Engaging Maundy Thursday through Easter with Families

Excerpt from Good Dirt: Lent, Holy Week, and Eastertide...

Maundy Thursday

Seasonal Fun:

Maundy Thursday begins the second part of Holy Week, and with it comes a shift in focus. Its name comes from the Last Supper, when Jesus declares, “A new commandment I give to you: love one another.” At this point in Holy Week, we no longer prepare; we are instead immersed. We don’t think to the future; we live in the present. We slow and quiet our lives and our homes so that we can focus on Jesus.

Choose one or two of the following practices:

  • »  Remove everything but the cross and the Christ candle from the Family Altar.

  • »  Turn off the TV and keep it off until Sunday. If you can, do the same for computers and unnecessary phones.

  • »  Read the account of the Last Supper together as a family.

  • »  Begin dinner with the “highest ranking” family member washing everyone’s hands. (You can do feet if you want; in our culture washing hands before dinner is customary.)

  • »  Attend a Passover Seder meal; this is the traditional Jewish ritual meal that we believe Jesus was celebrating at the Last Supper. Ask around: there are often people in the community who like to include others.


    Reflect on the Following:

    Till: Jesus, thank you for your body and your blood that you gave for us. Help us to remember that when we eat and drink of you, we will never hunger or thirst again.

    Plant: John 13:1-35

  • Water:

  • »  Receive it: When did someone serve you today?

  • »  Serve it: When could you serve another person today?

Weed: When did you share Jesus today through serving? When did you receive Jesus today by being served?

Good Friday

Seasonal Fun:

Good Friday is the saddest day of the church year. It is the day that hope dies. We are tempted to let our minds skip to Sunday, but we must resist. Easter can only be birthed from death. So we as a family sit in our sadness on this day. We lean into the pain and suffering of Jesus. On this day our faith is tried. Could we—would we follow Jesus to the cross? Is our love and devotion to him strong enough to walk with him through the valley of the shadow of death?

  • »  Read the account of the crucifixion as a family (today’s reading).

  • »  Invite the family to wear black to signify mourning for the dead Christ.

  • »  If your family doesn’t normally make the sign of the cross, try it today. When we make the sign of the cross we give all of ourselves to God, we accept the salvation of the cross for all the parts of us, and we also remember that all parts of us must die in order to live. Using the tips of your fingers, begin by touching your forehead, then your chest. Touch the front of one shoulder and then the other. Make it slowly and carefully each time you pray today. As you make the sign think about Jesus’ dying for the whole of us: our minds (forehead), our hearts (chest), and our bodies (shoulders). Explain the sign and his death to your children.

  • »  At 3 P.M. today, blow out the Christ candle as a sign of Jesus’ death.


    Reflect on the following:

    Till: We can’t say “thank you” enough for dying for us. Help us, Lord Jesus. Give us the strength, the love, and the devotion, to follow you wherever you may lead. We cannot do it by ourselves.

Plant: John 19:19-42


  • »  Imagine it: What was the most difficult thing to imagine about today’s reading?

  • »  Share it: Which person do you most identify with?

    Weed: When did you make the sign of the cross today? What did it mean to you? Where would be the most difficult place Jesus could lead you? How can you prepare to follow him anywhere?

    Holy Saturday

    We have no reading on Holy Saturday. It is a day where the silence of God is deafening. It’s a day where we go ahead and give up—give up striving for more or better. The struggle to die to ourselves that we have practiced all through Lent, finally gets its death blow on this day. Here the paradox comes into full bloom: though we know Easter is coming, in the silence and solitude of a dead Christ hope is lost. Don’t try to skate through Holy Saturday with distractions, or false hope. Avoid preparing for Easter celebration today. The only way to get to Easter (or resurrection) life is through this “dark night of the soul.”

  • »  Do not light the Christ candle today.

  • »  Children, especially, will feel the sadness and emptiness of this day. They may even cry. Let them and cry with them. They may not be able to verbally express what they know to be true: their Jesus has died. They are sad, and so they mourn.

  • »  Tell the children about how people were buried long ago. Tell them how Mary and Martha would have gathered up strips of cloth and herbs and oil to prepare Jesus’ body to be buried. Gather a basket with strips of cloth (or let them unwind a roll of toilet paper), oil or perfume, and some herbs. Mary and Martha were not able to prepare the body of Jesus this day because of the Sabbath, but inviting children into the act of preparation helps them express grief.

» Use a baby doll, toilet paper, and a cardboard box. Invite the children to imagine that the doll is Jesus, then have them help you wrap the body and put it in the box.


Easter is the day our lives are changed forever. Nothing, absolutely nothing will ever be the same. But for many of us Easter is as mundane as Tuesday’s Twinkies. We put on clothes we hate, hunt eggs we will never eat, and yawn through the Easter service. It wasn’t always this way. Easter is Christianity’s oldest celebration. It began with the day Jesus rose from death, and the celebration hasn’t stopped! Long before the church celebrated Christmas, we celebrated Easter. Easter should never play second fiddle to Christmas. We have Christmas because of Easter; Easter is the reason we celebrate Christmas. The Bread of Life conquered death—that’s the best news there is!

As we’ve been journeying with Jesus this year, we have heard over and over again his teaching about the Kingdom of God. We’ve seen him claim to know God in a unique, one-of-a-kind way in the Gospel of John; we’ve watched as he heals and forgives and loves. And at Easter, we get the best news of all—this Kingdom life is the real deal! By overcoming death itself, Jesus proves that the with-God life simply cannot be held down! So as we set out to imitate his life, we can have confidence and joy that Jesus’ abundant life truly is the best life. From the drab, cold winter days of Lent to the dark sadness of Holy Saturday, the question is raised—how can any joy come out of such loss and sadness? Easter answers: God’s power and life is so strong that it can go through death and come out victorious the other side!

The color of Eastertide is the same as for Christmastide: white, for the purity of Christ. Eastertide is a total celebration of life, and conveniently for us it occurs in the springtime, when life is bursting forth.

Ways to Celebrate the “Burstings”

  • »  Find a farm you can visit to play with the baby animals. Talk with the children about God, the creator of life, and his goodness. Talk about the resurrection of the earth from winter’s death.

  • »  When you’re in the car, or going from here to there, invite the children to help you look for signs of new life.

  • »  Fill your house with flowers. Let the children water the flowers, and explain how they are participating in giving life to the flowers. Talk about the ways we can give life to living things.

    Family Altar Suggestions for Eastertide

  • »  Replace the purple cloth with a white one, the color of Eastertide.

  • »  Light the Christ candle at your Easter Vigil or on Easter morning, and

    keep it lit whenever you are around.

  • »  Add prayers for Eastertide to your prayer box. The book Poems and

    Prayers for Easter by Sophia Piper is a good resource.

  • »  Add wild flowers or an Easter Lily.

  • »  Find your Alleluia Banner and hang it over the Altar.

*For more resources celebrating the full seven weeks of Easter, check out Good Dirt: Lent, Holy Week and Eastertide.