Worship Elements: Holy Thursday 2021

March 1st, 2021

Holy Thursday

COLOR: Purple
SCRIPTURE READINGS: Exodus 12:1-4 (5-10), 11-14; Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13:1-17, 31b-35

THEME IDEAS

These readings, depicting the moment before Jesus’ persecution, crucifixion, and resurrection, contain familiar high drama: death and deliverance, blood as sign and symbol, shared food weighted with meaning. But they also stress something unfamiliar and countercultural in today’s individualized world: communal caring that transcends personal and family boundaries. “If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one,” Exodus instructs. “Wash one another’s feet,” Jesus commands. “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” Even Paul’s famous words of the Lord’s Supper are set within a larger exhortation of right practice and relationship within the community of faith.

INVITATION AND GATHERING

Call to Worship (John 13)

From busy weekday lives
we pause this hour, gathered as friends,
to remember Jesus’ last earthly night
with his disciples.
May we listen for God’s invitations
to personal discipleship and service;
to communion with one another
and with the Holy One.
Let us prepare our hearts and minds
to worship God.

Opening Prayer (Exodus 12, John 13)

Holy God,
remind us on this special day
of the many ways we know you:
as strong deliverer,
as humble servant,
as the One who bids us love one another,
that the world might know you.
Lead us not only to the beauty of solitary reflection
but also to community, as we remember together
your words and your example.
In Christ’s name, we pray. Amen.

PROCLAMATION AND RESPONSE

Prayer of Confession (Exodus 12, 1 Corinthians 11, John 13)

God of service and abundance,
on this night of holy meals,
we are reminded that we ought to love
and share with one another.
We confess that your ways
are not always our ways.
When we drift toward isolation and indifference,
may we remember this night of communion
and your ever new commandment of love.
May our love and sharing
be signs of hope for the world. Amen.

Words of Assurance (Psalm 116)

The Lord has heard our voices and our supplications. God has loosed our bonds. Know that when we fall short, God hears our prayers and frees us for lives of gratitude and service. In Christ we are forgiven. Let the whole church say amen.
Amen.

Response to the Word (1 Corinthians 11)

May the word opened, like bread broken, nourish us for God’s service. Thanks be to God! Amen.

THANKSGIVING AND COMMUNION

Invitation to the Offering (Psalm 116:12-14)

To the question, “What shall I return to the LORD for all [God’s] bounty to me,” the psalmist answers: “I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD, I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all [God’s] people.” As we prepare to lift the cup, let us offer thanksgiving through our tithes and offerings. Praise be to God.

Offering Prayer (Psalm 116, John 13)

We offer these gifts, O God,
with joy and thanks.
May they strengthen your church
for acts of love and service,
in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Invitation to Communion (John 13)

We are gathered as disciples, and tonight Jesus reveals himself to us. He is the master teacher who unexpectedly washes our feet, as would a servant. He has led us triumphantly into Jerusalem, and yet he speaks of going where we cannot go, of being broken and poured out for us. We remember him now as he asked us to do, in a communal meal. Whether bewildered that he must depart, sobered before the cross that awaits, or quietly anticipating Sunday’s joy, let us center ourselves now—in this moment,
connected with those around us—to seek God’s presence in the breaking of the bread.

SENDING FORTH

Benediction (John 13)

Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment,
that you love one another.
Just as I have loved you,
you also should love one another.
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples,
if you have love for one another.”
Go in peace, then, loving one another
and loving the world that God so loved. Amen.

CONTEMPORARY OPTIONS

Gathering Words (John 13)

Thursday night is not our usual time to meet.
Something is up.
Why the teacher as a servant?
What of leaving and remembering?
What does this mean?
Jesus, help us understand.

Praise Sentences (Psalm 116)

For all God’s bounty, what shall I return?
I will lift the cup of salvation.
I will offer thanksgiving.
I will pay my vows to God.
For God has heard my voice
and my prayers.
Gracious is God, and righteous!
Praise God!


From “The Abingdon Worship Annual,” edited by Mary J. Scifres and B.J. Beu, Copyright © Abingdon Press. 

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