Jennie Barber —  April 17, 2014

JBarberThey flood the shelves of your local supermarket this time of year in all their fluorescent, sugary glory. You can throw them in the microwave and impress kids with your party tricks. But what do Peeps marshmallow chicks (and bunnies) have to do with Holy Week? The truth—absolutely nothing.

Every time I see Peeps I’m reminded of one of my dear friends from seminary. I picture the two of us posing for a photograph, bright blue Peeps in our mouths. She’s excited to eat hers momentarily; I’m ready to spit mine out ASAP. And as I think about my friend, I think about our small group. Every week we would gather, to pray, to laugh, to cry, to encounter scripture through meditation rather than exegesis, and to reflect on the work of God in our lives. Much has happened to each one of us since our days as seminarians—cross-country moves, new relationships, family struggles. But wherever and however God leads us, I know these women are my people. At the risk of being cheesy, I guess you could say they are my “peeps”.

Today is Maundy Thursday. This day of Holy Week on which we remember Jesus’ celebration of the Passover with his disciples finds me thinking about those in my life who have been my “dear companions” (John 13:1 The Message). Truthfully, I’ve often glossed over Maundy Thursday, relegating it to the second runner up position in terms of “important” days in Holy Week. I’ve missed out on something significant. Jesus spends some of his last time on earth with his dear companions, those he calls friends (John 15:15). Before he faces trial and crucifixion, Jesus sits at the table with his people. Community is part of the narrative that leads to the cross and the resurrection. And the community we read about on Maundy Thursday isn’t shiny and perfect. This group sitting around the table with Jesus is full of people who make mistakes, argue, say the wrong thing, and get confused (over and over). Jesus doesn’t avoid this broken community. He washes their feet and breaks bread with them.

In our world today, it seems like we are more connected than ever. We’re linked to hundreds of “friends” and “followers”. Community is ours to experience—or is it? Do we experience the type of community that lets us be real, messy, and broken? Are we too afraid someone might see through our filters and discover who we truly are? Maundy Thursday invites us to think about these questions.

Tonight, many of us will gather as worshipping communities to hear the story of Jesus and his friends. Maybe it will be just one more service. But maybe it will be a time to reflect on the gift of community and give thanks.

Jennie Barber

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Jennie is currently serving as the Associate Pastor at Rivermont Presbyterian Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She is a wife, mother, lover of Asian food, and a pastor seeking to be a faithful disciple of Jesus.