This is a night that has four big actions, or if we think of worship like participatory theatre, four main acts.
The first big action is Confession and Forgiveness. All of Lent is a season of confession, admitting the truth about our struggles and failures, our addictions, our self-absorption or self-hatred, our wounded and messy and broken parts... We cry out for healing and renewal. And on this night, we bring to an end, for now, that season’s work and are reminded of God's forgiveness and command to walk in love, as we shift our focus, all eyes on Jesus as he goes to the cross.
Secondly, we hear Jesus’ words and are invited to experience Jesus washing feet, to hear the command of Jesus to wash each other's feet. Whether we actually participate in that action tonight or not, at least part of why we gather as church is exactly for that reason-- to serve and be served. For some of us, it's easier to do just one of those. For some of us, it's easier to do the other. But, Jesus' action on this night shows us the necessity of both, and challenges us to humbly serve, and to let others minister to us in ways that help us know how deeply we need each other.
The third big action is sharing a meal. It's a meal that has roots in the meal that God's people shared since the exodus, a Passover meal, a meal that makes us ready, a meal in preparation for a journey through a wilderness to a new place. We're on that journey, too—sometimes literally, sometimes metaphorically. We eat together this evening because just as Jesus showed disciples who he really was at the last supper, God continues to show up at dinner tables, in our daily lives, and we don't want to lose the sense that the meal we share in Holy Communion is not just symbolic but is really a place where Jesus keeps showing up, over and over, offering himself as the host of the meal; mysteriously as the meal--in/with/and under the bread and wine; and as the transforming one that changes us through this bread and cup into his body, living and active, so that we go out from the meal filled, with something to offer to all who need to see God in us.
The fourth big action is remembering. We remember together as this holy space is stripped of all it's adornments, until it's bare, how this is the night when Jesus was betrayed by a friend who was disappointed in him, how Jesus prayed to God and struggled alone while others slept. On this night, Jesus experienced violence, trials, threats, physical pain, and suffering; this night, he was handed over to people who wanted to kill him; he was stripped of his clothes; he was vulnerable, alone.
Tonight, Jesus forgives, we forgive. Jesus serves, we serve. Jesus shares a meal, we share a meal. Jesus goes toward his passion, and we go, too.
At the end of this night, we'll “press pause” and leave in quiet to continue the story tomorrow...
Knowing that there is more to the story and that God has called us to be a part of this great work of love where God is making all things new.