Being part of the Christian tradition is pretty special. I know I didn’t always think this way, or even believe it was, but it is. We are part of a great narrative told and celebrated in many different ways for more than 20 centuries!
There are beautiful traditions and rituals most Christians don’t even know we had or still have. Many people look at “religion” today and either scoff or shy away from it. Sometimes for good reason. But sometimes they’re just following the crowd.
I approach religion as I approach my training in the gym or on the track. There are certain things I need to do as part of my lifestyle to get the best results from my training. Eating healthy, working out, lifting weights, running drills on the track, sleep well, use supplements for recovery, get massages from time to time to speed up recovery, plan my performances at competitions etc.
Why would I think that spiritual growth would require any less “training?”
The practices might differ, but they are practices and disciplines nonetheless. Daily meditation, reflection, prayer, self-sacrifice, reading of the Scriptures, practicing kindness, grace, and charity, meeting with other believers on a regular basis etc.
How would I ever grow if things like these do not form part of my life as disciplines like lifting weights in the gym?
The ancient Christians understood this.
Take today as an example. For most people (many Christians included) it’s Thursday; the day before Easter long weekend when we are inconvenienced by closed shops or stores.
However, throughout the ages the Christian Church knew today as Maundy Thursday.
The term Maundy comes from the Latin word mandatum (from which we get our English word mandate), from a verb that means “to give,” “to entrust,” or “to order.”
The term is usually translated “commandment,” from John’s account of this Thursday night.
According to the Fourth Gospel, as Jesus and the Disciples were eating their final meal together before Jesus’ arrest, he washed the disciples’ feet to illustrate humility and the spirit of servanthood.
After they had finished the meal, as they walked into the night toward the garden Gethsemane, Jesus taught his disciples a “new” commandment that was not really new:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, you also ought to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
And so whenever the Church came gathered on Maundy Thursday, they were reminded and celebrated Jesus’ greatest “commandment” which is the one of love. Love for God, and love for each other.
Therefore, even though you might not be gathering somewhere tonight with other believers, you can still remember this night as a significant one.
This is the night when Jesus finally demonstrated to his followers what following Him is all about, and He called them onto the same path. He “commanded” them to follow His way. And that’s why they were knows as “people of the Way.”
When you meet with other believers in the morning, make sure you turn up with a heart filled with genuine love and a willingness to serve with joy as those before us have throughout the ages.
Yes, the Church has lost its way many times in the past, but Maundy Thursday reminds us what Jesus said all this “religious” stuff is really about. Not what we’ve made it.
May light and peace fill your life.