Ted Loder, eloquent preacher, fierce advocate for justice, long-time minister of the First United Methodist Church in Germantown, and my beloved step-father, died on Thursday, April 1, 2021. Ted always encouraged us to watch for the “sneakiness of God,” to notice how the mysterious presence of holiness encounters us in our everyday life with one another.
Ted died at 10:15pm on Maundy Thursday, which this year fell on April Fool’s day. Seems something sneaky is going on here; and I imagine he would smile knowing I am trying to write my way through the tears that flow easily now, on Easter morning, to discern the mystery of it. The sun has risen, and he is no longer here to celebrate it with us.
“Maundy” is short for the Latin “mandatum,” which means commandment. So Maundy Thursday, or “Thursday of Mysteries,” which was the day Jesus washed the feet of his of his disciples after celebrating his final Passover meal, recalls this passage from the Gospel of John 13:34:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
In reading this passage this Easter morning, I was called back to a moment to which I have regularly returned. It was shortly after I had started college, and ideas were alive to me in new and urgent ways. Ted and I were talking, as we often did, about the deeper meaning of life as we headed out on some errand or another. In my memory, he was standing on the stairs in the house in which I grew up and I was getting our coats from the closet. He stopped me and said: “The deepest truth of life is relational.”
When I read again the “new command” we are asked to consider on Maundy Thursday — “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” — I thought how fitting, and how sneaky, it is for Ted to have died on the day our attention is called to this commandment. It is as if he is reminding us: life is relational, love one another. This was his parting sermon — when he could no longer speak, in dying on this day, he showed us how to live.
In some mysterious and joyous way, Maundy Thursday fell this year on April Fool’s day. Ted loved to laugh … and he had a great and boisterous laugh.