Last night Ashley and I had the wonderful privilege of being a part of one of the most meaningful Maundy Thursday services I have ever experienced. It was a service designed/planned/written by our Worship Ministries Director, Caroline Merrell, at Long’s Chapel UMC in Waynesville, NC. She so obviously poured her heart and soul into this service, striving to reach out, to all who would hear, of how what some saw as defeat would be turned into the ultimate story of Victory. That Victory could only come at a terrible price, and that was so eloquently expressed last night, our “Mandate” night…Maundy Thursday.
Jesus said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.” (John 15:12-14 NRSV) This commandment, this mandate, is for all time. We are being commanded, when we make the choice to be true disciples of Jesus Christ, to lay down our lives for our friends, indeed all our neighbors – and “who is our neighbor?”… Jesus says, “Go and do likewise.” (from Luke 10:29b-37) Love one another. We are all neighbors.
Caroline, who in addition to all her duties (she would say privileges) as Worship Ministries Director, is also the music and choir director. She organizes, is one of the instrumentalists for, and leads and directs two choirs each Sunday, at three separate services. She has extraordinary gifts in music and leadership, but more than that, much more, she is a lover, and a true disciple of Christ. All of her gifts were so evident last night in the inspired service of remembrance of our Mandate. The reading of the Gospel accounts of the last two days of Jesus’ life, before resurrection, and his agonizing death, were interspersed with music from the congregation, soloists, combined choirs, and a men’s chorus, as well as projections of paintings of eight of the twelve Stations of the Cross, presented by the artist herself, Nancy Sandgren. I cannot speak of our music and worship ministry without mentioning our organist/pianist, Mary Neill Rogers, as well as the contributions last night of our oboist (and singer) Judy Dodson, and our marvelous dancer of faith, Stephanie Wilson. Each piece of music pointed directly at the events that occurred that weekend over 2,000 years ago. We still celebrate that incredible sacrifice and joyous Gift of Resurrection each and every Sunday as a community of followers, and each and every day in our individual lives. This great span of time reminds me of one of my favorite cartoons. It shows two Roman soldiers who have been guarding Jesus’ tomb over Saturday night. You see them just waking up, and one of them terrified at being punished for failing in his job, as they both noticed the stone rolled away from the tomb. The other soldier says to the frightened one: “Oh quit your worrying…100 years from now, who will know the difference?”
This weekend, we celebrate that difference. Time was divided in two by the events of the weekend of the very first Easter, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and that Resurrection is celebrated each and every day by all disciples of Christ. There is no reason not to be joyful, even in the remembrance of Jesus’ agony on this Good Friday, because as Christians know…it may be Friday, but Sunday’s coming! Thanks be to God!