Worship in the Home: The Three Days: Maundy Thursday, April 1, 2021

Posted on March 17, 2021 by ELCA Worship

Worship in the Home

The Three Days: Maundy Thursday
April 1, 2021


In this time of world-wide crisis, congregations throughout this church are not able to gather for worship as the body of Christ. While you cannot be together in person, we can hear the word of God and hold each other in prayer.

What follows here are resources for you and those with whom you live to use for praying together on the three central days of the Christian year. While Easter is every Sunday, these Three Days are like one great annual Sunday. But because of the pandemic, we cannot do these important services together in church. While Easter is a joyful festival, we keep it now in a time of difficulty and world-wide sorrow. Still, we believe that Christ is with us in his word, by his Spirit drawing us together as one before God. And we believe that the gospel of Christ gives us strength amid distress and comfort in the face of our sufferings.

There are other resources you may wish to consult as well. While hymns and songs are suggested, you are welcome to choose others that will work in your context. Likewise the prayers of intercession may be adapted as desired. If you have young children, you may wish to see a multi-sensory resource provided here.

In setting up a space for worship, consider the physical symbols you could set out. On Maundy Thursday, this would be materials needed for a footwashing or hand washing: basin, towels, and pitcher. If desired, you may choose to remove items from a home worship space at the conclusion of worship on this day as a kind of “stripping of the altar” in your home.

Set out a bowl of water and a clean towel. Sit with them before you and begin with these texts. First, remember God’s forgiveness:

God, who is rich in mercy, loved us
even when we were dead in sin,
and made us alive together with Christ.
By grace we have been saved.
Our sins are forgiven in the name of Jesus Christ.
Almighty God strengthen us with power
through the Holy Spirit,
that Christ may live in our hearts through faith.

Then pray the prayer for this night:
Holy God, source of all love, on the night of his betrayal, Jesus gave us a new commandment, to love one another as he loves us. Write this commandment in our hearts, and give us the will to serve others as he was servant of all, your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.


The readings for Maundy Thursday may be read, as follows.

First Reading: Exodus 12:1–14

1The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: 2This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. 3Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. 4If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it. 5Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. 6You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. 7They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. 8They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 9Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over the fire, with its head, legs, and inner organs. 10You shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. 11This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the LORD. 12For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the deities of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. 13The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.

14This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.

Word of God, word of life.
Thanks be to God.


The Psalm may be sung or read in response to the First Reading.

Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19

1I love the LORD, who has | heard my voice,
and listened to my | supplication,
2for the LORD has given | ear to me
whenev | er I called.

12How shall I re- | pay the LORD
for all the good things God has | done for me?
13I will lift the cup | of salvation
and call on the name | of the LORD.
14I will fulfill my vows | to the LORD
in the presence of | all God’s people.
15Precious in your | sight, O LORD,
is the death | of your servants.
16O LORD, truly I | am your servant;
I am your servant, the child of your handmaid; you have freed me | from my bonds.
17I will offer you the sacrifice | of thanksgiving
and call upon the name | of the LORD.
18I will fulfill my vows | to the LORD
in the presence of | all God’s people,
19in the courts of | the LORD’s house,
in the midst of you, | O Jerusalem.


Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 11:23–26

Paul writes: 23For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Word of God, word of life.
Thanks be to God.


Gospel: John 13:117, 31b–35

The holy gospel according to John.
Glory to you, O Lord.

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper 3Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. 6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 8Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” 9Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” 11For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

12After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13You call me Teacher and Lord — and you are right, for that is what I am. 14So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. 31b“Now the Son-of-Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in God’s own self and will glorify him at once. 33Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Judeans so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

The gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, O Christ



Having read these readings, think on this:

This word about the love of Jesus is always the beginning of any time. By remembering the Passover and the Last Supper and the footwashing, we are not trying to get back to an old time. In the face of the suffering and death with which the world is filled, our trying would not come to much. But God’s word comes to us now. To our time. Even when we cannot meet for the holy supper together, this word — which takes these three nights to say — comes to us: Jesus Christ is our forgiveness. He is the Lamb whose blood marks the doors of our houses and bodies. In the power of the Spirit, he has washed our feet and our lives. And he turns us toward our neighbors. In this word — and in the cross proclaimed tomorrow and the resurrection proclaimed on Saturday night — Easter comes out to hold us already.


If you have a hymnal, you might now sing or read “Great God, Your Love Has Called Us” (Evangelical Lutheran Worship 358), “Where True Charity and Love Abide,” (Evangelical Lutheran Worship 653) or “A New Commandment.” Selected hymns are provided below for those without a hymnal at home.

Where True Charity and Love Abide Ubi caritas et amor

A New Commandment


Here you may wash your own hands, using the water in the bowl, recalling Jesus washing his disciples’ feet. Or, if there are several of you worshipping together, you may wash each other’s hands, thinking of the love of Jesus poured out on each of us in this difficult time. Or you may choose to do as we do in church: wash each other’s feet. Then you would need a pitcher, basin and towel: you hold the heel, pour the water, and dry the foot. Please note, that this action may be entirely omitted, especially if someone in your house has tested positive for the virus.


Prayers of Intercession

On this Maundy Thursday, let us pray for the needs of the world, responding to each petition with words from today’s psalm, “we call upon your name.”

A brief silence.

Blessed are you, O God, for the church. Strengthen your people, gathered around the globe on this holy day in homes, in churches, and outside under your sky. Bless the church’s deacons and all congregational ministries. Give us hunger for your word and joy in receiving it. Feed us at all our tables with your blessing.

A brief silence.

Hear us, holy God.
We call upon your name.

Blessed are you for this good earth. Cleanse and protect the water you have given for our drinking and our washing. Sustain crops and herds that provide our food; teach us how to live so that there is enough for all.

A brief silence.

Hear us, bountiful God.
We call upon your name.

Blessed are you for our nation. Lead us out of ancient patterns of prejudice. Protect all people throughout the world who flee violence and oppression. Establish wise and just leadership in every place and peace where there is violence and war.

A brief silence.

Hear us, sovereign God.
We call upon your name.

Blessed are you for caring for the needy. Feed the hungry. Give jobs to the unemployed. Embrace all who are isolated and lonely. Comfort those living with guilt and those who mourn.

A brief silence.

Hear us, merciful God.
We call upon your name.

Blessed are you for accompanying the sick. Bring an end to this pandemic, and restore healthy and hearty connections between persons. Empower medical personnel. Receive our prayers for all we name here before you: . . . .

A brief silence.

Hear us, faithful God.
We call upon your name.

Blessed are you for serving us, we who are your servants. Receive now, we pray, our silent petitions.

A longer period of silence.

Hear us, loving God.
We call upon your name.

Blessed are you for generations of the faithful who have proclaimed our Lord’s death and lived in service to others. Unite us with them in hope until we join with them at your everlasting banquet.

A brief silence.

Hear us, eternal God.
We call upon your name.

Hear these and all our prayers, O God, in the name of the one who loves us to the end, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Redeemer.


If you have a hymnal, you might now sing or read “Love Consecrates the Humblest Act” (Evangelical Lutheran Worship 360) or “Where Charity and Love Prevail.” (Evangelical Lutheran Worship 359). Selected hymns are provided below for those without a hymnal at home.

Love Consecrates the Humblest Act


Finally, remembering Jesus going to his arrest and his death, the events from which all the mercy that fills this night, pray Psalm 88.

1O Lord, my | God, my Savior,
by day and night I | cry to you.
2Let my prayer enter in- | to your presence;
incline your ear to my | lamentation.
3For I am | full of trouble;
my life is at the brink | of the grave.
4I am counted among those who go down | to the pit;
I have become like one who | has no strength;
5lost among the dead, like the slain who lie | in the grave,
whom you remember no more, for they are cut off | from your hand.
6You have laid me in the depths | of the pit,
in dark places, and in | the abyss.
7Your anger weighs up- | on me heavily,
and all your great waves | overwhelm me.
8You have put my friends far from me; you have made me to be ab- | horred by them;
I am in prison and can- | not get free.
9My sight has failed me be- | cause of trouble;
Lord, I have called upon you daily; I have stretched out my | hands to you.
10Do you work wonders | for the dead?
Will those who have died stand up and | give you thanks?
11Will your lovingkindness be declared | in the grave,
your faithfulness in the land | of destruction?
12Will your wonders be known | in the dark
or your righteousness in the country where all | is forgotten?
13But as for me, O Lord, I cry to | you for help;
in the morning my prayer | comes before you.
14Lord, why have you re- | jected me?
Why have you hidden your | face from me?
15Ever since my youth, I have been wretched and at the | point of death;
I have borne your terrors | and am helpless.
16Your blazing anger has swept | over me;
your terrors | have destroyed me;
17they surround me all day long | like a flood;
they encompass me on | every side.
18My friend and my neighbor you have put a- | way from me,
and darkness is my on- | ly companion.

The Three Days continue tomorrow with the service for Good Friday.


Devotional Music Links: For your individual or group devotion, you may choose to listen to the following choral recordings made available through Augsburg Fortress: “Where Charity and Love Prevail ;” “Love That Found Me;” “Three Holy Days.”

Due to copyright restrictions, we are only able to provide downloadable hymns that are in the public domain and selected hymns for limited use. Other suggestions provided above may be found in Evangelical Lutheran Worship. To purchase copies of Evangelical Lutheran Worship and All Creation Sings for the home, visit the Augsburg Fortress website or call 1-800-328-4648. Selected hymns from All Creation Sings will be provided for limited use.

Reflection text: Gordon Lathrop. Intercessory Prayer: Gail Ramshaw

Portions from Evangelical Lutheran Worship, All Creation Sings, and sundaysandseasons.com © 2021 Augsburg Fortress. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Readings from Readings for the Assembly © 1995, 1996, 1997 Augsburg Fortress. Citations from the Revised Common Lectionary © 1992 Consultation on Common Texts. Scripture quotations from NRSV Bible, Copyright © 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America, adapted and edited with permission by Gordon Lathrop and Gail Ramshaw.

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