Archive for the ‘Holy Week’ Category

Good Grief

Saturday of Holy Week Reflection

Photo taken by Christopher Michel.

Matthew 27:55-66. (Click here to read the full text.)

Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive,
“After three days I will rise again.” 
Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day….

Numb. Wobbly. Dread carried like a stone in the gut. These are just some of the ways grief manifests itself.

Jesus’ followers must have felt the weight of grief after the worst thing they never imagined had happened. Although the Sabbath was a required day of worship, they were no doubt distracted all day. Jesus had been their teacher but also their friend. He had been their rabbi but also their hope for the Messiah. Now Jesus was reduced to “had been,” past tense, their hope entombed.

Without knowing it, the day grief settles into a human heart things begin to change. Priorities shift. Hopes fade only to reappear in unexpected places. Where we find meaning either settles deeper into what and who we have known already, or it takes up new residences and turns to see fresh faces. Grief is an unfamiliar emotion that makes all things ahead seem even more unpredictable.

On this Saturday when the followers and family of Jesus were only starting to keep the vigil of grief, we know that they were unknowingly preparing their hearts for an unimagined grace. But don’t shortcut the virtue of silence and prayers of anguish. God hears these too. Even their distress displays trust in God albeit of a different kind. Their complaints are a call to God for help.

While Jesus’ followers are grieving, the officials want to ensure Jesus’ death. They seal the tomb and place a guard to watch. It is up to those in charge to make sure that Jesus stays dead. It serves as another display of the arrogance in thinking that human authority has the right to control life and death. No, that role is not for the family that grieves or the government that kills. Life can only be given, either in this creation or the heavenly realm, by God. In the weight and silence of grief, this statement of faith is what gives us strength to await yet another day and whatever it may bring. What we need is comfort, and the nearness of God in our grief. What is to come is beyond us, but if we admit it, there may yet remain a smolder of hope that is not yet extinguished. One day it may flame into light. May that day come soon, O Lord. May faith become sight. May death bring new life. Only in you, O Lord, do we dare hope.        

Reflection Questions

  • If, or when, we are grieving, what gives us hope?

Prayer. O Lord, may you give me sure faith that I shall know your goodness in all ways and days of life, today and forever. Amen

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Suffering Love

Friday of Holy Week Reflection

Photo taken by h.guenda.

John 18 – 19:42. (Click here for the full text.)

My kingdom is not from this world.
If my kingdom were from this world,
my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over ….
For this I was born, and for this I came into the world,
to testify to the truth.
Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

We tend to fancy the dramatic, the pageantry, the show. That’s probably why we love Palm Sunday. Waving palm branches in the air while shouting, “Hosanna!” and “Hallelujah!” Imagining the Messiah riding into town, how do you feel?  Invincible? Like, “we’re the winners”?  Or “we made it”?

We celebrate that Jesus is our Savior. He has come to save us from the evil one who brings chaos to the world. We praise him as the only One able to set everything at peace, even loud stormy weather. Here is the One who can defeat the evil one. Of course it will be a struggle. Haven’t you seen those apocalyptic movies? Read those apocalyptic books? It will be a battle like none other, between the forces of darkness and light. A violent conflict is coming in which the appointed of God will overthrow evil and usher in a new age for the world. 

Ah, but the gospel reading today forces us to step back and away from this kind of drama. Can you believe that the only “military” order recorded in the Bible that Jesus ever gave was to Peter. Jesus said to him in John 18:11, “Put your sword back in its sheath.”  And look at what Jesus tells Pilate in today’s reading. “If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over…” 

If we truly believe what Jesus said that day to Pilate as he faced death by crucifixion, then all that blood and wrath, all that cataclysmic storytelling, all that final battle stuff, well it might resonant with many, but Jesus desires a better truth for us. Jesus brings about the reign of God by a suffering love that has no whip. Therefore, “Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Consider this ….

  • What do you imagine the reign of God to look like?
  • What will it require to establish it?

Prayer. Dear Lord, keep our faith alive. Preserve our hope in you. Don’t let us get caught up in dramatic tales, but may our hearts and lives be faithful to your loving grace always. Amen.

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Serve Humbly

Thursday of Holy Week Reflection

Photo taken by Gill Poole.

John 13:1-17, 31b-35. (Click here to read the full text.)

“You call me Teacher and Lord–and you are right,
for that is what I am. 
So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet,
you also ought to wash one another’s feet.”

Throughout the first 80 years of Cullowhee Baptist Church (from 1821 until around 1900) the congregation met once a month, gathering on Saturday for business and Sunday for worship. They also had communion only once a year and it was always accompanied by footwashing.  We do not have details about how they did the footwashing but it’s not hard to imagine a small wooden church near the Tuckasegee, twenty or so bare-footed Baptists, and a good cold bucket of river water.

The story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet in the Gospel of John gave Jesus a chance to take a more common practice and give it new meaning for his followers. Walking in sandals through dirt streets left everyone’s feet in need of washing.  When guests arrived at a house for a meal, foot washing was necessary and showed respect for the people who were “reclining” at the table. Jesus is the one who takes a basin of water and a towel and washes the feet of all his apostles. Why did the others not take the responsibility first? It is likely they thought someone else, a servant perhaps, would wash their feet. It is no wonder, then, that they were surprised that Jesus did so. 

Because of this story, footwashing has become synonymous with two things in Christian practice: servanthood and reluctance.  Jesus gave it the servant motif when he sits down and explains to these disciples that “you also ought to wash one another’s feet,” and then adds, “just as I have done, you also must do.”

But if we’re honest, almost all of us are reluctant to wash someone else’s feet. And, it is likely, that we have the same reluctance to truly serve other people as their servants. We want to “volunteer” and then be recognized or thanked. We want to “make a difference” and then feel good about our contribution. These acts of care and giving are certainly part of being a Christian, but Jesus’ call to servanthood includes washing feet precisely because it reminds us that doing for others, even if we are reluctant, is more like Jesus than doing for others so that we will be praised.  

These verses for today end with Jesus’ more comfortable command: “Love each other just as I have loved you” (v. 34). But like serving one another, to love someone like Jesus may require we swallow our reluctance and love another person with no attention given to our own reward.  

Consider this ….

  • What are my motivations to serve and love?

Prayer.  Create in me a clean heart, O God, so that I may serve another with only their care and your love in mind. Amen.

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Wednesday of Holy Week Reflection

photo by Mikael Korhonen

John 13:21-32 (Click here for full text.)

After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared,
“Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.”

Our scripture readings are a little out of sequence today. Jesus says this to his followers after he washes their feet. Traditionally, Thursday of Holy Week is foot washing day. So we’ll read that story tomorrow. It would be arrogant of us not to mull over Jesus being betrayed this last week of his earthly life. He knew his time with them was short and unfortunately he has to point out to them that one of them will betray him. I’m always struck by the point that he calls out Judas, but he doesn’t stop Judas.

There’s a lot of ways you can spin Judas’ motivation for turning Jesus into the authorities. Maybe it was greed. We all have done some stupid things so we can make a dollar or two more. Or maybe he was tired of listening to Jesus and wanted to see some action. We too have wearied of hearing about how good and loving God is, but all these bad things seem to keep happening. We too want to see God in action. Were his actions a result of a sinful attitude or were they a result of ignorance? That we will never know. But either way, betrayal was a result of trying to go it Judas’ way, instead of Jesus’ way.

Judas no longer trusted Jesus to get the job done. Judas lost his confidence in Jesus. Judas gave up on Jesus. So he handed him over to the religious elite and the reigning government. He gave up.

As we continue to daily make the commitment to live the way of Jesus Christ, may we rise each morning eager to bring about God’s heavenly reign here on earth being sure to manage our enthusiasm by remaining confident in God’s love, hope, and mercy for the whole world.

Consider this….

  • What things tempt us to give up on trusting Jesus?
  • What can we do to encourage confidence in God so we do not betray God’s love for us?

Prayer.  Loving God, I regret the times that I have given up on you. When my heart hurts because I’ve lost or things haven’t gone the way I had hoped, please forgive me for lashing out at you. Restore me with a great love and appreciation for your grace, mercy, kindness, and faithfulness to me.  Amen.

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photo taken by Adam Blust

Tuesday of Holy Week Reflection

John 12:20-36 (Click here for full text.)

Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks.
They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him,
“Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 

Today is a good time to be reminded that Jesus and his disciples were in Jerusalem for the religious festival we call “Passover,” what Jesus would have properly known as the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Along with Jesus and his twelve apostles, literally thousands of others had come to the city for the festival from all around the Mediterranean regions. After all, festivals draw all kinds of folks from lots of different places. 

John tells us that a group of Greeks wanted to see Jesus. Perhaps they had become Jewish by conversion. We don’t know. Maybe they simply were attracted by the joy of the festival. Some people just like to be where the action is after all. Yet when they approach Philip, his hesitancy reveals his prejudice. They are Greeks, not Israelites. They are of a different race and culture. If Philip thinks Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, isn’t the Messiah here for the Israelite people first? Why would Jesus want to welcome a delegation of Greeks at the time of this important religious festival? 

Though hesitant, Philip takes advice and help from his brother Andrew and they tell Jesus about these Greeks. Jesus’ answer likely surprised Philip. God welcomes the unselfish whoever they are. God accepts anyone who follows Jesus and serves him. Yes, that is an unqualified anyone. And if they are committed to following Jesus and serving others, then God in heaven will honor them…even if they are Greek. 

As we move nearer to Jesus, our own prejudices are revealed. It is likely you know someone that in your mind God surely can’t love or accept. Why is this true? Because our tendency is to believe that God likes the people who are most like us. In the end, this certainty is a sin we should confess. After all, in a few days’ time, we will look to the cross of Jesus and profess that “God so loved the world.” And since “the world” that God loves includes all kinds of people, now is not the time to limit God’s forgiveness and love to just my favorite people.   

Consider this….

  • Who do I suspect because of their identity?
  • How can I genuinely confess this short-sightedness to God?

Prayer. God of the world, make my faith deep enough to see all people as welcome in your presence, and make my heart big enough to love everyone I meet along this path of life. Amen.

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Monday of Holy Week Reflection

Old little bottle with nards perfume
photo taken by Juan Antonio Segal

John 12:1-11. (Click here for the full text.)

Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard,
anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair.
The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

Take a moment to image the dinner party going on this evening. With Passover less than a week away, Jesus and his disciples are in Bethany. Jesus’ good friends, Lazarus, Mary, and Martha are hosting a dinner for him. Lazarus sits at the table eating with the rest of the guys. Martha is serving the meal. And Mary? Well, she’s at Jesus’ feet again, but this time she is anointing them.

The culture norms of that time meant Mary didn’t have a voice at the table. She was a woman. However, she can make a point or two through her actions. First, she anoints Jesus’ feet instead of his head. He has already been anointed by God to serve the world. Here she blesses his life of service to God and others. Secondly, she does this not before the meal, but during the meal. She is savvy. Here at the table is when she can find a captive audience to whom she can share her witness to Christ. Thirdly, she removes the perfume from Jesus’ feet by drying them.  Reminiscent of the actions of the prophets old, by removing the perfume she alludes to Jesus’ death.

When the world doesn’t afford you a voice to tell the story of the love of God we have come to know through Jesus Christ, you can still give witness to God’s amazing love through how you act and what you do (or don’t do). Most of the time people will remember this more than words. So bear this in mind, let your movements and actions add a fragrance to the world that brings God the glory and honor.

Consider this….

  • What actions point others to God’s love expressed through Jesus?

Prayer.  May the words of my mouth, the meditations of my heart, and the movements of my life be pleasing to you Lord. Amen.

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By Catedrales e Iglesias Album 2646

Today’s post is quite different from the others. There are two readings and a hymn as we embrace the full sorrow of this day when our Savior Jesus suffered death upon a cross. We offer no reflective words. We felt they would get in the way.  May we follow Christ’s great humility and the example of Christ’s patience. May the Lord bless and keep you.

Opening Words

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth should change…. (Psalm 46:1-2a)

Take a moment to pause and gather yourself for worship.

A Prayer of Petition

Psalm 22

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
and by night, but find no rest.

Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our ancestors trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried, and were saved;
in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.

But I am a worm, and not human;
scorned by others, and despised by the people.
All who see me mock at me;
they make mouths at me, they shake their heads;
“Commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver—
let him rescue the one in whom he delights!”

Yet it was you who took me from the womb;
you kept me safe on my mother’s breast.
On you I was cast from my birth,
and since my mother bore me you have been my God.
Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.

Many bulls encircle me,
strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
they open wide their mouths at me,
like a ravening and roaring lion.

I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
my mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.

For dogs are all around me;
a company of evildoers encircles me.
My hands and feet have shriveled;
I can count all my bones.
They stare and gloat over me;
they divide my clothes among themselves,
and for my clothing they cast lots.

But you, O Lord, do not be far away!
O my help, come quickly to my aid!
Deliver my soul from the sword,
my life from the power of the dog!
   Save me from the mouth of the lion!

From the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued me.
I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him;
stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
For he did not despise or abhor
the affliction of the afflicted;
he did not hide his face from me,
but heard when I cried to him.

From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
my vows I will pay before those who fear him.
The poor shall eat and be satisfied;
those who seek him shall praise the Lord.
May your hearts live for ever!

All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the Lord;
and all the families of the nations
shall worship before him.
For dominion belongs to the Lord,
and he rules over the nations.

To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down;
before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
and I shall live for him.
Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord,
and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn,
saying that he has done it.

The Gospel Reading

John 18:1-19:42

After Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. 2Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples. 3So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. 4Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, “For whom are you looking?” 5They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus replied, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. 6When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they stepped back and fell to the ground. 7Again he asked them, “For whom are you looking?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” 8Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.” 9This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken, “I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me.” 10Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus. 11Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

12So the soldiers, their officer, and the Jewish police arrested Jesus and bound him. 13First they took him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. 14Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people.

15Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, 16but Peter was standing outside at the gate. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who guarded the gate, and brought Peter in. 17The woman said to Peter, “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” 18Now the slaves and the police had made a charcoal fire because it was cold, and they were standing round it and warming themselves. Peter also was standing with them and warming himself.

19Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. 20Jesus answered, “I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. 21Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.” 22When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” 23Jesus answered, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?” 24Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

25Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They asked him, “You are not also one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” 26One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” 27Again Peter denied it, and at that moment the cock crowed.

28Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate’s headquarters. It was early in the morning. They themselves did not enter the headquarters, so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover. 29So Pilate went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” 30They answered, “If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” 31Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.” The Jews replied, “We are not permitted to put anyone to death.” 32(This was to fulfill what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death he was to die.)

33Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” 35Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” 36Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” 37Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” 38Pilate asked him, “What is truth?”

After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, “I find no case against him. 39But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover. Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” 40They shouted in reply, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a bandit.

19Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. 2And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. 3They kept coming up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and striking him on the face. 4Pilate went out again and said to them, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him.” 5So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!” 6When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him.” 7The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God.”

8Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever. 9He entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 10Pilate therefore said to him, “Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?” 11Jesus answered him, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” 12From then on Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor.”

13When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge’s bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in Hebrew Gabbatha. 14Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, “Here is your King!” 15They cried out, “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but the emperor.” 16Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.

So they took Jesus; 17and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. 18There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. 19Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. 21Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’”  22Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.” 23When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. 24So they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.” This was to fulfill what the scripture says,
“They divided my clothes among themselves,
and for my clothing they cast lots.”
25And that is what the soldiers did.

Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” 27Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

28After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” 29A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. 30When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

31Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. 32Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. 35(He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.) 36These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, “None of his bones shall be broken.” 37And again another passage of scripture says, “They will look on the one whom they have pierced.”

38After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. 39Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. 40They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. 41Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. 42And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

A Hymn to Sing or Read

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

Piano accompaniment with vocalist.

Piano accompaniment only.

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of Glory died
My richest gain I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride

See from His head, His hands, His feet
Sorrow and love flow mingled down
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine
That were a present far too small
Love so amazing, so divine
Demands my soul, my life, my all

Concluding Prayer for the Church

Save us, O Lord, when we are awake,
Keep us when we sleep.
Then we will wake in Christ and rest in peace. Amen.


Title: Crucifixion, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. [retrieved April 7, 2020].  Original source:,M%C3%A9xico.jpg. Artwork by is file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial ShareAlike 3.0 License.

The music was played by Tracy and sung by his friend, Emily.


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Opening Words

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth should change…. (Psalm 46:1-2a)

Take a moment to pause and gather yourself for worship.

A Prayer of Thanksgiving

Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19

I love the LORD, because he has heard
my voice and my supplications.
Because he inclined his ear to me,
therefore I will call on him as long as I live.

What shall I return to the LORD
for all his bounty to me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the LORD,
I will pay my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people.
Precious in the sight of the LORD
is the death of his faithful ones.
O LORD, I am your servant;
I am your servant, the child of your serving girl.
You have loosed my bonds.
I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice
and call on the name of the LORD.
I will pay my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people,
in the courts of the house of the LORD,
in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the LORD!

The Gospel Reading

John 13:1-17, 31b-35

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper 3Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. 6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 8Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” 9Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” 11For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.” 12After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 14So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

31When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”


Listen to Jeffrey and/or read below.

Today marks “Maundy Thursday.” I was unfamiliar with that term for a long time but have since come to associate it with the word “mandate.” “Maundy” and “mandate” not only sound alike, they are related like word cousins. Since “mandate” means command, today is the day we revisit the command that Jesus gave his disciples when he washed their feet. And as John renders the story in his gospel, this happened just before the death of Jesus on that providential Friday.

Jesus gave his disciples a mandate just before his arrest and crucifixion. In John’s gospel it reads like this: “14So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.”

Almost exactly 25 years ago this week, Tonya and I joined a couple of dozen students and a handful of faculty in the Mullins Lounge at Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY for a Maundy Thursday footwashing service. I had never been to a footwashing before and wasn’t sure what to expect. In that setting, with this same gospel reading from John we are using today, the atmosphere in the room turned quickly toward humility and servitude. As a wash basin of water made its way down the row of chairs, and one person after another scrambled to the floor to bathe the feet of their neighbor, a quick glance at the seating arrangements revealed that Molly was going to be washing Michael’s feet. Michael had been working on the facilities crew all day and still had on his muddy work boots. Molly was our beloved, respected, inspiring yet embattled professor of theology. With intention and care, and without a flinch at the grime on his feet, she took the fresh towel handed to her and cleaned his feet. Then Molly looked at him and said, “now you go and do the same to another.” Everyone in the room repeated this simple act. The person sitting beside us got down and washed our feet. They then looked up at us and said “go and do the same.” We immediately did what was asked of us as we turned to wash the feet of the next person. Then we had the chance to tell them to “go and do the same.”  In a literal sense, every person in that Maundy Thursday service both did what Jesus commanded and also asked another to follow Jesus in the same way.

Here is the heart of Maundy Thursday. Serve humbly and ask other Christians to do the same. It is a command that does not require a clear outcome or a calculated procedure. It is a requirement of discipleship that asks us to treat every person we encounter as worthy of our attention and our care. We cannot wash feet with pomp and ceremony. We cannot serve any person in this humble way without recognizing their innate human value to God and their worth in our eyes. Even as Jesus takes up his cross, we are still in need of taking up our towels.

Sometimes we are willing to wash the feet (speaking figuratively now) of the people we care about, or family members, or those who show promise of success or (even worse) who can help us in return. Yet if Jesus, their “Lord and Teacher,” could wash the feet of Judas who would betray him as well as Peter who was going to deny him along with the other ten disciples who would leave him to die alone, then we cannot be like Jesus if we fail to serve others.

The focus of this Jesus-commanded servanthood is always the person in front of us. While that sounds so obviously true, it requires constant self-awareness. We must reflect often on our motivation for care of others. We must check our ego and selfish drive for success, or reputation, or kickback. When care for another becomes what I can get out of it, then we have moved from servanthood to personal embellishment—one of these is a Christian virtue and the other is a millstone that weighs us down. When I help someone so as to check a mark on my account in heaven, then my motivation is clouded by self-promotion rather than genuine compassion for another human created in God’s image. Guess which one Jesus is giving us a mandate to replicate.

Jesus has taught these same truths in other places in the Gospel. And yet now, mere hours before the injustice of his execution, one of his final object lessons is not lost on the disciples. Perhaps we might should linger on the theological implications of the death of God in the crucifixion of Jesus. Or maybe, just maybe, Jesus wanted us to focus on living life after his death with a clear definition of genuine servanthood. Yes, Jesus will die tomorrow. Because of that, we live this day and every day as servants of one another. It is in being a servant that we are being like God. It is our most basic divine task.

On this “Commandment Thursday” we have our orders from Jesus. Apparently he thinks we are up to the task! Wash one another’s feet. Do what Jesus did. Love someone else in the way Jesus loved them. Perhaps we can even edit the “Golden Rule” here and call it the “Holy Thursday Rule” – “Do unto others as Jesus would do for them.” That’s a mandate for all of us who claim to be followers of Jesus.

A Hymn to Sing or Read

Lord, whose love in humble service
bore the weight of human need,
who upon the cross, forsaken,
offered mercy’s perfect deed:
we, your servants, bring the worship
not of voice alone, but heart,
consecrating to your purpose
ev’ry gift that you impart.

Still the children wander homeless,
still the hungry cry for bread.
Still the captives long for freedom,
still in grief we mourn our dead.
As you, Lord, in deep compassion,
healed the sick and freed the soul,
use the love your Spirit kindles
still to save and make us whole.

As we worship, grant us vision,
till your love’s revealing light
in its height and depth and greatness
dawns upon our human sight,
making known the needs and burdens
your compassion bids us bear,
stirring us to faithful service,
your abundant life to share.

Concluding Prayer for the Church

Save us, O Lord, when we are awake,
Keep us when we sleep.
Then we will wake in Christ and rest in peace. Amen.


Artist: JESUS MAFA, a Christian Community in Cameron. Title: Jesus washes his disciples feet, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. [retrieved April 6, 2020]. Original source: (contact page: This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial ShareAlike 3.0 License.

The gospel was read by Meagan. The music was played by Wyatt.  The hymn was written by Albert F. Bayley.


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The Lord's Supper - Matthew 26:17-30

Opening Words

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth should change…. (Psalm 46:1-2a)

Take a moment to pause and gather yourself for worship.

A Prayer of Adoration

Psalm 145:3-7

 The Lord is great and so worthy of praise!
    God’s greatness cannot be grasped.
 One generation will praise your works to the next one,
    proclaiming your mighty acts.
 They will talk all about the glorious splendor of your majesty;
    I will contemplate your wondrous works.
 They will speak of the power of your awesome deeds;
    I will declare your great accomplishments.
 They will rave in celebration of your abundant goodness;
    they will shout joyfully about your righteousness:


The Gospel Reading

John 13:21-32

After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.” The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. One of his disciples—the one whom Jesus loved—was reclining next to him; Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.” Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the festival;” or, that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.

When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.”


A Reflection from Tonya

Listen to Tonya and/or read below.

Well, it’s the Wednesday before Easter. Tonight we would have gathered in the Fellowship Hall for dinner and a Seder Remembrance. I would be sending Jeffrey back to the grocery store to get the right kind of horseradish–not the one with the mayonnaise. We definitely would have the leeks again this year so we could hit one another. We would laugh imagining how crazy things must get at a Seder Meal with all those cups of wine to drink. We all enjoy the faces of the children experiencing horseradish for the first time. As we learn how our Jewish sisters and brothers celebrate Passover, the common thread of God’s provisions through time is highlighted for us. We are going to need that reminder because the crucifixion is just a couple of days ahead.

Did you notice the painting at the top of the blog? I love the artist’s vision of the last meal Jesus shared with his disciples. Did you notice how BIG the cup is? We use tiny little glass cups for communion which hold less than 2 ounces of juice. The bowl in the painting looks like my “That’s a Bowl.” It looks like it could hold a gallon or more!  The size of the cup brings to mind the words of Matthew 20.  One of the mothers of two disciples comes to Jesus with her boys. Jesus asks her what she wants. She simply asks that her sons might sit at his side when he comes into his kingdom–one on his right and one on his left. These would be places of great honor. Jesus looks at her sons and tells them they have no idea what they are asking for. Are they able to drink the cup that he is about to drink? Take another look at how big that cup is. Can you drink all that?

The cup Jesus was about to drink was full to the brim with suffering. Jesus and the disciples had come to Jerusalem for Passover and the raw reality of what lay ahead troubled Jesus. They reclined around a low table that night for dinner. As they reclined on carpets and cushions, they could see that Jesus was upset. The suffering was starting to begin. He shares with all of them that one of them will betray him. Which one of them will it be? Simon Peter with a nod of the head tells John to ask Jesus who it will be. John asks. Jesus doesn’t verbally name the disciple. Instead Jesus says it will be the one to whom Jesus gives a piece of bread that has been dipped in his dish. He takes a piece of bread, dips it, and hands the piece of bread to Judas. Judas eats the bread and the deal is done. Betrayal is poured into the cup that Jesus drinks.

After Judas leaves the dinner, Jesus tells his disciples that he will only be with them a little longer. Isolation is poured into the cup. “Where I’m going, you cannot come,” says Jesus. And loneliness is poured into the cup. They don’t get it. Simon Peter says, “Lord, I will lay down my life for you!” Jesus knows better. Disappointment is poured into the cup. Isolation, loneliness, and disappointment. How well we know those three experiences at this moment. Isolated from one another’s fellowship trying to slow the spread of the virus. Some of us alone as we strictly follow “stay at home” orders through at least April 30.  Disappointed that so many much anticipated events have been postponed or cancelled–weddings, graduations, birthday parties, recitals, and Sunday worship. And perhaps there are moments when we feel betrayed. We sing with the psalmist, “God, why have you forsaken us? Why are you so far away?” (Psalm 22)  We are afraid that the things God doesn’t do will outweigh the things God does.

Borrowing words from Howard Jacobsen (found in The Passover Haggadah: An Ancient Story for Modern Times published February 2020), ours is a religion of suspense. Jacobsen writes of the Jewish faith, but the same is true of Christianity. Ours is a religion of suspense. We walk by faith and not by sight. Suspense. We don’t know how things will turn out. All our questions are not answered. Jesus’ response after the meal is fitting for us now as it was then, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” (John 14:1)

The cup the world is drinking right now is big. There’s a lot to swallow–betrayal, isolation, loneliness, disappointment, and death. But don’t you dare forget all of God’s bounty and provisions that have already come. And today remember the cup of salvation which was poured for us which Christ drank for us.

A Hymn to Sing or Read


What Wondrous Love is This?

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul.

Ye winged seraphs fly, bear the news, bear the news!
Ye winged seraphs fly bear the news!–
Ye winged seraphs fly, like comets through the sky.
Fill vast eternity with the news, with the news!
Fill vast eternity with the news!

To God and to the Lamb, I will sing, I will sing;
To God and to the Lamb, I will sing–
To God and to the Lamb, who is the great I AM,
while millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing!
while millions join the theme, I will sing!

And while from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
And while from death I’m free, I’ll sing on.
and while from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be,
and through eternity I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
and through eternity I’ll sing on.

Concluding Prayer for the Church

Save us, O Lord, when we are awake,
Keep us when we sleep.
Then we will wake in Christ and rest in peace. Amen.


Artwork by a Christian organization in Cameron called JESUS MAFA. Title: The Lord’s Supper, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. [retrieved April 6, 2020]. Original source: (contact page: This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial ShareAlike 3.0 License.

The Psalm reading is from the Common English Bible. The gospel was read by Robin. The hymn is played by Tessa.


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Opening Words

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth should change…. (Psalm 46:1-2a)

Take a moment to pause and gather yourself for worship.

A Prayer of Petition

Psalm 71:1-5

In you, O LORD, I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame.
In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me;
incline your ear to me and save me.
Be to me a rock of refuge, a strong fortress,
to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.
Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked,
from the grasp of the unjust and cruel.
For you, O Lord, are my hope,
my trust, O LORD, from my youth. Amen

The Gospel Reading

John 12:20-36

Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.”

27Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—’Father, save me from this hour?’ No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31Now is the judgement of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. 34The crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains for ever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” 35Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. 36While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.”

After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them.

Reflection by Jeffrey

Listen to Jeffrey share his reflection and/or read below. [Yes, Jeffrey calls it “Holy Monday” in his reflection, but he was recording on Monday for “Holy Tuesday.”]

If time travel were possible, I would love to visit the city of Jerusalem during the pilgrimage weeks that stretched from the Jewish Passover to the spring festival of Shavuot (what we call Pentecost). During Jesus’ day, the city doubled in population for more than a month as people from around the entire Mediterranean came to Jerusalem. In today’s Holy Tuesday story , a group of Greek pilgrims, possibly converts to Judaism, are in the city seeking an audience with Jesus. So they enlist Philip, one of Jesus’ disciples who has a Greek name, to make the connection with Jesus. What then is on Jesus’ mind when these Greeks seek him? Death.

Yes, the stress of Holy Week is getting real for Jesus. Think about it. Jesus must have known that his time on earth was winding up, that he could only teach and comfort and heal a few more days because his death was a close-at-hand reality. That’s some serious stress! Living with the reality that a global pandemic can quickly become a household horror, it is not difficult to imagine what Jesus means when he confesses that his soul is troubled (v. 27). How would I feel right now if I tested positive for COVID-19? Or my family? Or someone I know? My soul would be troubled, too. Even though we are healthy, I still grieve for those who are infected and suffering. In John’s story, this confession is an intensely human moment for Jesus.

But let’s be clear. Jesus’ death had both a genesis and an outcome different than death by illness. His divine nature, absolute innocence, and unfailing forgiveness through the most unjust verdict imaginable became the redemptive “grain of wheat” that rendered death a new harvest instead of devastation. Despite his troubled spirit, Jesus knows that he could request an exemption from the crucifixion to come—“Father, save me from this hour.” He could call down angels to protect him.  Isn’t that what Satan tempted him to do in the wilderness after 40 days of fasting? Jesus answers the temptation, both in the wilderness and in Jerusalem with the same steadfast righteousness that comes from the unfailing will to live God’s Way in this world and glorify God for eternity.

Like so many of Jesus’ teachings, this story has a “so what” factor. How do we take his words and actions and learn about God’s Way through him? When Jesus says that “those who love their life lose it,” (v. 25) he’s not asking us either to hasten death or seek it out. At the very least, here is confirmation that both living and dying are gifts to humanity. Gifts? Yes, both living and dying are gifts from God. Each day here is an opportunity to create more life, more love, more beauty. Likewise death is a new beginning with joy of its own that none of us can yet describe or imagine. Living many lifetimes would be a burden rather than a blessing. Living in this world forever would seem as a curse from which there is no escape. Jesus is, therefore, calling us to embrace life in this moment as part of God’s joy and grace so that life may also continue to be our future in God’s new resurrected Way.

It is important to realize that the purpose of both life and death is the same according to Jesus–to glorify God. Verse 28 recounts one of those rare occasions when God speaks from heaven and people hear it, even though it sounded like thunder. That divine affirmation serves to underscore the main point of this story. Jesus’ purpose in life and death was to glorify God. If we are to follow the example of Jesus, then our life and death will be to glorify God. In life, we glorify God. In death, we glorify God. Thus life and death both have the same purpose. Admittedly, that’s a hard concept to follow, but remember, many things that are hard to do are worth doing anyway.

The Latin term Soli Deo Gloria, which means “glory to God alone,” became something of a motto for many Christians after the Protestant Reformation. In fact, Johann Sabastian Bach, included that phrase (or simply SDG) in every one of his compositions. It was his way of noting that the music he wrote intended to reveal something of God rather than displaying Bach’s immense talent. We don’t write music like Bach, but each one of us is a virtuoso in living our own lives, and we can choose to do that to God’s glory. I’m convinced that when Jesus says the people heard God’s voice for their own sake and not his, it was Jesus’ encouragement to us that, in his opinion, we have the innate capacity as the children of God to glorify God. That means today, even now. Yes. Even now. May it be so. Amen.

A Hymn to Sing or Read

In the Cross of Christ I glory

Listen to piano only accompaniment

or piano accompaniment with vocalist.

In the cross of Christ I glory,
Towering o’er the wrecks of time,
All the light of sacred story
Gathers round its head sublime.

When the woes of life o’ertake me,
Hopes deceive and fears annoy,
Never shall the cross forsake me:
Lo! it glows with peace and joy.

When the sun of bliss is beaming
Light and love upon my way,
From the cross the radiance streaming
Adds new luster to the day.

Bane and blessing, pain and pleasure,
By the cross are sanctified;
Peace is there that knows no measure,
Joys that thro’ all time abide.

Concluding Prayer for the Church

Save us, O Lord, when we are awake,
Keep us when we sleep.
Then we will wake in Christ and rest in peace. Amen.

Picture: Interior of the Church of the Light, designed by Tadao Ando, in Ibaraki, Osaka Prefecture. I, Attila Bujdosó took this picture on 18/03/2005 in Osaka, Japan.  This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.

Credits: The gospel was read by Jeff. The piano was played by Tracy. The vocalist is Tracy’s neighbor Emily.


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