My home church always has an incredibly moving Maundy Thursday tenebrae service that I look forward to each year. We go through the narrative of Jesus’s last moments, gradually extinguishing candles, leading up to a loud drum roll under someone reciting his final words, followed by silence. It feels strange to say that I enjoy Maundy Thursday, but I guess it’s just a day that I know I need each year, especially in order to sing Hosanna on Easter morning.
This year, Riviera Presbyterian held a seder followed by communion on Maundy Thursday. I had participated in seders before and honestly did not expect much out of this experience. My experience with seders in the past felt like I was participating in this cool meal that perhaps my ancestors participated in generations ago, but it wasn’t necessarily something relevant to me today.
Thanks to the leadership of Riviera, I saw the seder in a new light on Thursday. I spent a lot of Thursday fuming about the North Carolina passing “the most anti-LGBT bill in the country.” I was embarrassed because everyone here knows how proud I am to be from North Carolina and I was left speechless after Governor McCrory signed the bill into action on Wednesday night. I wanted to be in Raleigh, standing and marching as an ally to show that #WeAreNotThis. I began to think that maybe I was too focused on current events for Holy Week. Shouldn’t Jesus’s betrayal and death be more important to me than local politics?
Maundy Thursday’s seder ended up feeding me words that I had not yet been able to express. Here’s an excerpt we read leading up to eating the matzah, the bread of affliction:
“For the Jewish people, the hope of freedom has been symbolized by the prayer, “Next year in Jerusalem.” But even were we right now sitting in Jerusalem, we would still say, “Next year in Jerusalem, the city of hope,” for this year, the freedom of all humankind remains diminished because tyranny still reigns and hatred still divides. Next year, we hope all will celebrate in “Jerusalem,” that is, in a world made one and world made free.
For the sake of our redemption, we say together the ancient words that join us with all people in need, with the wrongly imprisoned and with the homeless in the street. For our redemption is bound up with the deliverance from bondage of people everywhere.”
Easter is lovely and wonderful and should certainly be good news to everyone everywhere, but this Holy Week has been a reminder that we aren’t quite there yet. It’s hard to rejoice and sing when your friends are still fighting their own freedom in this world.
“For the road to freedom is not an easy road, and we will not soon reach its end. Yet it is precisely this road which we all have chosen; and having chosen, we shall forever struggle to complete this journey.”
Tomorrow morning will be joyful for me. Spiritually, I am free, but I can’t say the same for my neighbors.