Holy Thursday

North Congregational UCC New Harford CT
April 1, 2021


The Sacrament of Holy Communion comes from the Last Supper Jesus shared with his disciples in an upper room as recorded in the Gospel of John. Immediately following this meal, which some scholars believe was a Passover celebration, Jesus goes to the Garden of Gethsemane where he prays, is arrested and put on trial. John recounts a foot washing that led to Jesus admonishing the disciples and offers up a new commandment (mandere – to Command) from which we derive the term “Maundy Thursday.” The second part of tonight’s service is called Tenebrae or “shadows” and comes from a practice established by Christian communities in the 4th. Century. Different versions of readings and remembrances exist. The one tonight is one Rev. Art has used throughout his pastoral ministry. 


Pie Jesu. (from Requiem) by Gabriel Faure 1845-1924


Let us come together in the spirit of thanksgiving and humble gratitude. We remember this special night from long ago when Jesus shared this last meal with the disciples. We are asked to partake of this meal as a sign of community among ourselves and with our risen Lord. We offer our praise for this meal of salvation and hope.


#203  “Jesu, Jesu, Fill Us With Your Love”

Jesu, Jesu, fill us with your love; show us how to serve the neighbors we have from you

Kneels at the feet of his friends, silently washes their feet,
Master who acts as a slave to them. (refrain)

Neighbors are wealthy and poor, varied in color and race;
neighbors are near and far away. (refrain)

These are the ones we should serve; these are the ones we should love;
all these are neighbors to us and you. (refrain)

Loving puts us on our knees, willing to wash others’ feet;
this is the way we should live like you. (refrain)


            Loving Savior, a new commandment you gave to your disciples, that we should love one another as you have loved us. Using a basin and water, you gave us a powerful example of how far love can travel. Keep that image before us, especially when we think some task is beneath us. You have shown us we cannot change the world without changing ourselves. In this community of faith, endow us with enough respect and reverence for your example that we become willing to serve each other with gentle devotion and offer each other a limitless supply of forgiveness.  Amen.


John 13:1-17, 31b-3

It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not everyone was clean. When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once. “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

May God bless this reading and add to our understanding what God is asking of us this day. Amen 


What if?

What if? I was thinking what if Jesus had decided the time wasn’t right. He had more to teach the disciples, more people to heal, where could they go to escape. Not a bad concept-given today’s date, he could play an April Fools type joke. I mean, many churches have a special Sunday after Easter which they call holy humor Sunday. After he announces that one will betray him and that disciple leaves, maybe Jesus can find a place, along with the disciples to hide and be safe-at least for a while longer. One of my favorite all time musicals is Sound of Music-about Maria and the Trapp family. The family devises a way to escape over the mountains to avoid the father having to join the Nazi’s after Hitler overran Austria. The family successfully escaped, came to America on tour and to this day you can visit the new Trapp homestead built after a devastating fire in 1980 destroyed the original in Stowe Vermont. Of course, the choices would have been far more difficult for Jesus. He might consider his home town of Nazareth where he certainly would be welcome-but not by everyone. He was run out of the synagogue there as recorded in the Gospel of Luke after his exposition of a scroll from Isaiah and his denial of the doctrine of exceptionalism for his listeners. No, there really was no safe house option for Jesus, as there truly is no absolutely safe place for us to be safe from Covid-19 without taking precautions and getting vaccinated. 

John is the only Gospel that mentions foot washing. It was a sign of hospitality what is astonishing is that Jesus, defined earlier in John, as the Word of God incarnate, should wash the disciples feet, including the feet of the one who had betrayed him. And Judas wasn’t the only one who had a problem with the humility of Jesus. Peter, yes Peter again, was so full of himself that first he refuses and then wants Jesus to bathe him all over. He has certainly missed the whole point. To be fair to all the disciples, this was not an easy mealtime. The level of stress was very high. There would be no tums antacid on the Seder plate.

For us tonight, remembering this upper room experience, we are reminded that we, the servants, the ministers, the clergy are not above the Master. As Jesus has done for us we are to do for others. No escaping that-no safe haven we can flee to where that would not be expected of us. A new commandment is issued. “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. There it is-no exceptions. Not written on stone but shown in action that comes from the heart. The synoptic Gospels give us the words of institution for what has become a sacrament for us-but John has given us a picture that is to develop within the essence of who we are. The table is set, come and partake. Amen.


PASTOR: God in Christ breaks down the walls that make us strangers to ourselves and divide us from one another. We are the body of Christ. As we partake in this meal of remembrance we enact our faith. We put aside our arrogance, our pride, our uncertainly, our fear of what might happen and embrace this moment of fellowship in Jesus’ presence. The body broken is restored to wholeness; lifeblood poured out brings healing to us and to our world.

EUCHARISTIC PRAYER: We dream O God of community, but in our waking hours we forget such hopes. You call us individually with arms outstretched upon a cross. You name us as your own and offer forgiveness. So now, as we receive you in these elements, we embrace everyone, we desire to serve everyone and bring into reality a community of wholeness. The elements are for us your body broken and lifeblood poured out that we may be transformed so that our lives lived may be a blessing to the world. Amen


PASTOR: On the night of his betrayal, Jesus took bread, blessed it and broke it, and gave it to those with him at the table. He said, “take, eat this is my body broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” He took the cup and said, “Drink from this, all of you. This is my blood which is shed for you and for many, for the forgiveness of sin. Do this in remembrance of me.”


(There will be seven readings. If possible we ask that you have seven lit candles in an otherwise darkened space. After each reading extinguish one candle. Each reading is followed by a music response. At the end of the seventh reading (vocal recordings) there will be a video depicting the crucifixion of Christ and a solo meditation. We will end the service with The Lord’s Prayer and an Organ Postlude).


Matthew 26:20-25

When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?” Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?” Jesus answered, “You have said so.”

Sharing Pascal Bread and Wine #207

Sharing Pascal bread and wine as the daylight ebbs away
Friends at table join to dine. One of them will soon betray
Shadows length into night.


Luke 22:39-44

Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. 

Stay With Me #204

Stay with me; remain with me;
Watch and pray. Watch and pray.


Matthew 26:40-46

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

In the Garden, Still and Deep #207

In the garden, still and deep, those he asked to watch and pray,
Heavy lidded, fall asleep, weary from the anxious day.
Shadows lengthen into night.


Matthew 26:47-50, 55-56

While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.” Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him. Jesus replied, “Do what you came for, friend.” Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him.

In that hour Jesus said to the crowd, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.

This is the Night #206

This is the night, dear friends, the night for weeping
When powers of darkness overcome the day
The night the faithful mourn the weight of evil
Where by our sins the Son of Man betray.


Matthew 26:69-75

Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said. But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.” He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!” After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.” Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.

Shadows Lengthen into Night #207

While the web of darkness grows, Jesus suffers through his trial
As the herald rooster crows, Peter speaks his third denial.
Shadows lengthen into night.


Mark 15:12-20

“What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them. “Crucify him!” they shouted. “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified. The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!” Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

O Sacred Head Now wounded #221

O sacred head now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down
Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, thine only crown;
O sacred head, what glory, what bliss till now was thine!
Yet though despised and gory, I joy to call thee mine.


Luke 23 33-46

When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals-one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”When he had said this, he breathed his last.

Were you there
Go to Dark Gethsemane #220

Go to dark Gethsemane, all who feel the tempter’s power;
Your Redeemer’s conflict see; watch with him one bitter hour;
Turn not from his grief’s away; learn from Jesus Christ to pray.



Ah, Holy Jesus Johann Cruger (1598-1662)

We join together in Celebration of EASTER 10 A.M. at North Congregational Church Sanctuary

For an indoor celebration. The church will be cleaned, masks mandatory and seated minimally six feet apart.  For those uncomfortable with attending, the service will be online on the webpage later in the day.