Worship: April 13, 2017, Maundy Thursday Service



The Seder is a living experience of freedom.  It is a renewal of life and values.  May the words and events of this evening, taken from the language of flesh and blood, from physical and material reality, be a gateway for you to experience movement from death and bondage to life and freedom.

By eating together and sharing conversation, we remember God’s continuing, mighty gift of freedom and life.  So this evening, celebrate and enjoy!  And remember, that in sharing these common experiences, we are worshiping God.

Now in the presence of one another, before us the elements of festive rejoicing, we gather for our sacred celebration.  With believers, young and old, linking the past with the future, we listen again to God’s call to service.  Living our story that is told for all peoples, whose conclusion is yet to unfold, we gather to observe the Passover, as it is written:

You shall keep the feast of the unleavened bread, for on this very day I brought your ancestors out of Egypt. You shall observe this day throughout the generations as a practice for all times.

We gather to celebrate our faith in what is yet to be.

Remember the day on which you went forth from Egypt, from the house of bondage. And how the Lord freed you with a mighty hand.

 Light the Festive Candles of Hope

Blessed are you, Light of the world. May the candles inspire us to use our powers to heal and not to harm, to help and not to hinder, to bless and not to curse, to serve you, O God of freedom.

 The Sabbath Prayer

Blessed are you, O Lord God, King of the Universe, who has kept us alive, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this holy season. You have chosen us:  you have given us this holy festival with loving kindness and blessed us with your favor. Amen.

The First Sip Of Wine

We take up this cup and proclaim the holiness of the deliverance that comes from God. Many long years ago our ancestors obeyed the call to freedom.  Tonight the same call is made to us.  We are to arise and be free, and champion the cause of freedom and justice on behalf of all people.  Let us raise our cups in gratitude to God that this call can still be heard in the land.  Let us pray that the time will not be distant when all the world will be set free from cruelty, tyranny, war and oppression.

We praise you, God of the universe, who creates the fruit of the vine. We praise You, our God, who has kept us in life, sustained us, and brought us to this festive season.

(All take a sip of the cup of wine.)

Eating the Green Herb

Let us take a piece of celery, dip it in saltwater, and bless the greens as the symbol of Spring.

Praise are you, O God, God of the universe, who creates the fruit of the earth.

The green vegetable symbolizes new life. The salt water symbolizes the tears and sweat of suffering during captivity in Egypt.  Dipping the greens in salt water is a symbol for new life coming from the sweat and suffering of the past.

Praise be to you, O Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, creator of the fruit of the earth.

(All eat the celery.)

Breaking of the Bread (Matzah)

Now I break the bread. Among the people everywhere, sharing of bread forms a bond of community.  For the sake of our salvation, we join now with one another and with all who are in need because our salvation is bound up with the deliverance from bondage of people everywhere.

This is the bread of affliction, the poor bread, which our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. Let all who are hungry come and eat.  Let all who are in want share our hope.  As we celebrate here, we join with people everywhere.   May all be free.

(All eat a piece of Matzah.)

This meal calls us to put an end to all slavery both within and around us.

The Second Cup of Wine

With the second cup of wine we recall the second promise of liberation:

As it is written: “I will deliver you from bondage.”  Remembering with gratitude the redemption of our ancestors from Egypt, rejoicing in the fruits of our struggle for freedom, we look now with hope to the celebration of a future.  We praise you, O God of all existence, who creates the fruit of the vine.

(All take the second sip of wine.)

Continuity with the Past

Blessed are you, O Lord our God, who sanctified us and commanded us concerning the eating of bitter herbs. In Numbers we read, ‘They shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.”  Matzah is unleavened bread baked in haste with no time for leavening.  The moror are bitter herbs, symbolic of the bitterness of slavery and the misery of life in Egypt.  For the Egyptians “made their lives bitter with hard labor in mortar and bricks and at all kinds of labor in the fields.”  (Ex 1:14) The haroset is a mixture of chopped fruit and spices which resembles the mortar the Israelites made in Egypt.  Preserving a bond with the observance of our ancestors, we combine the Matzah, haroset, and moror (parsley) and eat them together.

Together they shall be: the bread of freedom, the herbs of slavery.  For in the time of freedom, there is knowledge of servitude and in the time of bondage, the hope of redemption.

(Place all elements on the Matzah and eat together)

Four Questions

Why is this night different from all other nights? On all other nights, we eat leavened bread; on this night only Matzah.  Why?

When Pharaoh let our ancestors go from Egypt, they had to flee in great haste. They packed their dough quickly and had no time to bake it.  But the hot sun baked it into flat unleavened bread which they called “Matzah.”  To remember, we eat this kind of bread.

On all other nights, we eat all kinds of herbs; on this night, we especially eat bitter herbs. Why?

Our ancestors were slaves in Egypt and their lives were made bitter. Not to forget their suffering, we eat bitter herbs on this night.

On all other nights, we do not dip herbs at all; on this night we do. Why?

We dip the celery in salt water because it reminds us of the green that comes to life in the Springtime. We dip the bitter herb in haroset as a sign of hope.  Our ancestors were able to suffer the bitterness of slavery because it was sweetened by the hope of freedom.

On all other nights, we do not dine with special ceremony. Tonight we dine with special ceremony. Why?

To eat in leisure like this is a symbol of freedom. We eat like this to remind ourselves that on this night, many thousands of years ago, our ancestors were freed from slavery.  I am glad that you asked these questions because, though the story is old, it is always new and we must repeat it every year, again, and again, that we may not forget the blessings of freedom.  Let us then, tell the story of the Passover once again as it is found in Exodus.

“Moses called for all the leaders of Israel and said to them, “Each of you is to choose a lamb or a young goat and kill it, so that your families can celebrate Passover.  Take a sprig of hyssop, dip it in the bowl containing the animal’s blood, and wipe the blood on the doorposts and the beam above the door of your house.  Not one of you is to leave the house until morning.  When the Lord goes through Egypt to kill the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the beams and the doorposts and will not let the Angel of Death enter your houses and kill you.  You and your children must obey these rules forever.  When you enter the land that the Lord has promised to give you, you must perform this ritual.  When your children ask you, ‘What does this ritual mean?’ you will answer, ‘It is the sacrifice of Passover to honor the Lord, because he passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt.  He killed the Egyptians, but spared us.’  The Israelites knelt down and worshiped.  Then they went and did what the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron.  At midnight the Lord killed all the first born sons in Egypt, from the king’s son who was heir to the throne, to the son of the prison in the dungeon; all the first born animals were also killed.  That night, the king, his officials and all the other Egyptians were awakened.  There was a loud cry throughout Egypt because there was not one home in which there was not a dead son.  That same night the king sent for Moses and Aaron and said, ‘Get out, you and your Israelites!  Leave my country; go and worship the Lord as you asked.  Take your sheep, goats, and cattle, and leave.  Also, pray for a blessing on me.’  The Egyptians urged the people to hurry and leave the country; they said:  ‘We will all be dead if you don’t leave.’  So the people filled their baking pans with unleavened dough, wrapped them in clothing, and carried them on their shoulders.”

The Third Cup of Wine

Together we take the cup of wine, now recalling the third divine promise:

As it is written: “I will redeem you with an outstretched arm.”  We praise you, our God, God of the universe, who has created the fruit of the vine.  You have delivered us from our enemies, and made of us a free people.

(Third sip of wine.)

[We share our meal together]

Maundy Thursday Observance of Holy Communion

Why is this night different from all other nights?

Tonight we celebrate God’s gift to us of Shalom (Peace) and the Holy Spirit. Jesus said at the Last Supper:  “If you love me, you will obey my commandments.  I will ask the Father, and he will give you another helper, who will stay with you forever.  He is the Spirit, who reveals the truth about God.  The world cannot receive him, because it cannot see him or know him.  But you know him, because he remains with you and is in you.  I have told you this while I am still with you.  The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and make you remember all that I have told you.  Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you.  I do not give it as the world does.  Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.”

Why is this night different from other nights?

Tonight we celebrate Jesus’ gift of life that we might know God’s forgiveness and receive life eternal. (Read Luke 22: 14-20: “When the hour came, Jesus took his place at the table with the apostles.  He said to them, ‘I have wanted so much to eat this Passover meal with you before I suffer.  Then he took a piece of bread, gave thanks to God, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you.  Do this in memory of me.’  In the same way, he gave them the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is God’s new covenant sealed with my blood, which is poured out for you.’)

Send Your power of the Holy Spirit upon us and upon this bread that we may know the presence of the living Christ, be renewed as His Body, and be transformed into his likeness, faithfully serving him in the world, and looking forward to his coming in final victory. Through him, with him, in him, all honor and glory is yours, Almighty God, now and forever.  Amen.

(We will pass the elements and commune by intinction. Please take a piece of the bread and dip it into the cup.)

Closing Prayer: With joy we praise you Gracious God, for you have created heaven and earth, made us in your image, and kept covenant with us—even when we fell into sin. We give you thanks for Christ Jesus, our Lord, who became the true paschal lamb that was sacrificed for our salvation.  Therefore we join our voices with all the saints and angels and the whole creation to proclaim the glory of your name.  Amen.

Song: Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom, Jesus, remember me—when you come into your kingdom. (sung three times)

We will go in silence to the sanctuary for the stripping of the altar.