The Spirit was present and at work during a Maundy Thursday virtual gathering
by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE — Add prayer and guided meditation to the activities for which Presbyterians are now using online platforms to engage.
During a Maundy Thursday Zoom call, the Revs. Jeff Eddings, coaching and spiritual formation associate for 1001 New Worshiping Communities, and Ayana Teter, director of vocation and placement at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, took about 30 participants through liturgy, prayer and a guided meditation designed to get them to use their imaginations to place themselves in the midst of the disciples as Jesus washed their grimy feet as depicted in John 13:1-17.
It was Ignatius, one of the early apostolic fathers, who taught that imagination is a gift from God, Eddings said while preparing participants for a guided meditation on the story of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. “Let’s see how the Spirit directs and moves us,” Eddings said.
Interspersing the text with suggestions for focusing participants’ meditation, Eddings invited listeners to “imagine yourself coming into the room to join the gathering. Let the room and the faces be known to you. They are your dear companions, your close friends. Take in all the sights and sounds of the space. Hear their friendly voices. Smell the food. Feel the warm touch of an embrace. Imagine one of those faces is Jesus. He smiles at you with recognition and invites you to have a seat. You join your dear companions at the table.”
When Jesus gets up, Eddings said, “you wonder what he’s up to. You wonder more when he strips off his robe and puts on the servant’s apron. You watch in amazement as Jesus washes the feet of all your friends in the room — lovingly, carefully, completely.”
But Peter protests: You’re not going to wash my feet, he tells Jesus.
“Think of your own feet,” Eddings said. “You know how dirty they are. You know what they look like, and the smell. Maybe you, like Peter, think, ‘You will never wash my feet.’ You feel the resistance just like Peter, and you put your hands over your feet.” Eddings invited those listening to do just that, either physically or mentally. “It’s a posture of resistance,” he said. “Feel the tension in your body, your refusal to bare yourself to Jesus. In the silence, consider how you are resisting Jesus in your journey with him this day.”
Peter surrendered, and Eddings asked listeners to determine their own response to Jesus’ statement to Peter: “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.”
“Imagine Jesus removing your shoes,” Eddings said. “As an act of surrender, allow Jesus to wash your feet. Notice how he cleans them, carefully making sure he does it well. Watch as he dries them. Feel yourself moving from a posture of resistance to surrender. You are clean and ready to journey again.”
Listeners used the chat room to answer questions that sprang from the guided meditation, including “How have you been resisting Jesus?” and “Where is Jesus inviting you to serve and love this day?”
One participant said she “appreciated the connection between body and prayer, especially because I cannot connect to other ‘bodies’ during this time.”
Another said she must “surrender my sense of inadequacy. Ministering to my family is adequate.”
A third said he’s “been resisting Jesus’ invitation to come to him for rest. I’m thankful for this moment of rest in the presence of Christ and good friends this morning.”
Teter took participants through both liturgy and prayer. Her closing prayer included these words:
“With our feet still wet from your tender care, and our eyes opened anew to see a new way to love, we receive your new commandment to love one another. Implant that word in our heart in this moment, Jesus. We invite you to have your way with us, to open our eyes again and again to see what it means to love in the midst of a pandemic.
“In the midst of all of this, Lord, show us what it is to love, to rest, to enjoy peace, to trust you, to cede control and to care and to love one another. Like Peter that day, we desire to be cleansed from head to toe, even in the midst of our resistance.
“You know all the places within us in need of your touch. We invite you there to wash, and we thank you for this space and we praise you. Amen.”
View the Maundy Thursday videoconference here. Next week’s focus, according to 1001 New Worshiping Communities Coordinator the Rev. Nikki Collins, will be on resiliency, caring for caregivers and compassion fatigue. Representatives from Presbyterian Disaster Assistance will share some of what they’ve learned, beginning at noon Thursday, April 16.
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