Maundy Thursday Thoughts

 

On Maundy Thursday, we think of Jesus’ instituting the Lord’s Supper during the Passover meal in the upper room.

But the Gospel of John records some other events during the meal.

Jesus washed the disciples’ feet.  Ambrose, the fourth century bishop of Milan wrote,

“Jesus, I wish you would let me wash your feet, since it was through walking about in me that you soiled them.  I wish you would give me the task of wiping the stains from your feet, because it was my behavior that put them there.  But where can I get the running water I need to wash your feet?  If I have no water, at least I have tears.”

 

Jesus said: “You are my friends, if you do what I command you.  No longer do I call you servants.”  “This is my commandment, that you love one another.”

An African-American spiritual responds:

I tol’ Jesus it would be all right,

if he changed my name.

Jesus tol’ me I would have to live humble,

if he changed my name.

Jesus tol’ me that the world would be ‘gainst me,

If he changed my name.

But I tol’ Jesus it would be all right-

If he changed my name.

 

This year the Passover falls during the same week as Holy Week.

Philo, the first century Jewish writer from Alexandria, Egypt wrote: The beginning of the Passover is half-way through the month, the fourteenth day, when the moon is at its full, to show that there is no darkness on this day, but that it is full of light, the sun shining from the dawn to the evening, and the moon from the evening to the dawn.

 

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Name Changes

 

What if your name was: Etiasethevas; or Asebas?  Doesn’t mean much, does it? Well, those are descriptions of us in Romans 5:6.  In English your name would be Stillweak, and Ungodly. Who would want such names?  As we read on in Romans 5:6-11, we find other names,  Etiamartolos – Stillsinner (v. 8) and Echthros – Enemy.

However, St. Paul writes that even while we carried those names and behaved accordingly, “Christ died for us.”  Now we can carry the name, Dikaiothentes – Justified or Sothasometha – Saved (v.9).  In verse 10 and 11 is another name, Katallagentes – Reconciled.

What a difference a day makes.  As you approached your baptism, you were named, Stillweak, Ungodly, Stillsinner and Enemy.  After the pastor applied the water and the word of baptism, you left behind the old names having been renamed, Justified, Saved, and Reconciled.

That name change happened because of a couple of other days that made a difference, the day Jesus died and the day he arose from the dead.

God Promotes a Failure

 

Sometimes we hear of a CEO who failed in his responsibility to grow the corporation.  But what happens, sometimes that person is promoted or at least gets a golden parachute.  That’s what God did with the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 49:1-7

Isaiah wants the ends of the earth to hear what God did even when he considered himself a failure.  God had chosen him from before he was born to be his special servant. But…

49:4 “I put in all this demanding work; for what?  Nothing!  I haven’t accomplished anything.  I’m going put my situation in the Lord’s hands and see what reward he has in store for me.”

49:6 – The Lord said, “What I gave you to do, to bring back my people to me, that was too easy.  You need a bigger job. I’m going to make you my light to the nations.  You will be responsible to save people all over the world.”

Those are not only words which might encourage us when we think it’s all been for nothing.  But the epistle for the Tuesday of Holy Week, I Corinthians 1: 18-31, tells of what appeared to be God’s biggest failure in choosing Jesus Christ to be the Savior. He ended up dying on the cross.  But Paul says, the crucifixion of Jesus is his most powerful message.  Rather than a lost cause, Jesus’ crucifixion is the wisest and most powerful thing God ever did.  Though the word of the cross is foolishness and weakness to some to those who believe it is salvation.  if believers in Christ want something to boast about, boast about what Jesus did for all the people of the world.

 

Monday of Passion Week, 2017

 

We have two ears and one mouth, use them according, we are told.  But I suspect, we would rather have other people use their two ears to hear what my mouth has to say.

Isaiah, 50:4 The Lord has given me the tongue of those who are taught…Morning by morning he awakens my ear to hear…

But if we continue to read vs. 4-9, we learn that it’s not only his ears and tongue which the Servant employs in service to the Lord in sustaining the weary.  He engages his full body in service.  He didn’t turn his back on the Lord, but turned it toward his abusers, toward the bullies.  He offers his back to the scourger.  He offers his cheeks to those who will grab his beard and pull out fistfuls of hair.  He will endure the humiliation of spittle running down his face.

Through all the humiliating insult and abuse, he will not curse torturers.  The Servant knows that God knows that he is innocent.  When God knows I’m innocent, who will find me guilty.

No wonder we think of Jesus when we read these verses.  The reading could well have included vs. 11, But all of you light fires and arm yourselves with flaming torches.  So, walk in your own light and among the torches you have lit. So it was among those who arrived in the garden on Thursday night to arrest him.

Verse 10 calls us to trust in the same God as our Savior. Let those who walk in darkness and have no light trust the name of the Lord and depend upon their God.

The Parable of the Sower

From Parables and Portraits, by Stephen Mitchell

A sower went forth to sow.  Some of his seeds fell upon stony .places.  Centuries passed; millennia.  And the seeds remained.  And the stones crumbled and became good soil, and the seeds brought forth fruit.

“Wait a minute,” said one listener.  “You can’t play fast and loose that way with natural facts.  The seeds would die long before the soil could receive them.”

“Why should they die?”

“Because they can’t hold out in stony places, for thousands of years.”

“But, my dear, what kind of seeds do you think we’re talking about?”

It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than That

 

Yesterday evening I emailed my younger brother, Wayne, and told him I had spent the afternoon working on my bible class material while watching the Twins play Kansas City on MLB and the Cardinals play the Cubs on FSM.  Wayne emailed back, that it doesn’t get any better than that to spend an afternoon that way.

His comment led me to think of Tevye, of “Fiddler on the Roof.”  One of the things he could do, if he were a rich man, would be to enjoy life and spend every day in the synagogue discussing the things of God.  Compared to the Russian Jews depicted in the musical we are rich.  We are rich in the wealth of God’s grace and we are economically rich in comparison.  We have shalom – God’s peace and well-being.

This morning along with 15 other mostly retired men we will gather around a table at church and spend 90 minutes in the Word.  The Word we study this morning is, fittingly, Paul’s great resurrection chapter of I Corinthians.

As we enter Holy Week on Sunday we have ample opportunity to enjoy Teyve’s dream to not only spend time in the Word, but to spend time with fellow believers in worshipping our Lord as we travel along with Jesus from his triumphant entry into Jerusalem through dark Friday to the light Resurrection Day on Sunday.

So, we will pray on Sunday, “Almighty and everlasting God, You sent Your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, to take upon Himself our flesh and to suffer death upon the cross.  Mercifully grant that we may follow the example of His great humility and patience and be made partakers of His resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Until Christ returns, it doesn’t get any better than that.

The Seasons of God’s Will

 

Flannery O’Connor wrote: The world said, “love cuts like the cold wind, and the will of God is plain as the winter.  Where is the summer will of God?  Where are the green seasons of God’s will?  Where is the spring and summer of God’s will?”

Is O’Connor saying that the will of God is cold as judgment?  I’m not sure.  But when it comes to the spring and summer of God’s will, a letter in our local Thursday “throw away” paper that landed on my lawn answers that.

Mary Fitzgerald responded to a previous letter which portrayed Christianity as a proponent of judgment, small-mindedness and hate.  Mary wrote: “Christ’s message is clear.  He came into our world in its brokenness.”

The spring and summer and green season of God’s will arrives when Jesus goes to the cross, suffers, dies, is buried and rises again to new and unending life.  Then God’s will is as plain as winter as our sins, which are as red as his shed blood, will be wiped out leaving us as white as snow.

 

The Seasons of God’s Will

 

Flannery O’Connor wrote: The world said, “love cuts like the cold wind, and the will of God is plain as the winter.  Where is the summer will of God?  Where are the green seasons of God’s will?  Where is the spring and summer of God’s will?”

Is O’Connor saying that the will of God is cold as judgment?  I’m not sure.  But when it comes to the spring and summer of God’s will, a letter in our local Thursday “throw away” paper that landed on my lawn answers that.

Mary Fitzgerald responded to a previous letter which portrayed Christianity as a proponent of judgment, small-mindedness and hate.  Mary wrote: “Christ’s message is clear.  He came into our world in its brokenness.”

The spring and summer and green season of God’s will arrives when Jesus goes to the cross, suffers, dies, is buried and rises again to new and unending life.  Then God’s will is as plain as winter as our sins, which are as red as his shed blood, will be wiped out leaving us as white as snow.

 

We Preach Christ Crucified

 

“For in the wisdom of God, the world through its wisdom

did not know Him, God was pleased, through the foolishness

of what was preached, to save those who believe!”

1 Corinthians 1

April 5, 2017

To scholars, with their learning made more dense,

The Gospels’ wild accounts just don’t make sense.

Cruel Pilate was no vacillating fool.

And Herod would have seized the chance to rule!

 

The Pharisees unjustly are maligned.

The tax-oppressed were far from good and kind.

This rebel Jesus, all for His own cause,

Preached fables, upset tables and the laws.

 

To unbelieving, self-achieving men,

The wisdom of the world has won again!

And many souls for whom the Savior died

Are ridiculed, dismissed, and vilified!

Still, let them rant and rave and waste their breath.

The Savior still has saved the world from death.

+

The Christian truth-exactor still will find

 A Savior for himself and all mankind!

A brother pastor in St. Louis wrote the above in response to the PBS program, “The last Days of Jesus.

Personally, I never watch those “Bible programs.”

 

 

 

Benedict the African, Confessor

 

Benedict was born to freed African slaves in 1526 on the island of Sicily.  Though poor and illiterate, he worked for meager wages until he could by a pair of oxen with which he could work the soil.  As a young man, he joined a group hermits.  When the bishop of Rome ordered all hermits to attach themselves to a religious community, Benedict joined the Franciscan order.  He served as a cook in the friary.  Because he was a confessor (one who heard confessions of sin and granted absolution) who dealt with people in a humble and patient manner, he was named as the Superior of the community.  After his term, he returned to the friary kitchen.  He is a patron saint of African Americans; remembered for his patience and understanding when confronted with racial prejudice and taunts.

He died on April 4, 1589.

Benedict practiced what Martin Luther called the “mutual conversation and consolation of brothers and sisters.”  This may have been based on a monastic practice of mutual confession and absolution given by a neighbor or friend.

In the Smalcald articles, Martin Luther wrote in 1537 concerning the gospel in article 4.

“The gospel gives guidance and help against sin, “first, through the spoken word, in which the forgiveness of sins is preached to the whole world; second, through baptism, through the holy sacrament of the altar; fourth, through the power of the keys and also through the mutual conversation and consolation of brothers and sisters.”  Luther cites Matthew 18 “where two or three are gathered…