April 9, 2020
From the Rev. Dr. Brenda M. Pelc-Faszcza, Pastor
Following the message below, there is a link to an audio recording
of the Tenebrae Service at our church on Maundy Thursday of 2019.
There is also information how to view a Maundy Thursday video offered by a clergy group in the United Church of Christ.
LOVE IN THE SHADOWS
The Rev. Dr. Brenda Pelc-Faszcza
On Maundy Thursday, the Jesus community remembers
the last supper he had with his disciples
and the story of his crucifixion the next day,
as told in Scripture.
It is deeply solemn remembrance,
touching us like no other liturgy in the year.
Some, in fact, have said
it’s the service they love the most.
The word “Maundy” comes from the Latin mandatum,
recalling Jesus’ words to his disciples (John 15:17)
“This I command you, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
“Tenebrae,” also an old Latin word, means “darkness” or “shadows.”
So, Maundy Thursday is a witness
to love in the shadows.
And what is more elemental than that?
I think this is why it touches us so much,
it tells the deepest truth about what we need:
the assurance of love when it's dark.
In our traditional Maundy Thursday service,
after we have participated in the Supper ourselves,
we tell the story of Love denied, betrayed and crucified,
one scene at a time,
each reading that tells part of the story
followed by the extinguishing of a candle
and the gradual lowering of all other light,
until, when the story is all told,
the light is all out.
We sit in darkness for a few poignant moments
with Christ crucified,
feeling the weight
of Christ crucified,
the weight of everything wrong in the world.
How often do we sit in complete darkness
for even a few minutes,
and feel its weight,
for even a few minutes?
Probably almost never.
But, on this night, we do.
Then, when we are wondering
how much more darkness we can abide,
a single candle is relit.
Just one small flame,
not the whole room.
Just the one flame….
and by it we rise and depart in prayerful silence,
remembering again what we live on:
the light of God in the form of a love
that never completely goes away, ever.
This we hold onto
until the dawn of Easter morning,
when the lights are all up,
the flowers abound,
the music is joyful and loud,
and we give thanks again for what we live on:
every passage through death to life
and every experience of the love that shows it to us.
This year, a dangerous pandemic
keeps us from gathering in person
for our Maundy Thursday service
so we will have to keep it in our homes,
remember its power wherever we are,
and carry profoundly within ourselves
that one persistent flame.
As we continue to live through this experience
that is keeping life disrupted,
keeping people separated and fearful,
making many thousands ill,
taking the lives of beloveds
and threatening livelihoods,
may we also remember and give thanks
for how these days are also showing us
the unspeakable power of self-sacrifice,
of service, courage and compassion,
of a shared vulnerability
and the common bonds
we’ve so often ignored,
of the power of love in the shadowed places.
They are showing us the one thing that stays lit,
no matter how dark it gets.
In other words,
they are showing us Christ,
crucified yet risen.
Below is a link to a recording of the Tenebrae portion
of our Maundy Thursday service from 2019,
both readings and music, and a link to our singing of the hymn
“Were You There?” from that same service.
Giver of life and Conqueror of death,
gather us now in spirit, wherever we might be in body,
into your sure and certain presence,
your strong and holy presence,
so that all that is dark --
in us and in the world,
so that all that crucifies Christ --
in us and in the world,
will fall away in love’s redeeming work,
and we will know again
that not one thing,
here or anywhere,
now or ever,
can separate us from you.
We pray in the name of the One who is
crucified yet risen, Amen.
If you would like to watch an online Maundy Thursday service sponsored by a clergy group in our denomination, the United Church of Christ, at 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time on Thurs., April 9, go here:
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