Experiencing Holy Week – Part 1
Depending on your denominational affiliation, this week is either going to be a very busy week, full of church programming, or it’s going to be a somewhat relaxed week with maybe a special service on Easter followed by a family brunch. Either way, in my experience, much of the meaning of this week has been lost in the crush of American consumerism, particularly for students. My goal with this series is to give parents and students practical advice on how to experience this week a little more richly.
I first want to throw out a couple of disclaimers. I am in no way a Church history expert, and this series will not be an in-depth exposition on what everything means. It is simply a practical guide to helping parents and their students get more out of this week.
Secondly, I realize that I may be a little late to the party, especially for youth workers who may read this and wish they could have gotten this information a bit sooner so that they could have shared it with parents. I apologize as the inspiration for this series just struck me. If the thoughts that I am about to share are too late to put into practice this year, file them away and pull them out next year.
Ok, with that all said, let’s dive in to Holy Week starting with Maundy Thursday. When you see the words “Maundy Thursday” what are the first things that come to mind? The Last Supper? Passover? Jesus washing feet? The Mommas and the Pappas song, “Monday, Monday” (come on…I can’t be the only one!). In my experiences, this is often the “forgotten day” of Holy Week. Jesus death and resurrection (Good Friday and Easter) tend to take center stage for understandable reasons, but what occurred on Thursday is so incredibly awesome. Before I get into some tips on ways to practice it here is some history:
What’s it mean?
It has taken me six years of working at a Lutheran church to finally ask the question, “What on earth does Maundy mean?” According to christianity.about.com “Maundy” is:
“Derived from the Latin word mandatum, meaning “commandment,” Maundy refers to the commands Jesus gave his disciples at the Last Supper: to love with humility by serving one another and to remember his sacrifice.”
Ok, now that you’ve read a little history, let’s dive into some practical ways to observe Maundy Thursday. They are in no particular order.
- Eat a completely uninterrupted dinner as a family.
The family dinner is a dying art in modern America. Since a feast was a central part of Maundy Thursday, have one as a family. Outlaw cell phones, ipods, and television. Simply “be” with each other. Don’t feel the need to overly “spiritualize” this. Simply enjoy each other’s company, sharing in conversation and laughter.
- Wash your student’s feet.
For those parents who want to go deeper into this day on a spiritual level, try washing your student’s feet. It is incredibly uncomfortable, awkward, and powerful. Use this time to act out one of the primary themes of Jesus final teachings: love one another. Show your love to your student in the physical symbolic act of servanthood by washing their feet. Don’t stop there. Verbalize your love. Tell them why you are proud of them. Encourage them. Share your favorite moments together from the previous year. Make this moment special, not forced.
- Perform acts of love and service as a family.
Serving others, for whatever reason, seems to be more closely tied to Thanksgiving and Christmas in America. I always hear stories of families doing things like feeding the homeless together at these times. Interestingly enough, Jesus’s Maundy Thursday teachings are full of instructions for selfless living. Set aside time on Thursday night to serve others as a family.
- Spend time in prayer together.
Jesus did some pretty powerful praying on Maundy Thursday. Whether it’s His prayers in John 17 or the Garden of Gethsemane, prayer was a huge part of this night. We’ve probably all heard the saying “The family that prays together stays together” way too many times, but it is still true. Take this night to spend legitimate time in prayer with and for each other. Parents, take the lead on this one. Sometimes this can be awkward. Don’t let that stop you.
I’m sure there are dozens of other ways to celebrate Maundy Thursday. The key, in my opinion, is celebrating it TOGETHER. In my professional opinion as a full time youth worker, this is not a time to split teenagers from their parents. This is a time for families to experience the power of Jesus sacrifice and victory over death together.
Questions? Suggestions? How have you celebrated Maundy Thursday as a family in the past?