obedient to death

growing up presbyterian, i don't remember much being made of maundy thursday. i knew it had to do with the last supper and the night Jesus was betrayed in the garden, but it was never commemorated in any particular manner, like Good Friday or Easter.

st. michael's has a maundy thursday service, and since i was pregnant and sick last year, i'd never been. i wasn't especially excited to go this year either. my in-laws are in town, and we'd had a nice dinner together right beforehand. i hadn't showered, was wearing a sweat shirt, and there was just ten minutes to get ready. since having the baby, finding something clean that fits is hard enough, but if it also must look nice, (re: not yoga pants or pajamas), ten minutes can't even begin to get the job done.

i was beyond grumpy rolling into church during the opening hymn and after the processional. the liturgy and music were much like any other service, but at the end, the lights were dimmed and the alter was stripped of all its ornament, signifying Jesus' humility in choosing to suffer the cross. it surprised me how poignant it was.

dylan was restless, so i held her in the back. despite (because of?) my complete self-absorption and bad attitude, God really spoke to my heart and met me there. as everything was slowly taken away, philippians chapter 2 kept ringing in my ears as tears streamed down my face...
"your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!"
the process of stripping the alter was long and deliberate. women, many old with canes in hand, got up from their pews and took turns extinguishing and removing candles. the bible, prayer books, and kneelers were all removed. the cup and the bread were removed. the palms displayed in place of flowers were removed. the cross, shrouded in red, was taken, too. the red and gold cloth that draped the table and pulpits was removed. our priest, who had also removed his robe, sung "were you there when they crucified our Lord?" with his guitar. he finished a capella, and then left silently out a side door. we all left the church in darkness and silence.

i left thinking of Christ's humility--the glory he gave up, and the human body, life, hurt, and death he took on. he wasn't about claiming his due as God's son, but rather assuming human burdens, punishments, and ultimately, death. my death. on this night, the night Jesus' friends slept in the garden while he anguished alone in prayer over his coming suffering, my biggest concern was what i was going to wear to church.

Lord, forgive my selfish heart. forgive my pride and desire to be right. forgive my reluctance to serve. help me to love others with the kind of sacrificial and generous love you modeled. thank you for your incredible grace that i need constantly.

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