Since I work at the headquarters of my faith denomination, there are many opportunities for worship to be integrated into our work experience. This year we had the opportunity to share in Lent activities during the 40 days…and we shared in a variety of ways–worship, scripture study, praxis (putting into practice), music.
Last year I had really enjoyed the journey. This year it often seemed more onerous. I didn’t have to go most of the time (except the times I was playing–or the week I was helping to coordinate), but it somehow seemed wrong to miss…even though it did at times make me feel more stressed rather than less.
And then came Maundy Thursday. This was to be our final experience–one in which we would have the opportunity of having our hands washed. As we went through the preliminary parts of the service, I found myself wondering when it would be over. Then the presider read the scripture about Jesus washing the disciples’ feet, and as she did so, she asked us to think about how we connected with the scripture. I found myself wondering how Judas felt at that time…how he felt inside when Jesus took his feet in that most intimate experience of servanthood…and how Jesus felt when he took Judas’s feet.
We were then invited to come to one of three stations to have our hands washed while a hymn was being sung for us. As I listened to the two women singing with the guitar accompaniment, the words began to really touch me.
Return to God with all your heart, the source of grace and mercy;
Come seek the tender faithfulness of God
Now the time of grace has come, the day of salvation;
Come and learn now the way of our God. (Refrain)
I will take your heart of stone and place a heart within you,
A heart of compassion and love. (Refrain)
If you break the chains of oppression,
If you set the pris’ner free;
If you share your bread with the hungry,
Give protection to the lost;
Give shelter to the homeless,
Clothe the naked in your midst,
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn. (Refrain)
I had earlier semi-decided that I was not going to take part in the hand washing–not because I had anything against it, but I was going to be presiding at a similar service that night…and I just didn’t really feel like doing it twice! However, the song challenged me. Not just the song–but I sensed God challenging me as well.
Two of the stations had friends of mine prepared to wash hands. The third station had an individual with whom I got off to a very rocky start in our relationship. We had butted heads significantly, and at one point I didn’t want to have anything to do with him unless I absolutely had to. The relationship had improved–but of the three stations, that was definitely not the one I was going to…but I sensed God telling me that that was exactly the one I needed to go to, if I was going to take part in this portion of the service.
I waited. So did God.
The song kept calling, and I found myself on my feet…walking toward that station. I think both of us were surprised when I stood before him. He poured water over my hands–and then, he took hold of my hands to dry them. I wish I could find the words to express the power of that experience. I can’t.
All I can say is that I experienced both receiving and giving God’s grace–and feeling a change to a heart of compassion and love for this individual who had not been the person I would have chosen to go to.
God–the source of grace and mercy–truly brought a gift of healing on this Maundy Thursday.