Join Hands Around a Table
by Rev. Virginia Stein Hubbard
Director of Mission and Pastoral Care
How do you observe momentous occasions in life? In my family we surround ourselves with family members and/or our closest friends and share a meal. We reminisce about our shared experiences—even though we sometimes remember these times differently. In so doing we strengthen the ties that bind us together. Do you identify with that?
And when trouble comes, do you have someone in that tight circle that you can call—even in the middle of the night—to lean on and perhaps pray with you? Are you that kind of faithful and supportive friend to someone?
These are my thoughts as I come to Maundy Thursday in Holy Week. The Bible tells us that Jesus and his disciples were faithful Jews who celebrated Passover—the observance of the historical escape of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt. A special meal was and is a significant part of that observance. The scripture also tells us that Jesus longed to celebrate this occasion and arranged to be with those closest to him on that fateful day. They shared the ceremonial meal as well as deep meaningful conversation. Jesus expanded on the lessons he wanted to impress on them by a very practical illustration: he washed their feet (John 13). It was an example/lesson they would never forget—to be a servant and to live in real caring relationships and love for one another was his most important legacy. Putting others before self was the way to abundant life. Jesus even used the elements of the Passover meal to remind us of the sacrifice of his Body and Blood that would be given for the redemption of the world.
He went even further. He asked them to pray with him after dinner on the Mount of Olives (John 22:39-46). To be sure, their comprehension of what was happening at the time left a lot to be desired, but they struggled to make sense of it all. And even in their fear and failures, Jesus reaffirmed his commitment/faithfulness to them by continuing on his mission in unconditional love, sacrifice, and forgiveness.
In this defining moment Jesus teaches us still that loving relationships are the only things that really last. It’s a truth that we as 21st century Christians still struggle with. Human priorities are still getting in our way it seems.
So we gather around a “table” today to share bread and cup and focus on the mystery of how to live in love—how to accept forgiveness and friendship and how to share it. It’s how this day got that “strange” name: Maundy Thursday. It’s thought that the word “Maundy” is derived from “mande,” old French, from the Latin mandatum, meaning “a command.” Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment” (John 13:34).
Take some time today to give thanks for the special people in your life who have been loving family/friends, those who have stood by and with you in the most significant moments of your life. It’s also important to forgive those who perhaps have disappointed you or let you down—none of us follow Jesus perfectly—not even the disciples of long ago.
Most importantly, give thanks that YOU are a loved and forgiven Child of God. Whether you have a circle of friends to walk this earthly journey with or not, you definitely have a Savior from whom you can never be separated (Romans 8:37-39). Let that bring Generosity to all your relationships, a Smile to your face, Love to your heart, and Joy to your life as you continue on your own path.
Before you close your eyes tonight, prayerfully meditate on the hymn, What a Friend We Have in Jesus. Join hands around a table and draw closer to one another and to your Savior.