Maundy Thursday thoughts

When I was a teenager my family belonged to the only church in town, the United Methodist church. The Methodist church, at least the one in our little town, was big on ceremonies. Holy week was big. We did the whole Palm Sunday thing, we had a Wednesday service, a Thursday service, we had a BIG Good Friday service, the church was open all day and night on Saturday for prayer and of course Easter we had to bring in extra chairs for everyone in town.

Part of what we did, I have never seen in any other church I have been a part of. That was a Maundy Thursday service. (Some might call it "Holy Thursday" or something similar.) The gist of it is that if Christ was crucified on Friday and rose on Sunday, then Thursday night must have been The Last Supper. Also, later in the night was when he was betrayed with a kiss and arrested.

The idea is that you attend the Thursday, Friday and Sunday services you would get the full "experience" of the resurrection.

Our church was not big on Communion, or The Lord's Supper, as some call it. We did it like 3 times a year, if even, and even then it was an afterthought. Something "plugged in" to the service and not the center of it.

Not so with Holy Week. We had Communion three times that week.

On Thursday night we'd have a very celebratory service. We'd sing great joyous hymns, often with guest musicians on guitar or whatever. We'd do communion as a big family thing, everyone holding their bread and juice until everyone had some and we'd talk together and pray together ... it was great.

Then we'd have a Friday service. This was very solemn. Sad. The church would be dark, except for the lights on the "stage". We'd sing sad hymns about the crucifixion. The only one allowed to talk was the pastor. We'd have Communion again, however, this time instead of juice, we'd have red wine vinegar. In the dark. In the silence. We'd leave the building in absolute silence.

Sunday was a bigger celebration. The biggest. Service would start at sunrise and often ran 3 hours or so. The front of the church was covered in lilies. Whoever built the church planned it so that mornings in the spring the sunlight would stream through the stained glass window on the east side, depicting the risen Christ near the empty tomb. The songs were glorious and loud. Everyone in the small town came to church on Easter. Every pew was filled, extra chairs were brought in, and often people stood around the edges.

That's how I remember it now, anyway. At the time I was probably bored. Going through the motions. I've been a part of a few churches since then, but somehow that set of Holy Week services at my hometown church still seems more meaningful to me than any other.

I wish the church I am part of now could somehow catch the "fever" for the season that that small town church had.