Maundy Thursday Liturgy 2023

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Jump to Content:
Course 1: Preparation & Starter
Course 2: Blessing & Main Course
Communion & Confession
Course 3: Burial & Dessert



Maundy Thursday, often referred to as the Last Supper, is an opportunity for us to remember the last meal Jesus shared with his disciples. The word “maundy” is derived from the Latin for “command”; at this meal, Jesus commanded his disciples to “love one another as I have loved you”. The love he calls them (and us) to isn’t passive or weak - rather, Jesus invites us to a love that upends expectations, oppression, and death of all kinds. Remembering Christ and one another in this love is an invitation to renewal for the sake of the world.

This Maundy Thursday we encourage you to gather some friends or family over a meal to commemorate Jesus’s Last Supper and his parting words to his disciples before his ensuing arrest and execution. The prompts and script provided here will guide you through a three-course meal (starter, main course, dessert) that includes pauses for reflection questions, readings, a time of communion, and meaningful interactions with those around the table. If you will be the one hosting the gathering, read through the script beforehand so that you know what to expect and so that you can guide the progress of the meal without surprises or confusion. Please note, all Scripture passages are taken from the NIV translation unless otherwise noted.

Your gathering will consist of a Preparation, Blessing, and Burial. The Bible passage that we’ll focus on describes a woman who, two days before the Passover (and Jesus’s Last Supper), pours out expensive perfume on Jesus’s head. She anoints him like a prophet would have anointed a king (see 1 Samuel 16). His disciples are frustrated with this act - it’s wasteful in their eyes! But as we’ve discovered throughout the Gospel of Mark, even Jesus’s disciples can’t understand what Jesus is up to. It’s been the people who are weak and vulnerable in this world who can see Jesus for who he is - Messiah, King, Son of God. In essence, the woman with perfume is blessing him in this extravagant act. This blessing strengthens and encourages Jesus towards his eventual death and burial, which we’ll mark together on Good Friday.

Supplies & Instructions

You'll need the following:

  • A place to eat a meal together.
  • Something to eat. Get creative! Instead of just one person providing the food for the meal, consider sharing the responsibility. If you follow this liturgy directly, you’ll need three courses: Starter, Main Course, and Dessert. You can adapt for your context as needed.
  • Something to write on. Post-it notes, note cards, or other pieces of paper for writing or drawing. Make sure that each person has at least as many pieces of paper as participants at the meal. For example, if you have 10 people, every person needs 10 cards.
  • Oil for Blessing. This can be olive oil, coconut oil, or you can find anointing oil with frankincense and myrrh online.
  • Communion Supplies: Typically, some sort of bread or cracker, and wine or grape juice.
  • Prepare for the Readings: Throughout this script, there will be sections for reading Scripture, poems, and prayers. As a group, decide how you want to read them- they don’t have to be read by the same person every time! Maybe you want to take turns reading line by line or have each person read one section. Note that there are some sections that ask for multiple readers. It will be helpful if each participant has their own copy of the liturgy, either in paper or digital form.


Once your supplies and people are gathered, you are ready to begin. Start with a prayer to set the tone and prepare yourselves spiritually.


Invite your participants to pray this together, with one person leading and the rest responding:

LEADER: A table is set before us. A feast is prepared for us.
PEOPLE: A meal of blessing and burial.
LEADER: The Lord calls us to this supper of remembrance.
PEOPLE: The Lord calls us to serve and to be served.
LEADER: As we break the bread and share the cup,
PEOPLE: our understanding may fail us.
LEADER: But we will never forget Christ’s example.
PEOPLE: We will never forget the full extent of his love.

Adapted from Ministry Matters, 2015

Mark 14:1-11

Read this text aloud:

Now the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were scheming to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. “But not during the festival,” they said, “or the people may riot.”

While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.

Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.

“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over.

Course 1: Preparation


Begin your meal with a starter course (appetizer, salad, etc.).


As you eat, answer the following question(s) together:

  • The woman in this text blesses Jesus extravagantly. Can you think of a time in your life when someone blessed you?
  • Kid-friendly question: What does it mean to bless or be blessed?

Course 2: Blessing

Before beginning the second (main) course, pause and do the Read, Reflect and Bless prompts.


Read Psalm 103 aloud:

Let all that I am praise the Lord; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name. Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s! The Lord gives righteousness and justice to all who are treated unfairly. He revealed his character to Moses and his deeds to the people of Israel. The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever. He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.


Answer the following question(s) together:

  • What stands out to you about God’s character in this text? How does God bless people?
  • Kid-friendly question: What do you think God is like?


In this Psalm, we hear about how we can offer praise and blessing to God- and how God blesses us with love! In Mark, we saw how the woman blessed Jesus with oil- she cared for him, without expecting anything in return, and reminded him who he was.

Before you eat the main course, take time to write or draw pictures of a blessing that you would like to give to each of the other folks at the table with you.

Consider the people sitting with you today. How are their lives a blessing to you or to others?

Maybe this is a way someone cares for you, makes you laugh, or encourages you. Can you be specific? For example, Pastor Brian blesses Pastor Meghan by sending her encouraging text messages and praying for her when she feels lonely.

Even if you’ve only just met someone else at the table, this is an opportunity to encourage them with something you’ve learned about them in your short time together so far.

Spend about 10 minutes doing this. After you’ve finished, hand the cards or pieces of paper to each intended recipient.

Allow everyone time to read their cards. You may choose to read them silently or you may want to take a few minutes and invite each person to share one blessing to read aloud or show to everyone else. Allow time for anyone to offer thanks to others for the blessings received, if they feel led to do so.

Optional: Anoint each other with oil, in an echo of the woman who anointed Jesus. A simple way to do this is to put a small amount of oil on your finger (SMALL! It will drip down if you don’t just dab it). Use it to make the sign of the cross on their forehead, and say, “You are God’s beloved child, beautifully and wonderfully made.”

Main Course

Eat your main course together!


After the main course has concluded, prepare the communion elements.

LEADER (read aloud): We’ve been reminded of God’s goodness, and reminded one another of how God is at work in each of us. And yet, like the disciples, we too forget the blessing of who Jesus is, to us, and to the world. We gather at this sacred meal to remember together.


Read Mark 14:12-16 aloud

On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’s disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?” So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.”

The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover. When evening

came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me— one who is eating with me.” They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely you don’t mean me?” “It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body. ”Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it. “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. “Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God.”

When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Confession + Assurance of Forgiveness

LEADER (read aloud): Too often we can be like the disciple who thinks they’re always right and always faithful, forgetting that only God is perfectly righteous and faithful. We forget that our worth comes from who God says we are, instead of what we can do or accomplish. We are like the disciple who believes we’ll never betray God, and yet we constantly forget to love God and love our neighbor. Let’s take time now to confess the ways we have forgotten.


Read this prayer poem at your table:

"Surely Not I?" by Steve Garnaas-Holmes

Surely. I would never betray you, never deny you.

give me the faith to doubt
       my righteousness.

Give me the assurance to question,
to examine myself honestly,
       to ask.

Give me the confidence to wonder
how I might betray your perfect love,
       to see.

Give me grace to confess
how my promises are broken, my heart

Give me the peace to be troubled
by my smugness,
       and repent.

Open my eyes to see that you see,
you know, and knowing, you keep right on
       eating with me.


Bring out the communion elements at this time. The group will ask a question, and then one person will respond.

PEOPLE: What do we remember at this table?
LEADER: We remember Jesus, God's child.
PEOPLE: Why do we eat bread at this table?
LEADER: Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it and gave it to his friends. He said, “Take, eat; this is my body, given for you.”
PEOPLE: Why do we share the cup at this table?
LEADER: Jesus gave them the cup as the promise that our sins are forgiven. He said, "This is my blood, poured out for you, marking you as the people of God."
LEADER: Let us pray. Gracious God, send your Holy Spirit to be with us and upon these your gifts, that the bread we break and the cup which we bless may remind us that we belong to God always and everywhere. Amen.

Take time to serve one another the communion elements.

Course 3: Burial

Before beginning dessert, have one person read this aloud, or take time to read this quietly to yourselves:


We read that the woman blessed Jesus like a prophet anointing a king, but Jesus said that this blessing was in preparation for his burial.

Tomorrow, on Good Friday, we’ll wrestle with God, like Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane, with the things in our life that might need to be buried, too. Jesus will continue to follow God’s plan for his life, even though the text reminds us that it wasn’t what he wanted (Mark 14:35-36)! We will grieve with Jesus, knowing that there is hope on the other side of this burial. But often, when we are confronted with the ways we want something different than God’s plan for us in our lives, we feel shame not grief.

But Jesus knew who he was. He was God’s beloved (Mark 1:11). So he didn’t feel shame about bringing his heart and desires to God - even if he knew he would have to die to them. Perhaps he knew that on the other side wasn’t just going to be a full life for him- but full life for all.

We’ll spend time now sharing some of the things that we feel God might be asking us to bury in our lives. Maybe an old dream, or a career goal. Maybe there’s a relationship with another person or with a community that God is asking you to end. Maybe it’s a way you want to selfishly protect yourself, instead of being vulnerable. Spend time with God processing some of these things, and then if you want to, share them with your group.

Then, between today and tomorrow, on the other side of one of the blessing cards you received, write down what you need to bury. Know you can bring these things to God, trusting them to God’s care, and to a promise of new life.


After everyone has written or drawn something on the back of one of their blessing cards, offer the prayer below, and then take time to enjoy dessert together.


Offer this prayer out loud: “There is sweetness that comes from releasing things that need to be buried into the hands of God. We thank you, God, for this gift.”

Bring the blessing card on which you also wrote what needs to be buried in your life to Good Friday service, wherever you’ll be worshiping.


Before your group leaves for the night, have one person offer this sending to the group:

Whatever death the Spirit has brought you to:
walk in boldness, as a beloved child of God
walk in peace, under the shelter of the Most High
walk in faith, knowing Christ walks with you, bringing new life out of death.
The blessings of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be with you.