On Maundy Thursday, my church has done something a litte different the last two years. Instead of a traditional worship service in the sanctuary, we have done a Pot-Luck and Liturgy. The idea of this service is to come together in fellowship for a meal and together tell the story of Jesus on holy Thursday. The liturgy below mostly follows the story as told in Matthew 26:17-56. There are two reading parts and congregational reading as well. Reader 1 mostly functions as the narrator. Reader 2 is usually the words of Jesus. Most of the congregational reading are the words and responses of the disciples, especially Judas and Peter. In my context, both Reader 1 and Reader 2 are ordained clergy. If yours are not, you may want to adjust the Communion section accordingly.
To set up this service, you need to have a regular pot-luck (or some meal provided). Each table should have a loaf of bread, a pitcher of grape juice, and cups for everyone. There are four main parts:
I. Before the meal: Prayer of thanksgiving, reading the ‘commandments of Jesus,’ and a prayer of confession
II. The meal: People are invited to gather their food and begin to eat.
III. The Bread and the Cup: Before everyone is done eathing their supper, there are readings for the Words of Institution, a prayer of invocation, and people are invited to share the bread and cup with one another at each table.
IV. After the Meal: Readings from when the story goes out to Gethsemane. The prediction of Peter’s denial and the arrest of Jesus.
Below is my script. There are places for three different songs, which help get people’s attention in the midst of the meal. We have a piano in our fellowship hall, so this should work. If you don’t, you might use selected recorded music to help set the liturgy apart in its sections.
Maundy Thursday service and pot-luck. April 18, 2019, 6:00 p.m.
Words of Welcome
Reader 1 We gather on this night to remember Jesus’ last night with his disciples. Friday is a day of mourning, reflecting on the death of the Messiah at the hands of jealous men. Saturday is a day of waiting, pondering the mystery of a tomb that is soon to be empty. Sunday is a day of joyful excitement, proclaiming the Resurrection.
Reader 2 Today is Thursday; a day to remember what Jesus lived for. It is a day to remember how he loved, what he taught, and how God’s steadfast love was revealed through him.
Reader 1 Today is Maundy Thursday. Maundy comes from the Latin “command.” So today we remember what Jesus commanded us to do. As we enjoy this great feast set out before us, we will recall Jesus’ words and deeds. We will recall the response of the disciples, who all fell away, and we will leave with a prayer for us all to remain awake through the very end.
Song 561 Jesus United by Thy Grace vs 1, 2, 6
The Meal Begins
Reader 1 On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus and said,
All “Where do you want us to prepare for you the Passover meal?”
Reader 2 He replied, “Go into the city, to a certain man, and say, ‘The teacher says, “My time is near. I’m going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.”’” The disciples did just as Jesus instructed them. They prepared the Passover.
Reader 1 Let us pray together and give thanks for
All: Gracious God, we give you thanks for all which is set out before us. Send you Holy Spirit to fill each of us with thanks and praise. Guide us as we remember that your Anointed One, on the night before he suffered, instituted the sacrament of his body and blood. Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life. Amen.
Reader 1 Here are the commandments of Jesus
Group 1 Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. (Matthew 22:37)
Group 2 You must love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39)
Group 1 Do not pay back violence with violence. (Mt. 5:39)
Group 2 Do not withhold forgiveness. (Mt. 6:15)
Group 1 Do not hate or curse your enemies. (Mt. 5:44)
Group 2 Do not pray like the hypocrites or make a show of your faith. (Mt. 6:1)
Group 1 Do not ignore the needs of the poor. (Mt. 19:21)
Group 2 Do not put the letter of the Law over the heart of the Law. (Mt. 15:10)
Group 1 Do not be afraid. (Mt. 28:10)
Reader 2 Jesus said, “As the Father loved me, I too have loved you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love. This is my commandment: Love each other.”
All: This is our commandment. To love each other.
Reader 2 Jesus said, “No one has greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I don’t call you servants any longer, because servants don’t know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends… I give you these commandments so that you can love each other.”
Reader 1 Before Jesus and his disciples gathered for the meal, there was one who had taken matters into his own hands. For thirty pieces of silver, Judas had agreed to hand Jesus over to the chief priests. From that moment on, Judas was looking for the right time to betray Jesus.
Reader 2 “I assure you, one of you will betray me.”
All: I’m not the one, am I, Lord?
Reader 2 “The one who will betray me is the one who dips his hand with me into this bowl.”
All: Judas said, “It’s not me, is it, Rabbi?”
Reader 2 “You said it.”
Reader 1 Let us confess together:
All: Merciful God, we confess that we have betrayed you. We have denied you. We have not loved you with our whole heart. We have failed to be an obedient church. We have not done your will, we have broken your law, we have rebelled against your love, we have not heard the cry of the needy. Forgive us, we pray. Free us for joyful obedience, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Moment of quiet reflection for personal prayer and confession.
Reader 1 Hear the good news: when Christ gathered with his disciples to remind them of his love, he knew that he gathered with the one who betrayed him, the one who would deny him, and all who would abandon him. This proves that Jesus loved them, even when they failed him, and he loves us still today. In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.
INSTRUCTIONS: All are dismissed to the buffet line one table at a time. Begin the meal, but please be aware that we will have more readings before the meal is finished. We will come together by singing:
Song 616 Come, Sinners, to the Gospel Feast (v. 1, 2, 5)
Sharing the bread and cup
Reader 1 On the night in which he was betrayed, and while they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said,
All: “Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you”
Reader 2 And when the supper was over, he took the cup, gave thanks to God, shared it with his disciples and said,
All: Drink from this, all of you; this is my blood of the new covenant, poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this, as often as you drink of it, in remembrance of me.
Reader 1 And so,
in remembrance of these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
we offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving
as a holy and living sacrifice,
in union with Christ’s offering for us,
as we proclaim the mystery of faith.
All: Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again.
Reader 2 Pour out your Holy Spirit on us gathered here,
and on these gifts of bread and wine.
Make them be for us the body and blood of Christ,
that we may be for the world the body of Christ,
redeemed by his blood.
By your Spirit make us one with Christ,
one with each other,
and one in ministry to all the world,
until Christ comes in final victory
and we feast at his heavenly banquet.
Through your Son Jesus Christ,
with the Holy Spirit in your holy Church,
all honor and glory is yours, almighty Father,
now and forever. Amen.
Each table will have one loaf to share. Please break off a piece, hand it to the person next to you and tell them, “this is the body of Christ.” When all have eaten their piece of bread, the remaining bread may be placed back at the center of the table. Then take the pitcher of grape juice, pour out a cup for your neighbor, give it to them and tell them, “This is the cup of forgiveness.” You are free to eat more bread and drink more juice if you wish. You may finish your meal. When all the places are cleared, we will finish the service after the choirs sing.
After the meal
Reader 1 Then after singing songs of praise, they went to the Mount of Olives.
Reader 2 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Tonight you will all fall away because of me. This is because it is written, ‘I will hit the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will go off in all directions.’ But after I’m raised up, I’ll go before you in Galilee.”
Reader 1 Peter replied
All: If everyone else stumbles because of you, I’ll never stumble.”
Reader 2 Jesus said to him, “I assure you that, before the rooster crows tonight, you will deny me three times.”
All: “Even if I must die alongside you, I won’t deny you.”
Reader 1 All the disciples said the same thing.
Group 1 I won’t deny you
Group 2 I won’t deny you
Reader 2 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane. He said to his disciples “Stay here while I go pray over there.” When he took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, he began to feel sad and anxious. Then he said to them, “I’m very sad. It’s as if I’m dying. Stay here alert with me.”
Reader 1 As Jesus prayed in anguish, none of the disciples could stay awake. A moment before they all pledged their undying loyalty. Now they couldn’t stay awake to pray in Jesus’ time of need. Finally, it was time.
Reader 2 After finding them asleep again, Jesus said, “Get up. Let’s go. Look, here comes my betrayer.”
Reader 1 While Jesus was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, came. With him was a large crowd carrying swords and clubs. They had been sent by the chief priests and elders of the people. His betrayer had given them a sign.
All “Arrest the man I kiss.” Just then he came to Jesus and said, “Hello Rabbi.” Then he kissed him.
Reader 2 Jesus said “Friend, come do what you came to do.”
Reader 1 Then they came and grabbed Jesus and arrested him. One of those with Jesus reached for his sword. Striking the high priest’s slave, he cut off his ear.
Reader 2 Then Jesus said to him, “Put the sword back into its place. All those who use the sword will die by the sword. Or do you think that I am not able to ask my Father and he will send to me more than twelve Legions of angels right away? But if I did that, how would the scriptures be fulfilled that say this must happen?”
Reader 1 Then Jesus said to the crowds
Reader 2 Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as if I were a thief? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me.”
All: Then all of the disciples deserted Jesus, and fled.
Reader 1 Get up. Let’s go. Look, the hour is at hand. It is time to depart from this place. Tomorrow is another day to remember and reflect on all that Jesus did and gave for us. Go now and remember Jesus’ last commandment: to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Go in peace, transformed by Christ’s commands.
All: This is our commandment: To love each other. We will go in peace and wait. We will try to stay awake.