An invitation to a deeper appreciation of Christian tradition

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April 1st, 2010 · by Tom Stuart · Church History

Today is Maundy Thursday, the liturgical calendar’s traditional name for Thursday of Holy week.  Also referred to as Holy Thursday it is observed in commemoration of our Lord’s Last Supper.  It is the anniversary of the institution of the ordinance of communion or as it is called in many traditions, the Eucharist.  And it is also in many Christian traditions a commemorance of the night Jesus washed His disciples feet and demonstrated the meaning of sacrificial love and servanthood.

There is a richness in the historical Christian observances dating back to the churches of the reformation (1500s) and rooted in Roman Catholic and Easter Orthodox practices going all the way back to the first centuries AD, that is sadly missing in modern day evangelicalism.  Traditional practices associated with days like Maundy Thursday have a way of inviting the believer into a more contemplative and sensate worship experience.  Some things are better felt than tell’t as they say.  In this regard the development of western evangelicalism has been too affected by rationalism to the point where the conveyance of Truth gravitates to more of an intellectual exercise than an appeal to all the senses.  

There are many practices associated with Maundy Thursday in the more traditional churches that aid the worshiper in more fully understanding and embracing what Jesus did for us on that day.  In the Roman Catholic tradition communion is the centerpiece of the service and the altars are stripped bare.  In the Episcopalian tradition special “Maundy money” is given to the poor.  In many churches the washing of the feet is a traditional component of Holy Thursday services.  This is true of both the Catholic and Eastern Churches also including many more protestant churches including Lutheran, Methodist and Presbyterian, as well as the Brethren and Mennonites.

Gary Thomas has written, what I believe will become a classic Christian book, entitled Sacred Pathways. In his book he looks at the differences we all have as individuals in terms of how we best connect with God and most meaningfully worship Him.  He confirms this uniqueness through describing nine different ways that people can experience God in a significant and life changing way.  He terms these pathways – the naturalist, sensate, traditionalist, ascetic, activist, caregiver, enthusiast, contemplative and intellectual.  He makes a strong case using individuals from the Bible to help the reader identify the unique way that God has created us to appreciate and worship Him.

My pathways are as an intellectual and contemplative. But I am thankful for my wife Susan who has been inspiring me to more fully benefit from a sensate and traditionalist approach to experiencing God.  As we approach Easter Sunday may I encourage you to take some time to more fully consider and enter into a deeper appreciation of what Jesus did for us those last days leading up to His resurrection.

Tomorrow we have a very special Good Friday service planned where we will convey Christ’s great sacrificial death on the cross in more than just an intellectual way.  My prayer is that together we can more fully experience and appreciate the depth of His love for us.  What “pathway” do you rely upon to most readily commune with God?

No Responses to “An invitation to a deeper appreciation of Christian tradition”

  1. I loved this post, Tom. It goes along with the celebration we had on Passover with Jay Christiansen teaching and leading us to focus on all the implications of this celebration of the orginal Passover as given to Moses, then the last supper with Jesus revealing the application of the symbols praticed by the Israelites for 100s of years.

    All these things are helping me be more aware of all the significance of these days not only in the past events leading to Jesus’ death and resurrection but now in celebration Easter and our practice of Communion and when He soon returns.

    Thank you for all your posts—they are always great!

  2. I agree that modern spiritual practices have stripped away so much of the sympbolism that we use to connect. In the old testament there are so many festivities and celebrations all packed with rituals to help man remember and connect.

    My main pathway to worship is probably creation. But folded into that is solitude as when I am outside marveling at every detail in nature I am closest when I am alone and can just talk to him. If you added a great worship group like Mercy Me or Third Day in the background then I would be on my heaven on earth!

    Happy Easter –