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Joy Before Sorrow

Too often I allow the grief of Good Friday to overshadow the joy of Maundy Thursday.

The Last Supper Painting
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“I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” —John 15:11 (NRSV)

When we are in California, Charlie and I attend an African American church in an inner-city Oakland neighborhood. I’ve never had so much fun. Some churches get a bit schizophrenic about Maundy Thursday. Should they emphasize the institution of the Lord’s Supper or commemorate the washing of the feet?

At Saint Columba’s, they celebrate both, and I do mean celebrate. There’s no picking of twelve representatives from the congregation to play the apostles. Everyone’s feet are washed, from the smallest infant’s to the oldest widow’s.

The Communion service that follows is equally joyful. Last year I watched a family with three teenagers. At first, the two boys and their sister did their best to look bored. As the service progressed and the music swelled, the girl moved closer and closer to her mother until they wer arm in arm. The boys tried to stay indifferent, but when it came time for the foot washing, they swiftly joined the line, and after having their own feet washed, gently washed the feet of those behind them. By the time we went forward to receive Communion, all three children were singing and clapping with the rest of us. 

Too often I allow the grief of Good Friday to overshadow the joy of Maundy Thursday, when Jesus gave us two of the most important elements of our faith: our participation in His very life and our summons to loving service. St. Columba’s has taught me that these joyous gifts give me the strength I need to stand with Jesus in what is to come.

Lord, for these few hours, I dance with joy on feet cleansed by Your love and with a body nourished by the Bread of Life.

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