in the front row next to my coach and his wife. We immediately noticed the church was filled with an amazing diverse group of races, ages, and back grounds.
In our seats we were greeted by those around us who made us feel welcome as if we were part of their family. My daughter Anna leaned over and asked me what does “Maundy” mean? I paused, and I hated to admit it but said, “I know it comes from the Latin and pertains to the Last Supper but that’s all I got.” A few minutes later I was bailed out by the pastor who explained that the word is indeed derived from Latin and means “new commandment,” the command of the Last Supper:
“A new command I give you: Love one another.
As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34–35
For the next hour we experienced the powerful love of God as John 13 was read, songs were sung, and we ate and drank from the body and blood of Jesus Christ at the communion table. Toward the end of the service we sang the old spiritual:
“We are one in the spirit, we are one in the Lord… and they will know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes they will know we are Christians by our love.”
I stopped singing and I took in the miracle of the Father’s love. We live in a world torn apart by hatred and racial tension and yet in this room are people from every tribe and nation united around the precious gift of the Father’s love through the death of His only Son. This brought to mind Jesus’ prayer in John 17:21: “that all of them may be one. Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
Thursday night my faith was recharged as I saw the gift of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit’s love do the impossible and unite a diverse group of people into one family. How telling that Jesus said that the world will know Him and the Father by how we “love one another.” This is often easier said than done.
We left the church service in silence, challenged to ponder the gift of the Father’s love that would be remembered the next day as Jesus took on the Father’s judgment for our sins. Once again we passed the liquor store, various restaurants, and the bank to get into our car, as we did I thought about the fragrance of the Father’s love that we can each bring to our community. Truly we are all called to make every day Maundy Thursday and love one another as the Father has loved us!