Reading the Bible with the Poor:
Maundy Thursday Resources
These resources for Maundy Thursday 2020 were developed by the Reading the Bible with the Poor Cohort of the Kairos Center for use in worship services happening virtually during the coronavirus pandemic. Please use and adapt these as is best for your worshipping community.
Reflection on Foot Washing
What is servant leadership? Is it voluntary gestures of humility, like foot washing? Or is it the leadership of the servant class? Maybe it is both. We are seeing so clearly, so undeniably in our world right now, the lifesaving leadership of poor and working people: General Electric workers protesting at their factories, demanding to make ventilators instead of jet engines. Grocery delivery workers striking for adequate sick time, pay, and safe conditions to reduce the risk of viral spread for ALL of us. Farmworkers keeping the entire world fed. Homeless people pressuring their governments to make it truly possible for all of us to “shelter in place.”
These larger scale acts of devotion to the thriving of all God’s children are the culmination of small holy habits built up over time: the discipline of hand washing, the discipline of showing up to yet another Zoom meeting, the discipline of maintaining our connections to one another as human beings despite distance and fear and stigma. Love is a discipline. Love is a culture. Love is a daily habit to which we cling tight — not out of our fear, but as we move through our fear and to the other side. Peter was so grossed out when Jesus wanted to wash his feet: to be seen and held where he was least sterile, least perfect, most risky. “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me” is what Jesus replies. We must be seen and we must see one another right now, in all our brokenness and sickness as a society, and move forward collectively in the only way possible: with care, with tenderness, through the water, and to the other side.
Reflection on the Meal
But this day we do not gather together to eat and drink. The elements are not prepared. We cannot come together in person on this sacred day. While this may make the observance of holy week seem distant, if we truly examine why we cannot gather together on this Maundy Thursday, it actually brings us closer to the biblical texts for observing this day. Hear these words, also from 1 Corinthians 11, as Paul writes to the believers at Corinth.
The apostle Paul reminds us that, indeed, we ought not be eating and drinking of the body of Christ on this day so long as there is suffering — while some have much and others have little. The pandemic that we are experiencing in this holy week has further revealed the suffering of 140 million poor and low-wealth people in our country due to lack of adequate healthcare, lack of a living wage, due to homelessness and lack of food, no access to clean water, a failing education system. These are not just the result of the pandemic. These are the injustices this pandemic has revealed with increased clarity because our society has failed to heed the words of the prophets who cry out for justice. So on this day it is fitting that as the people of God we do not gather to partake a meal but instead heed the instructions of Paul that “everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup” (1 Corinthians 11:28). This Maundy Thursday we gather not to partake of the last supper, but to examine ourselves as a society and to confess our societal systemic sins.
Prayer of Confession
O Giver of Abundant Life, we call to you now because we have allowed thieves to come and steal, kill, and destroy human dignity and human life. We have permitted poverty and pandemics. We have permitted racism and sexism. We have permitted homophobia, transphobia, and xenophobia. We have failed to love ourselves. We have failed to love our neighbors. We have failed to fully love you. Yet, your love towards us remains.
Thank You for loving us, Holy One. Renew our hearts and our minds so that we might return to the power of love that you created in us. Help us to use that power to call out and change systems that create poverty. To care for the sick. To prevent deadly outbreaks. Help us to use that power to treat children and adults fairly and equally. Help us to judge human beings by the content of their character, not by the color of their skin. Not by who they love. Not by their gender identity. Not by their country of origin.
Help us, O God, to truly and unconditionally love you, ourselves, and our neighbors, and to express that love by acts of justice and acts of mercy.
Creator in your infinite mercy and grace give us the strength and courage to be doers and not just hearers of your word. Let us be swift to stand against the empire and the injustices we see. Let us not continue in our complacency of playing it safe while the breath that you gave to your people is being deflated each day by the systems of poverty, racism, militarism, ecological devastation, our nation’s distorted moral narrative and christian nationalism.
Help us, Great Liberator to set our face towards injustice like Jesus set his towards Jerusalem.
Lead us as we go down like Moses to places of injustices and declare boldly, “To let our people go.”
Grant us the spirit of Esther that said, “I will go unto the King and if I perish, I perish.”
Make us steadfast like Stephen who continued to confess your word even in the face of death.
Strengthen our backs like Fannie Lou Hamer who declared “Sometimes it seems like to tell the truth today is to run the risk of being killed. But if I fall, I’ll fall five feet four inches forward in the fight for freedom. I’m not backing off.”
Solidify in us which side we will be on like Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who declared — “I choose to identify with the underprivileged. I choose to identify with the poor. I choose to give my life for the hungry. I choose to give my life for those who have been left out. This is the way I’m going. If it means suffering a little bit, I’m going that way. If it means dying for them, I’m going that way.”
Ignite in us a holy fire like Harriet Tubman who encouraged those escaping enslavement, “If you hear the dogs, keep going. If you see the torches in the woods, keep going. If there’s shouting after you, keep going. Don’t ever stop. Keep going. If you want a taste of freedom, keep going.”
Mold in us the mindset like Mother Jones who professed, “I am not afraid of the pen, or the scaffold, or the sword. I will tell the truth wherever I please.”
Organize us so that we can declare like Ella Josephine Baker, “we who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.”
Help us Holy One, to keep our eyes on the prize until we see justice roll down like a mighty stream.
Amen, Amen, Amen.