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Living as people prepared to die: Maundy Thursday as a love feast

Photo by Rumman Amin on Unsplash

Holy Week is going to look much different this year. In many ways, it will be a more joyful celebration. My congregation has lifted many of our COVID restrictions, and we are scheduling fellowship events such as communal meals this spring. We’ve decided that our traditionally somber communion service on Maundy Thursday will be particularly different this year. We are going to have our first potluck dinner since the start of the pandemic alongside our worship service. We are calling it a love feast. We won’t be asking that people leave the dark sanctuary in silence. In fact, we won’t be in the sanctuary, we will be in the social hall. The event will be more of a family gathering around dinner. We will eat and sing, pray and talk. Those who have been juggling working from home and homeschooling kids will have a place to rest and connect with those who have been busy doing the same. The rambunctious ones will run wild. The lonely will be visited. The young ones will meet new friends and the mature ones will reminisce over coffee. Most importantly, we will share Christ’s table and Christ’s love.

In some ways, our Maundy Thursday service will feel like a funeral wake of a beloved church member who lived a long and happy life and left behind friends and loved ones full of loving memories. At many, but not all, funeral services, friends, and family embrace and talk about how the deceased loved them and how they love each other. In this way, funerals are a love feast. One of my favorite prayers to include in funeral services ends with, “Help us to live as those who are prepared to die. And when our days here are ended, enable us to die as those who go forth to live, so that in living or dying, our life may be in Jesus Christ our risen Lord. Amen.” To me, living as one prepared to die, means sharing Christ’s love at every possible moment. It is my hope that this Holy Week, my congregation will be inspired to do the same. So, when they leave our building on Maundy Thursday, they will not go out in solemn silence but will go out ready to share love and peace with their neighbors and friends.

When I think about it, I want a love feast as I prepare for my own death. I want to be surrounded by loved ones, sharing a meal, memories, laughter, and, most of all, love. If I’m preparing to die as one who will go forth to live, I’m also preparing for an eternity in the loving presence of God, so why not start now in Holy Week covering everyone I meet with the love of God in Christ? That way, if I live or if I die, my life is held in the love of Christ Jesus.

May your Holy Week, fill you with peace, joy, hope, and love. And may you go out into the world as one who is loving and knows they are beloved.