(This service is a prelude to a shared community meal. The symbols must be prepared ahead of time. The service can be re-orchestrated without using the symbols.)
Leader: Open to us the gates of justice and understanding.
All: May we enter through them, giving thanks because God’s love endures forever.
Leader: Why do we gather together on this day in Holy Week?
Reader (Table 1)
This is the night on which we remember Jesus’ last days with his friends. Jesus remembered with them the sacred history of the Jewish people and offered them a living reminder of how God would have people of faith behave. Jesus received a blessing with oil for burial, a gift of love from a nameless woman. Jesus washed his friends’ feet. Jesus shared a symbolic meal with his friends and gave them the mandate for new community, a mandate to love and serve each other and ourselves. Jesus moved from being afraid to knowing the power of being vulnerable. Jesus prepared for death so that we might live in hope. Let us remember the gift of Jesus.
(Members of Table 1 present a symbol of light.)
Leader: Blessed are those who seek God, following a path of faith.
All: Blessed is the light which shines within this community and brightens our pathway.
(Members of Table 1 light and deliver a candle to each table.)
All: Creating God, help us to recognize your will as we journey together. May the memory of the gift of Jesus become the light of the risen Christ for us in our lives. Amen
Leader: Why did Jesus wash his friends’ feet?
Reader (Table 2)
John 13:1-15 — Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper Jesus, knowing that the Maker had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to bathe again, except for the feet.”
After he had washed their feet, he put on his robe and returned to the table. He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord – and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. For I have set an example, that you should do to others as I have done to you.
(Members of Table 2 present bowl and towel.)
Leader: Blessed are those who seek wholeness, for their health is in God.
All: Blessed is the healing water of this community, refreshing us as we travel together.
(Members of Table 2 wash the hands of those gathered.)
All: Healing God, grant us the grace to serve each other and you, that we may live together with mutual respect, compassion and a sense of holiness for all life that you have made. Amen.
Music: “Jesu, Jesu, Fill Us with Your Love” (© 1969 Hope Publishing Co. Text by Tom Colvin, 1925- .)
Leader: Why do we remember the woman who blessed Jesus?
Reader (Table 3)
Mark 14:3 – 9 — While he was at Bethany, at table with friends, a woman came with an jar of very costly ointment, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. But some there were angry and said, “Why was the ointment wasted in this way? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor!” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Leave her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. Wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”
(Members of Table 3 present flowers.)
Leader: Blessed are those who seek God in simple acts of kindness.
All: Blessed is the beauty of creation, God’s caring community gathered here.
(Members of Table 3 deliver flowers of blessing to each table.)
All: Blessing God, may we recognize your will in the actions of others and celebrate a holy understanding that leads us to love and peace. Thanks be to God.
Music: “Said Judas to Mary” (Hymn 129, Voices United, the United Church Publishing House, 1996; © 1964 Stainer & Bell, Ltd. (Admin. Hope Publishing Company. Sydney Carter, 1964)
Leader: Why do we break bread together?
Reader (Table 4)
And when the time had come for Jesus to be handed over, he gathered those he had journeyed with around him. He was at supper with them when he took bread, gave thanks to God for this gathering of family and friends, and broke the bread. He gave this bread to his disciples and said, “Take, eat, this is my body which is given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.”
(Members of Table 4 present bread.)
Leader: Blessed is the One who feeds not only our bodies but our souls with this bread of community.
All: Blessed are those who hunger for God.
(Members of Table 4 deliver bread to each table.)
All: Uniting God of community and family, may your gift of celebration in the life of Christ move us to the work of reconciliation and hope. Amen.
Leader: Why do we share a cup of blessing?
Reader (Table 5)
And when their meal together had finished, after supper he took the cup of wine; and when he had given thanks, he blessed the cup and gave it to them saying, ” Drink this, all of you: this is the sign of a new and eternal covenant, a gift of myself for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink from the cup of blessing, do this for the remembrance of me.”
(Members of Table 5 present wine.)
Leader: Blessed is the fruit of the vine, uniting and making us one.
All: Blessed is God for adopting us into this family.
(Members of Table 5 deliver the cups to each table.)
All: Merciful God, forgive us for the times we have betrayed your trust and have not loved the Christ in each other. May this cup of blessing be a celebration of joy and solidarity. Amen.
Music: “An Upper Room Did Our Lord Prepare” (vv. 1, 2) (Hymn 130, Voices United, the United Church Publishing House, 1996; Words © 1974 Hope Publishing Company. Fred Pratt Green, 1973)
Leader: Why do we remember Jesus’ tears?
Reader (Table 6)
Mark 14:32-42 — They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He went apart from them and began to feel distressed and agitated. He said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; stay here, and keep awake.” And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, this hour might pass from him. He said, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.” He came and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour? Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And once more he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to say to him. He came a third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Enough! The hour has come; the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going. My betrayer is at hand.”
(Members of Table 6 present symbols of sadness and joy.)
Leader: Blessed are our tears and laughter.
All: Blessed is the love shown as we grow together as a community of Christ.
(Members of Table 6 deliver these symbols to each table.)
All: Caring God, may we be gentle and encouraging friends, sharing joy and sadness as your family here on earth.
Holy One, forgive us for the many ways we have betrayed your trust and have not loved each other. On this holy night, may we be filled with the power of Christ’s love that is strong enough to banish fear and doubt. Grant us the vision to see beyond death and despair to your promise of resurrection so that we may become the people of your Beloved. Amen.
Music: “An Upper Room Did Our Lord Prepare” (vv. 3, 4)
Leader: The banquet is ready and the feast is prepared.
All: May the dance begin here and wind throughout all the world.
(The meal is shared by the community.)