I give you a new commandment: Love one another

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.
Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” (John 13:34, NRSV)

On Maundy Thursday, we enter one of the most dramatic seasons of worship in the entire year in the church: Holy Week and Easter.

Maundy Thursday’s service will include Communion and the Service of Tenebrae, or Shadows, a series of readings from scripture that recall the desertion of Jesus by the disciples and the growing darkness as candles are extinguished.

Good Friday, the Narthex (back part of the Sanctuary) will be open from noon to 3 p.m. for personal prayer and meditation. Stop by, light a candle, read scripture, be in silence and solitude for as long or as brief a time as you like.

Join us Sunday at 10:30 a.m. for a festive service featuring the resurrection story in John 20:1-18, choir, brass, and a special message for the young and the young at heart. No Easter Breakfast this year; we’re hoping to bring it back next year when we have leadership for it.

It can be easy to focus so much on keeping the traditions of this season’s celebrations alive that we lose sight of what it means and where God is in the midst of it all. Let me use Maundy Thursday to illustrate what I mean.

“Maundy” is not a misspelling of “Monday,” but is derived from the Middle English word for “commandment,” from which we also get the word “mandate.” When I was growing up, I thought the commandment was that we HAD to attend church, because Jesus commanded it. Needless to say, as I grew up, I chafed at being required to do anything if I didn’t see a reason for it.

It was a long time before anybody explained that the mandate, the command, had nothing to do with sitting through a boring church service or performing an empty ritual.

It had to do with loving one another, as Jesus did: all the way. And that has meaning outside the walls of a church, or beyond a sanctuary, even beyond our own personal prayer and meditation.

There’s a strong link between the depth of our prayer and meditation practice and our capacity to love others deeply. Maybe you’ve experienced a greater degree of solitude during the pandemic than ever before in your life. I know I have. Maybe you’ve found yourself caring more about events around the world, or about the well-being of the people closest to you: family, friends, neighbors, loved ones.

Or maybe you’ve struggled with those things, as I have.

This year, as we remember Christ’s command to love one another tonight, in-person for the first time in two years, may the sacrament of Communion, the ancient Service of Tenebrae, speak to us in word and symbol in a new way—one aimed at our hearts.