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Round Dance of the Cross: A Maundy Thursday Service

Written by Rev. Irene Laudeman

This service is appropriate for a small congregation of 20-60 people. The service is conducted in two settings: The first is a fellowship hall or other area in which tables are set up for dinner. The second part in a sanctuary area with circular seating. The service is supported by one staff person or community leader for every 6 attendees and by at least one member of the choir in each group.

The service is an alternative Holy Week service that lifts up aspects of Holy Week that are not traditionally lifted up and that also lifts up Holy Week practices from early Christian communities that represented a different traditions. Will close with an extemporaneous blessing, and an invitation to sing.

Song: Gather Us O God.  Body, Spirit, soul and mind
             Gather Us O God.  One in union now with You.

Reading: 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.”

Sermon: Short sermon about canonical and non-canonical traditions of Eucharist and finding meaning in a shared meal.

Song: O God hear our prayer, O God hear our prayer, when we call answer us.
O God hear our prayer, O God hear our prayer, come and listen to us.

The pastor and table leaders will then say an invocation of the Holy Spirit that is largely taken from the apocryphal Acts of Thomas. Table leaders and attendees remain seated.

Table leaders: Come, perfect compassion. Come, she that knows the mysteries. Come, she that brings forth the hidden things. Come, holy dove. Come, hidden mother. Come, she that is manifest in her deeds and gives joy and rest to those who are bound to you. Come and communicate with us in this Eucharist which we celebrate in your name and in the love-feast for which we are gathered together at your calling.

Song: Holy Spirit come to us. Kindle in us the fire of your love.
Holy Spirit come to us, Holy Spirit come to us.

Table leaders will together bless the bread and cup with a blessing adapted from the Didache.

Table Leaders:

Hold up the loaf of bread, tear it into two pieces, spread hands apart and then hold the pieces together while saying

As the broken bread was scattered over the hills and then gathered together to become one, so gather us from the ends of the earth into this community of life, gathered in your name and fed by your presence.

Raise the cup, while saying

As the first fruit of the vine was crushed and gathered up into the chalice of life, so gather us into this community of the spirit that we may be poured out in service to you.

Song: Amen

Table leaders model communion for the table. Tears off a piece of bread, dips it into the juice and eats it and then offers bread and juice to the people on their right. Song is sung until all in the room have received bread and juice

Song: Eat this bread, drink this cup, come to me and never be hungry.
Eat this bread, drink this cup, trust in me and you will not thirst.

The pastor will rise and ask people to remain seated while we serve a simple dinner of soup, bread, cheese and fruit. We share our dinner in the spirit of holy company: we practice a single conversation, so during dinner we ask that only one person speak at a time at each table. There will be slips of paper with passages and questions to help start conversation (ex: What has Holy Week meant to you as a child and as an adult? Does communion have a particular meaning for you?)

Music Minister starts the songs to be sung while dinner is served.

Songs: Come and fill our hearts with your peace, you alone O God are Holy.

Songs: Ubi caritas et amor, ubi caritas Deus ibi est

When dinner is over the pastor will rise and invite all to stand, explain that the dishes are to be left as you are our honored guests and that we will all walk to the other room while the choir sings for us. The room will have seating for about 35 placed in a circle. In the middle of the circle of chairs the floor will be marked with a circle large enough to hold 12 people. Those who will participate in the center will stand outside the circle of chairs while people are seated. The lighting is low and includes many candles.

In the following song “Lord” is changed to “leader” in the interest of inclusive language

Song:

I danced in the morning when the world was young
I danced in the moon and the stars and the sun
I came down from heaven and I danced on the earth
At Bethlehem I had my birth

Dance, dance, wherever you may be
I am the leader of the dance, said he
And I lead you all, wherever you may be
And I lead you all in the dance, said he

I danced for the scribes and the Pharisees
They wouldn’t dance, they wouldn’t follow me
I danced for the fishermen James and John
They came with me so the dance went on

Dance, dance, wherever you may be
I am the leader of the dance, said he
And I lead you all, wherever you may be
And I lead you all in the dance, said he

I danced on the Sabbath and I cured the lame
The holy people said it was a shame
They ripped, they stripped, they hung me high
Left me there on the cross to die

Dance, dance, wherever you may be
I am the leader of the dance, said he
And I lead you all, wherever you may be
And I lead you all in the dance, said he

I danced on a Friday when the world turned black
It’s hard to dance with the devil on your back
They buried my body, they thought I was gone
But I am the dance, and the dance goes on

Dance, dance, wherever you may be
I am the leader of the dance, said he
And I lead you all, wherever you may be
And I lead you all in the dance, said he

They cut me down and I leapt up high
I am the life that will never, never die
I’ll live in you if you’ll live in me
I am the Leader of the dance, said he

Dance, dance, wherever you may be
I am the leader of the dance, said he
And I lead you all, wherever you may be
And I lead you all in the dance, said he

Sermon: A short sermon about alternative traditions of early Christianity and the background for the Hymn of Jesus…..”Where the Eucharist is a holy mystery using the symbols of bread and wine, the Hymn of Jesus is a holy mystery using the symbols of lamp, mirror, door, and way.”

Prior rehearsal with the 14 people and the drummers is advised. Hand drums begin with slow tempo. The 13 who will be in the center walk in and form a circle of 12 with the leader (Voice One) in the center and Voice Two standing outside of the circle.

Drums stop

Voice One: We will start with the words that Jesus spoke: Before I am delivered up to them let us sing a hymn to God, and so go forth to that which lies before us. Therefore make as it were a circle, holding one another’s hands.

The 12 in the circle join hands

Answer to me Amen. 12: Amen

Voice One: Glory to you God. 12: Amen

Voice One: Glory be to you, Word. 12: Amen

Voice One: Glory be to you, Grace. 12: Amen

Voice One: Glory be to you, Spirit. 12: Amen

Voice One: Glory to you, Holy One. 12:Amen

Voice Two: Glory to your Glory. 12: Amen

Voice One: We praise you, O God; we give thanks to you, O Light, wherein dwells no Darkness. 12: Amen

Drums start with slow tempo and 12 in the circle begin to walk clockwise

Voice One: For what we give thanks I say: I would be saved

Voice Two: And I would save. 12:Amen

Voice One: I would be loosed

Voice Two: And I would loose. 12: Amen

Voice One: I would be pierced

Voice Two: And I would pierce. 12:Amen

Voice One: I would be begotten

Voice Two: And I would beget. 12:Amen

Voice One: I would eat

Voice Two: And I would be eaten. 12:Amen

Voice One: I would hear

Voice Two: And I would be heard. 12:Amen

Voice One: I would understand

Voice Two: And I would be understood. 12:Amen

Voice One: I would be washed

Voice Two: And I would wash. 12:Amen

Voice One: Grace leads the dance

Drums to medium tempo

Voice One: I would pipe

Voice Two: Dance you all. 12:Amen

Voice One: I would play a dirge

Voice Two: Lament you all. 12: Amen

Voice One: The eight play among us. 12:Amen

Voice Two: The twelve on high lead the dance. 12:Amen

Voice One: Yes, and we all dance the dance. You who dance not, know not what is being done. 12: Amen

Drums to fast tempo

Voice One: I would flee,

Voice Two: And I would stay. 12:Amen

Voice One: I would adorn

Voice Two: And I would be adorned. 12:Amen

Voice One: I would be united

Voice Two: And I would unite. 12: Amen

Voice One: I have no dwelling

Voice Two: And I have dwellings. 12:Amen

Voice One: I have no place

Voice Two: And I have places. 12:Amen

Voice One: I have no Temple

Voice Two: And I have Temples. 12:Amen

Drums stop

Voice One: I am a lamp to you who behold me. 12: Amen

Reading 1: “When a blind man and one who sees are both together in darkness, they are no different from one another. When the light comes, then he who sees will see the light, and he who is blind will remain in darkness.” Gospel of Philip

Voice One: I am a mirror to you who understand me. 12:Amen

Reading 2: “But you saw something of that place, and you became those things. You saw the Spirit, you became Spirit. You saw Christ, you became Christ. You saw the Father, you became Father. So in this place you see everything and do not see yourself, but in that place you do see yourself – and what you see you will become.” Gospel of Philip

Voice One: I am a door to thee who knock at me. 12:Amen

Reading 3: “And I opened the doors which were closed. And I shattered the bars of iron, for my own shackles had grown hot and melted before me. And nothing appeared closed to me, because I was the opening of everything. And I went toward all my bound ones in order to free them; that I might not leave anyone bound. And I gave my knowledge generously, and my resurrection through my love.” Odes of Solomon

Voice One: I am a way to you, a wayfarer. 12:Amen

Reading 4: “Is not the whole world a cross? When you dwell only in the extremities you are not joined together but remain a fragment, scattered and lost. But when you gather yourself into the center you become whole. In becoming whole, you become the world. And being the world, you will redeem it.” Anon prayer

Voice One: See yourself in me who speak. And seeing what I do keep silence on my mysteries. In me know the word of wisdom.

Voice One: Say to me again: Glory to you O God. 12: Amen

Voice One: Glory to you Word. 12:Amen

Voice One: Glory to you Holy Spirit. 12:Amen

Voice One: I am the Logos who did dance all things. It was I who leaped and danced.

Glory to you, O God.

12: Amen, Amen, Amen

All drop hands and file out of the circle and take seats

Reading 5: Mark 14: 26-35 “When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. And Jesus said to them, “You will all become deserters; for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter said to him, “Even though all become deserters, I will not.” Jesus said to him, “Truly I tell you, this day, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.” But he said vehemently, “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And all of them said the same. They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. And he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.” And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.”

Vigil

Pastor: We will continue with chants and you are invited to remain here in prayer and meditation for as long as you wish.

Song: Stay with me, remain here with me, watch and pray, watch and pray.

Song: Within our darkest night, you kindle the fire that never dies away,
never dies away.

Silence

  

Note: this service includes the liturgy called the Round Dance of the Cross, recorded in the Acts of John dating from the second century.

 

Review & Commentary