The next few weeks are some of my favorite times of the church year. Even in this progressive and ever-adapting religion, traditional markers in the year like Maundy Thursday and Easter always make a special impact on me. The fact that Easter is one of the highest attended days of the year here makes me think this is true for many others also. The story that these days come from is a specific one, the life and death of the teacher, Jesus, who thousands of years ago modeled a life of radical inclusion and acts of love. We seek wisdom from many sources now, but these stories are one way to point toward what I think we are called to do and be as a religious community.
The phrase “Maundy” Thursday comes from the Latin word mandatum, or the mandate the teacher gave to his followers, “Love one another as I have loved you.” The story and act of communion speak of a group of poor individuals, likely illiterate and without homes, gathered to share a simple meal with people they love. The teacher washes the feet of those with him, a concrete act of service for tired and aching bodies. It is about how we show up for one another or don’t; how our religion serves to heal the pains of human living or doesn’t.
The Easter story, one that we understand to be a metaphor here, asks us, where is resurrection happening in the world? Where is despair turning into hope in the world? Where is something we thought was dead in us coming back to life? Where is a spirit of wonder, generosity, and hopefulness moving in us?
For me, if religion serves to do anything, it helps us a) offer concrete care for people that suffer, and b) point to where hope is very much alive for us all. I get so much out of this season in our church life, because it focuses on just that. Where is life in pain, and what can we do? Where is hope, and how do we act on it? I invite you to join us for Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Easter, and more this month as we take a traditional story and see how its values might be living in us.