Holy Thursday/Maundy Thursday

Holy Week 2017 — Through Death to Life Series Overview

Holy Thursday/Maundy Thursday, Year A

Holy Thursday, or Maundy Thursday, marks the last conversation Jesus has with his disciples, a conversation grounded in what he calls a new commandment (mandatum in Latin, hence our English word “Maundy”). He illustrates and underscores the new commandment by washing the disciples’ feet: “Love one another as I have loved you.”

Reading Notes

NRSV texts, artwork and Revised Common Lectionary Prayers for this service are available at the Vanderbilt Divinity Library
Leccionario en Español, Leccionario Común Revisado: Consulta Sobre Textos Comunes.
Lectionnaire en français, Le Lectionnaire Œcuménique Révisé

Calendar Notes

Red continues to be used through the end of this service, when all paraments, altarware, and other adornments are removed.

For Your Planning Team: Holy Week — Through Death to Life

Holy Thursday/Maundy Thursday

In This Series
This is the second major service in Holy Week.

This is the most intense week in the Christian year. It confronts us with the violence we inflict upon one another and our faithlessness toward God, juxtaposed dramatically against the love of God and the hope God’s kingdom offers our world.

Additional resources from our colleagues Scott Hughes and Melanie Gordon support the journey of this week day by day with whomever you gather, whether family at home, friends at school or work, or just you before God with the Scriptures for each day. Your Lenten formational groups may wish to use these resources as part of a daily gathering, whether in person or online if in-person meetings are not possible for you.

On Palm/Passion Sunday we glimpsed the processions that marked the beginning and the end of the events of this week in the life of Jesus. Today, we find ourselves in the midst of these events. Sunday was about movement, getting to a destination, or the hope of getting there. It was about our feet in motion. Today is about presence, community, our feet or hands suspended, lovingly washed by another. We wash our feet (or hands) because we have been on the move, and now are ready to sit down and be together, united with Christ and one another.

We have structured this service differently from a traditional service in the worship space. If you want a more traditional service for use in your worship space, we highly commend the version in the Book of Worship, 351-354.

by Taylor Burton-Edwards
While we have built this service around and after a shared meal, we implore you not to treat this shared meal as in any way a Seder. It is not. The Book of Worship has this to say about Christians observing a Seder, particularly on this day and at this time of the year (p 350). [Read more]

We have built this service around a shared meal. It is a service of word, washing, and watching, modeled on the actions of Jesus with his disciples before his betrayal as recorded in the Gospel of John. It does not include Eucharist. If you wish to include the Eucharist, do so after the washing and before the first dismissal. The Book of Worship provides a Great Thanksgiving for Holy Thursday. You may also use the Great Thanksgiving for Maundy Thursday in an Alternative/ Emergent Mode.

Logistics: In the Dining/Washing Space
This service is about love, mutual care, and unity in Christ. Be sure to express that love in tangible ways. Have greeters posted at the doors, just as you would in your regular worship space. Consider having tables reserved for formation groups to be able to be seated together at the meal, and let formation groups and the wider congregation know ahead of time you are doing this. And take time during the meal to thank your kitchen staff and table staff for their roles in helping the meal and the service flow smoothly.

Be sure to consult with your kitchen/catering volunteers about the best way for them to enable people to get their meals and clear the tables efficiently in the space you have available. And rehearse your table staff (those who will bring out the second pitchers of water, the basins, and the towels to each table), so this operation can happen quickly and smoothly. If your space and crowd are small enough, it may be possible for each table to send someone to a central location to pick up these items. For larger gatherings, it may be essential to have dedicated table server teams for this to be handled efficiently.

There is one more team that will be essential for this service to conclude well: the altar guild or an extended altar guild who will “strip the sanctuary.” If they desire to remove items in a certain order, it will be important for them to organize how they will do so and rehearse these actions (even if in mime) before the service so this action proceeds with the intended solemnity.

Additional Resources

2014 Planning Helps for Holy/Maundy Thursday

Ecumenical Prayer Cycle: East Timor, Indonesia, Philippines

Holy Thursday, Not Seder

While we have built this service around and after a shared meal, we implore you not to treat this shared meal as in any way a Seder. It is not. The Book of Worship has this to say about Christians observing a Seder, particularly on this day and at this time of the year (p 350).

United Methodists are encouraged to celebrate the Seder as invited guests in a Jewish home or in consultation with representatives of the Jewish community, thus respecting the integrity of what is a Jewish tradition and continuing the worthy practice of Jews and Christians sharing at table together. Celebrating the modern meal without a Jewish family as host is an affront to Jewish tradition and sometimes creates misunderstanding about the meaning of the Lord's Supper (emphasis added).

For additional historical reflection on the impropriety of Christians observing a Seder themselves, see 2 Things to Do, 2 Things to Quit Doing in Maundy Thursday Services.

In This Series...

Passion/Palm Sunday — Planning Notes Holy Friday/Good Friday — Planning Notes Easter Sunday — Planning Notes Easter Sunrise — Planning Notes