By Billie Martin Dean Buckles
I attended Maundy Thursday services at our church several years ago. It was a deeply spiritual and meaningful experience, and therefore, difficult for me to describe in words. The words to the song, “Were You There (when they crucified my Lord?),” come to mind. The entire service was built around the Last Supper and the crucifixion of Jesus on the cross. A small room near the back of the sanctuary had been prepared for the communion service. As scriptures were read, and some visuals shown, we were taken, twelve at a time, to receive the sacraments. The lights in the sanctuary had been lowered as the service progressed, and when we entered the room for communion it was almost dark; only a couple of candles pushed the darkness back from the table. A linen cloth covered the table, and our pastor sat at the head of the table with the sacraments spread there before him. All was quiet. We sat for a few minutes in absolute silence. I looked at the disciples across from me—immediately my thoughts turned to myself, I thought, “Am I the one who denied Jesus thee times? Or, could I be Judas Iscariot betraying Christ for thirty shillings?”
Our pastor said, “Jesus said, ‘I am the bread of life. All who come to me shall not hunger, and all who believe in me shall not thirst.’”
He continued, “With Christians throughout the world and throughout the centuries, we gather around these symbols of bread and wine—simple elements that speak of nourishment and transformation. Let us pray. Loving God, we are thankful that you are as close to us as breath, that your love for us is constant and unfailing. We thank you for all that sustains life, and especially for Jesus Christ who teaches us how to live out an ethic of justice and peace and for the promise of transformation made manifest in his life, death and resurrection. We ask you to bless this bread and this cup. Through this meal, make us the body of Christ that we may join with you in promoting the well-being of all creation. Amen.
“We remember on the night when Jesus and the disciples had their last meal together, Jesus took the bread, gave thanks and gave it to the disciples saying, ‘This is my body which is broken for you. Take and eat it, and as often as you do remember me.'”
The bread was passed.
“In the symbol of the broken bread,” the pastor said, “we participate in the life of Christ and dedicate ourselves to being his disciples. In the same way he took the cup, and after giving thanks he also gave it to the disciples, saying, ‘Drink this all of you. This cup is the new covenant, poured out for you and for many. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’”
The wine was passed.
The pastor continued, “Let us pray. We give thanks, Loving God, that you have refreshed us at your table. Strengthen our faith and increase our love for one another. As we have been fed by the seed that became grain, and then became bread, may we go out into the world and plant seeds of justice, transformation and hope. Amen.”
As we left the church silently…I knew that I had been in the presence of God. In fact, I cannot recall another service at any time in my life that affected me so deeply. I will never forget that small, darkened room, with only old, yellowed, dripping candles to light the way. It was a holy moment!
Billie Martin Dean Buckles is an Oklahoma writer who enjoyed a 24-year career in banking and finance. Her book about growing up during the Depression is called “Changing Seasons” and is available through Tate Publishing.