Mark 14:12-25 (NRSV)
On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, his disciples said to him, “Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?” So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.” So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.
When it was evening, he came with the twelve. And when they had taken their places and were eating, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” They began to be distressed and to say to him one after another, “Surely, not I?” He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me. For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.” While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
Holy Week approached—my first time “in charge” of those services, as interim solo pastor. The small congregation had endured challenges, but they had held on together. I felt enormous responsibility to plan worship to serve God and this people. As usual, I would mesh my plans with the long-time music director and devoted choir.
As I planned Palm Sunday Communion, an Elder from the choir called me: “The choir will stand on the chancel steps for the anthem. The communion table will be off to the side. Ask the ushers to move it back when it’s time to serve.” Aarrgh! My inner child, sometimes a whiner, tugged at my sleeve: “Why am I working so hard? Nothing I do will ever matter as much as the choir.” But—back to the drawing board. So I settled down with the Palm Sunday texts.
Mark 14. God’s Spirit pulled me in, and lifted up a fresh order of service—gently prying open my resistant, discouraged heart! I recruited our handful of youth. On Palm Sunday, after the anthem, we heard Mark 14. At these words, the young people walked forward:
“…and they prepared the Passover meal.”
The youth moved the communion table back into place, spread its cloth, and set the serving pieces, with exquisite grace! Mark’s gospel sprang to life. Yes, the choir held claim on that congregation—they had earned their love. And God transformed me into a freer, more joyful partner, in the dance of worship!
Holy and gracious God, you pour out gifts, equipping us to worship you and serve each other. Please keep reminding us that we use these gifts most gratefully, when we use them in community, all the parts of the body of Christ moving, sometimes with a stumble, yet always with your amazing grace! Set us into motion, for the life we seek to live for your Son Jesus, in whose name we pray. Amen.