In a recent issue of Christian Century, Barbara Brown Taylor writes about a time Jesus sang. It’s an evocative piece, and on my mind this Maundy Thursday morning as the day begins a little jagged. On Thursdays, I try to pray for friends, and that’s often a rich time of remembering people near and far who have been meaningful in my life, whose own experiences are varied these days. I wonder how many of these people are beginning their day a little rough around the edges, too.
Maundy Thursday remembers the evening of Jesus’ final meal with His disciples and the command (the Latin for ‘command’ is mandare) He gave them then to love. That would have preceded the meal, a Passover seder, during which Jesus would have rehearsed with them a foundational story that had defined His people. No doubt in the telling, He was also anticipating a new chapter that would open that story wide and bring about a freedom of even greater magnitude. And surely He would have been keenly aware of each one in the room that night as well. Jesus “knew what was in a person” (John 2:25), and so the hopes and fears of those gathered would have been present to Him. He knew what they could become, too, and how that was tied to what He was about to do.
These were His friends, people with whom He had shared life, and people for whom He was about to die. He knew what they liked, what they struggled with, what they needed. And when He sang with them after the meal, the words of their song–BB Taylor goes back to Psalm 113-118 for lyrics–were both familiar and potent. Did the singing quiet riled hearts? Did it ready them for the hours ahead? I’d like to think so–to think that the frequent mention of God’s love, faithfulness, mercy and grace in those Psalms would have settled hearts roughed up by current events and pressing concerns.
It’s a great image, imagining Jesus singing with His disciples, pouring strength into them by means of the music they shared. Reminds me of another occasion, when the prophet Zephaniah saw the Lord in a similar posture, engaged in similar activity:
The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love; He will rejoice over you with singing.
I like these pictures on this Maundy Thursday morning, as I think of hearts and lives–including my own–that could stand to be smoothed out by the love and grace of God.