Maundy Thursday, the Celebration of Friendship
PRESENCE is a word that has connotations of being present, visible, noticeable, and active. Yet God’s Presence has something mysterious about its otherness.
God’s Presence was richly felt when a collection of spiritually close friends met at our home recently for an evening meal. Much humour was shared before the meal, much hospitality was enjoyed during the meal, and much humility was shared after the meal.
Having set the scene in the meeting and in the eating, we dug deep into the nuances of being broken sinners serving a perfectly holy God. Many fleeting silences punctuated our time, as we considered the struggles dealt to each of us six (three couples), amidst the grace of the Spirit that urges us on. Tough questions were asked, and, because we’re sincere friends, graciously honest answers were ventured in vulnerability. Intimacy was felt, and shared. What was beneath these tough questions? A wishing-well and a wanting-for-the-best motive. Emotions tipped over occasionally where topics approached loss, guilt, and shame. And still there was much affirmation.
In safe spaces, with safe people, within the safety of friendship, we get incredible access to and agency from the truth.
Vulnerability and realness were the order of the evening.
Then we prayed.
We prayed aloud and we prayed silently. Tears flowed, yet there too was the laughter of giggly joy. We were free to be. Some of these moments were palpable. God was there, in our midst. His Presence, there, guiding our thoughts, informing our prayers, generating our love, by His Spirit.
We prayed not for the past, but for the present and future. We prayed prayers of intercession over one another. We prayed with the laying of hands. And we allowed God’s Presence to touch us, to minister to us, and to heal us. We were real and vulnerable. And God had His way. We brought a precious few hours of heaven to earth as we delighted in being in the lap of God’s will. None of us left the same.
This night, where precious friendships were established, formed and consolidated, reminds me of the Last Supper, where Jesus held court. It was where God’s Presence was actually with the disciples as they communed, blissfully unaware of what was about to take place.
Tough things were said, there (John 13:21-30; 36-38; 15:18). The disciples grappled with what the Lord had to say. In many ways they were still clueless. But a genuine love was shared at that table. They broke bread. They drank wine. And they prayed; God’s Presence no doubt touching the disciples as Jesus prayed his unifying prayer of John 17. There must have been a crescendo of emotion. Realness with vulnerability.
Realness with vulnerability, in community, is truth regaling in love.
Maundy Thursday, or Holy Thursday, is the occasion for retreating with friends, to rejoice in fellowship, relax over a meal, and to relate with our good, good Father through the connectivity of prayer. To, in some way, re-enact the community of the Last Supper.
Our Christianity is empty when void of community.
Community adds to us the truth of life, of hope, of support, and of healing. From community come the essences that give meaning to life. And it’s in community that we come to be formed and are able to grow as God intended from the beginning.
In community, we’re able to reflect on the manifold wisdom of Easter that blows our minds and breaks our hearts for the manifest goodness and greatness of God.