By Tom Ehrich
Maundy Thursday has so many deep moments modeled on the life of Jesus, from the foot-washing to the eucharist to departing in silence and darkness.
But the one I remember most came from the disciples’ page in this narrative: the all-night prayer vigil, when a few people would spend time in a mostly darkened sanctuary kneeling or sitting, praying or reading, feeling God’s presence or wishing for God’s presence, mind focused or mind wandering, listening for the Spirit’s whisper or listening to a building’s creaks.
Whatever we did in our hour or two of duty, it was holy time. God sat with us, and God accepted our offering as a holy gift.
I sometimes took the hours no one else wanted, such as 1:00am to 3:00am. I sometimes came in just before dawn. But the church always seemed filled with deep intentions, prayers deeply said, confessions deeply made, tears deeply shed. People had given their best to God without anyone but God likely to notice.
I suppose our prayer vigil could be seen as modeled on Jesus’ heart-wrenching time in Gethsemane. But I think of it as our doing whatever the disciples did after Jesus’ arrest and before his death, when they wondered if they would join Jesus in torment, perhaps also wondered if the grand adventure with Jesus was over now.
In that time of fearing and not knowing, the disciples met the trial that comes from following Jesus. I think we modern Christians need to spend more time in that trial.