I arrive early to church because I remember last time seats were filled before I got there. Still, this time I sit where I did last time, by a pillar on the end of a row towards the back where the church opens up. The church is huge. The design is modern, but inspired by the old cathedrals. It has vaulted ceilings and the floor layout is like a cross. I took a picture of the sanctuary with my phone before too many people arrived. I was handed an order of service that looked like a booklet as I walked in. I sat down and skimmed through it and noticed a reading of Psalm 22 that was to be read after the stripping of the altar. A lot of the people who come in are older, older than me. I would like to run into my friend Brenda. She works at the church and is in charge of the volunteers who help in the worship; ushers and the ladies I see who are preparing the elements for communion.
We worship in the Anglican Church in Oak Lawn. My church uses their building while ours is being remodeled to comply with the fire codes. It is for a season and I love that building too. It is also a beautiful place to worship.
They are lighting the huge candles on the altar now and a violinist and soloist are warming up. As people come in they kneel to pray in front of their pews before they take their seats. Today I heard a speaker from Christ for the Nations online talk about worship. He teaches the school of worship there. He told the students that wherever they go, if worship and praise are being offered up to the Lord, even if they don’t like the style of music they need to come into agreement with what it is meant to accomplish. They need to agree that God is worthy to be praised. I don’t usually find myself in high church. Even though we are in an Anglican setting, my church is more like a tent revival each week. Tonight is definitely different than what am I am used to. I think of what the speaker said and I know as the Latin hymns are being sung to the violin and pipe organ or piano that God is being praised and He is pleased. My soul is touched by its beauty. We are here to celebrate the Last Supper. I want to be in agreement to all that is being said and done.
I ate a light dinner before I came to church and I felt lead by the Holy Spirit to fast until after church tomorrow. We are in a season of prayer, of increasing prayer. I have been fasting most weekends as I can. I learn that it is traditional to fast on Good Friday.
The church is filling up. People come in and are silent. I like that; it is a time to prepare hearts. The sound of a piano and violin begins the service. They play My Jesus I love Thee. The priests dress in black with collars. Some of the people who help with communion are women. I guess they are priests and deacons. They wear black robes with collars too. The choir comes in, wearing white robes and sashes walking in procession, led by an altar boy who carries a cross. The opening hymn is Oh the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus. I think of the communion service I heard online this morning at Christ for the Nations and how they taught about communion being an expression of God’s deep love for us and the provision that Jesus Christ made on our behalf. Communion is a celebration of that deep love.
We stand for the reading of the Word. Everything means something. It is like a history lesson. Everything is done well, beautiful. I sense they have preserved the beauty of the church and it is a heritage that I am a part of tonight.
The sermon is on Maundy Thursday. It is pronounced, mondee. It comes from the word mandate or to command. It is a commandment that Jesus wants to give to his disciples on the eve of his suffering. There is something important Jesus wants to communicate. There is something He wants to command us to do. A commandment is given when people don’t want to do something. We don’t naturally want to do what Jesus commands us to do. The priest tells us about his son, who is a priest also at a younger congregation. His son told him recently that he preached a sermon and someone in his congregation had the sermon title tattooed on his body. The priest, Rev. Canon David Roseberry, Rector of Christ Anglican, Plano, said that would never happen here at this church, but he thought about it all week. He asked, if I were to get a tattoo that would be on my body the rest of my life, what would I want it to say? What symbol would signify the ministry of Jesus? He decided it would be the towel, a piece of cloth used to clean the disciple’s feet. We had read John 13:1-4, 11-14 earlier in the service. It is the portion of scripture that describes Jesus washing his disciple’s feet. Reverend Roseberry asks us what do we learn about Jesus from this passage? Jesus lays aside his outer garment and takes a towel and wrapped it around his waist and begins to wash his disciple’s feet. He says think about it, in our culture superheroes do the opposite they take off their humble garments and put on greatness. Jesus condescends; he lays aside his beauty, his glory to serve. Christianity is the only faith where the central figure and the central event is one of humility. Jesus emptied himself unto death. The priest says the towel is a foreshadowing of the cross where Jesus would be bound. It points to complete surrender.
If we look at our life we will see that even as we receive eternal life in Christ how often so we still want to dictate the terms of our surrender. We don’t live in the peace of God fully surrendered, but instead we have a cease fire with God, we call a truce and we aren’t surrendered in the way Jesus demonstrated and commanded us to do. We don’t want to surrender and put on humility.
When Reverend Roseberry thinks of the towel he also thinks of the swaddling clothes of a child born into humble circumstances. He thinks of the grave clothe that would be wrapped around his body as they laid him in the tomb. At the Last Supper the towel or cloth becomes the center of his teaching, we are to love as Jesus loved, not as we would love. We are to love fully surrendered. Do you want to connect with God? The only thing He asks is that you wash each other’s feet. We should minister in humility. We should do what Jesus has done for us. That is the mandate.
When we take communion I am weeping. This is what the Lord begins to speak to me over me as I get up and walk to the back of the church where the elements are being served. The Lord says that this is His church and I am welcome here. I am invited to partake of the Lord’s Supper. Do I receive it here? I say yes.
After communion the lights are dimmed. There is music in the background as the elements are taken from the altar; the bread and wine, the candles, the cloth, the plants… Psalm 22 is read and another song fills the night. We leave the sanctuary in silence. There is a misty rain. I drive home impacted by all I tasted, heard and saw.