I have been thinking about this night for a couple of weeks now. Normally on this night, we wash each other’s feet, we share in what is a “Last Supper” for us until Easter, and then the church goes dark as the altar is stripped of every adornment. This is a night for intimacy, vulnerability, and community. But we are in this supremely odd moment where none of those things are allowed. In this pandemic, we are avoiding the intimacy of touch; we are avoiding making ourselves vulnerable; we are avoiding gathering in community. There is a way in which this very service, reminds us of the grief of this global moment.
But the more I thought about this gathering, the more I realized how well positioned we are this year to honor this night more powerfully than perhaps ever before. In the course of just a few hours, the disciples and Jesus’ followers will be mourning the absence of his physical touch too. Although we are not experiencing the intimacy of touch, we are experiencing the intimacy of a community gathered virtually. Even in our homes, we are all turned to our devices, coming together from afar – creating a sense of community when we may feel like we do not have one. And although we are not celebrating our traditional Maundy Thursday service, we are experiencing the tradition of Evensong – a service that is offered almost everyday in Cathedrals, Minsters, and colleges in the Mother Church in England. In that way, tonight’s service brings us the comfort of a liturgical experience that has grounded the church for centuries.
If anything, living in the time of a pandemic, I believe we are beginning to find clarity about the ultimate importance of things – what really matters and what does not. Jesus helps us see that tonight. Strip away everything else, and Jesus concludes, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” You may be thinking, “Great! Another thing to do!” But relax. Here’s the good news tonight: you’re already showing others you are Christ’s disciples. I see you checking in on your neighbors and fellow parishioners. I see you advocating for the disadvantaged and the vulnerable. I see you supporting ministries financially in this uncertain time. I see you praying for one another. I see you doing your part to end the spread of this virus – whether you are a medical professional risking your own health, whether you are a healthy parishioner volunteering to get goods to those in need, or whether you are simply self-isolating. We may be gathering virtually, but we are gathering in love, living as the faithful disciples Christ invited us to be – living as the faithful disciples you can be and are being.
As we journey further into the grief of this moment with Christ, and continue to journey into the grief of this pandemic, tonight we hold onto the life of love. There is no better way to share intimacy, vulnerability, and community than to do exactly what we are doing in this moment. Thanks be to God. Amen.