Thursday, April 21, 2011

Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday is one of my favorite church holidays.  I love the focus on the Lord's Supper. I love the privilege of coming to the communion table with fellow believers and being assured of my forgiveness of sins.  I love the deep, soul touching peace that follows.  Several years ago this was in the magazine, Forward in Christ.  Reading it then I was touched by the words.  Today, as we celebrate Maundy Thursday, may these words touch you as well. 

I could feel tears forming in my eyes as I watched him. He shuffled his feet like someone walking on ice, afraid of falling with each step. It was obvious each advance brought agony. But he was resolved. He would not be deterred.

I was attending a service in a larger Midwest congregation. It was a long walk to the communion rail from even halfway back. The elderly man I saw that Sunday was making his way to the front to receive the Lord’s Supper. I don’t know his name. But even as I sang the communion hymn, I couldn’t take my eyes off him. He was inscribing a lesson in my heart that I will never forget.

His was not a mechanical, habitual, thoughtless approach to the Table of his Lord. Mere routine could not have drawn someone forward through such pain and effort. Something stronger was drawing him, compelling him to come forward.

I am still able to walk briskly. My feet lift freely from the floor and spring forward with energy. Yet I wonder how many times my feet carried me when my heart did not always want to go or when I can’t remember what I did when I got there. How easily a repeated action like the Lord’s Supper
can become meaningless and empty because of the sinful callousness of my heart.

This man’s resolve reminded me of the unfathomable gift that awaits us at the Table of our Lord. His feet carried him forward—dragging on the carpet as he struggled to keep his balance—because he longed to receive his Lord’s forgiveness. In previous years, when he surely walked as I now walk, he had not forgotten that his Lord was inviting him to a precious banquet. Now, after the curse of sin had transformed his strength into weakness and his spring into cruel crawl, he still did not forget the King who beckoned him forward. The words “given and poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins” pulled him like an irresistible magnet. Forward. Forward. One step at a time with a precious friend by his side to make sure he didn’t fall. The line of communicants slowed as they waited for him to move down the aisle.

Then, finally, he arrived. In deepest humility, he received the gift of his King. Once the Lord had been wracked with pain for him. Once the Lord’s feet had been nailed immobile for him. Once the Lord had taken away his guilt for all time. Again and again the Lord offers his body and blood because he knows that this man—we all—need that assurance. “Do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me” (Christian Worship, p. 35). So those feet, barely strong, had carried him forward to “do this” again. 

He turned to shuffle down the side aisle. His Lord had blessed him with life. His body still bore the curse of sin. His feet still dragged on the floor. It took minutes, not seconds, for him to return to his seat. But a sparkle was in his eye. The spring was there. It was in the joy and peace that lit his face. The tears trickled down my cheeks.

Thank you, dear Christian brother, for teaching me a lesson that day. Thank you for reminding me again what a gift our Lord Jesus gives us in this Holy Supper. I know you didn’t intend to do that. Your eyes were focused on your Savior. But that day my eyes saw my Savior through you.

Contributing editor Joel Petermann is pastor at St. Paul, Amherst, New Hampshire.

1 comment:

Pastor Johann Caauwe said...

Thanks for this. I wish that more people could call Maundy Thursday a favorite. I love the way he words it: "The words 'given and poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins' pulled him like an irresistible magnet." Yes, that's it. It's Jesus' word and promise that makes this supper so irresistible—and yet, still resisted by so many. But if I know that my Jesus is there with his gifts, that's the only place I would want to be.