Tonight, I was impacted deeply by the Maundy Thursday service I attended at St. Luke's Episcopal Church. I've been a "Christian" for over 40 years and I've known and been so grateful for the significance of the cross and the crucifixion, but I have never experienced the death of Christ as I did tonight.
It all began with the traditional processional, only tonight, the cross was draped in red fabric. The remembrance of His shed blood and gruesome death - the act of perfect love for all of lost mankind - had set stage in my heart for the rest of the evening.
The Foot Washing service was simple, but the demonstation of serving one another and the willingness to be so vulnerable with one another and before God, created a deep stirring in my heart about who I am and where I am in my spiritual life.
Dinner was served in the fellowship hall, and though I hadn't purchased a meal, I was warmly invited to stay and make myself at home with everyone.
The Eucharist service took place back inside the church. This time the cross was draped in black and I felt this horrible sense of death and loss and grief. There were no flashing lights or sounds of thunder or dramatic music or any other kind of entertaining-modern-techo-emotional-manipulators. A simple black covering over the cross - I don't understand why that had such an effect on me, but it did.
The sermon was about the part of God's love that is hard to look at. People find it less appealing to participate in the contemplation of the cross, of the crucifixion. Fewer people attend Maundy Thursday or Good Friday services than attend the Easter Sunday service - the cross is hard to take in.
We sang the Lord's Prayer - it is still echoing in my mind and heart. "For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glo-ry forever! Amen!"
As I took the Eucharist, it felt like I was somewhere between time and eternity. It was like a dream. Time is so different within the walls of St. Luke's. The meaning of the bread and the wine filled my entire being.
But, the most dramatic part of the evening was the Stripping of the Altar. I had never seen anything like this before. I listened as Psalm 51 was read and watched as each candle was snuffed out and every single thing was removed from the altar - the books, the cross, the cup, the cloths, the flasks, candles. The altar was washed and I thought about the burial preparations that were made because of the life that was gone from His body. But not from His body only, but from the whole earth. I sat stunned. No one else made a sound.
The feeling of the absence of His life was very real - terrifying, and I wondered, what was it like for those who were there at the cross? And, what would life be like for us - if He had never risen?