MAUNDY THURSDAY APRIL 9, 2020
On this day our Lord returned to Jerusalem to eat the Passover meal with his disciples. In the evening, in the upper room of John Mark’s mother’s house, he washed his disciple’s feet. In the course of the Passover meal he instituted the Lord’ Supper, the Holy Eucharist, and made the Great Intercession for his disciples. After singing a hymn they went out, crossed the Kidron Valley and ascended the Mount of Olives. There, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus endured his agony, was arrested, and taken away to judgement and to death.
Behold the Lamb of God; BEHOLD HIM WHO TAKES AWAY THE SIN OF THE WORLD.
Prayer of the Day The Lord be with you. AND ALSO WITH YOU. Almighty God, look with mercy upon this your family for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, given over into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death on the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. AMEN.
First Reading: St. John 13:1-17, 31b-35
Jesus washes the disciple’s feet
Reflection George McLeod, founder of the Iona Community in Scotland, used to assign himself the task of cleaning the rest rooms in the Abbey. He was the founder and guiding light of the Iona mission. He had been knighted by Queen Elizabeth as a Renewer of the Church. Still, he took his turn cleaning the johns. He did this, he said, so that he wouldn’t be tempted to preach any sappy sermons about the dignity of work. I would not presume to correct George McLeod, but I think he meant sappy sermons about the dignity of service. I believe all work, any work, has dignity, because if faithful men and women do the work as people of faith, their faith makes the work dignified. But service? Well, that is another matter. Service does not require dignity of us. Rather, service requires humility. That is why foot washing is important. It keeps us from preaching sappy sermons and saying silly things about the glory of serving others. Service usually means cleaning up someone else’s mess. Service requires us to bow our backs and bend our necks, and to put ourselves, including our dignity, beneath the one being served. Service without humility is patronizing. If in service we play Lord and Lady Bountiful, giving our generous help to all the unfortunates and ne’er-do-wells, then we aren’t serving at all. We are preening, so that we will be admired and revered. The true model of service is the one Christ shows us in the foot washing, full of grace, but more, full of humility. It’s what he means when he tells us to “love one another”. Amen. Blessed are they who hear the word of God and do it. AMEN
Prayer O God, your love was made flesh in Jesus Christ, who washed his disciple’s feet and gave them the new commandment to love one another as he loves them. Write this commandment in our hearts and give us the will to serve others as Christ who was the servant of all; who loved us and gave himself for us. AMEN.
Second Reading: ST Matthew 26:26-29 Jesus institutes the Lord’s Supper.
Reflection I don’t remember which Marx Brothers movie it is in, but it’s the one where Groucho comes into a room where a cocktail party is going on and says, “There is a lot less going on here than meets the eye”. The opposite is true with the meal we call the Lord’s Supper, or Holy Communion. Holy Communion may outwardly look pretty simple, but in reality it is infinitely rich. There is a lot more going on here than meets the eye. So, what more? What is actually happening when we eat this meal? John Calvin, the great Reformer, provides a beautiful answer to that question in Book 4, chapter 17 of his magnum opus, “The Institutes of the Christian Religion”. He begins by saying that, “Union with Christ is the special fruit of the Lord’s Supper”. Calvin understood that union with God – God in us and we in him - through Jesus Christ, and not just salvation from sin, is the goal of the Christian life. As a husband and wife are two, but in marriage become one, so we become one with God in Christ. Christians are not just on the receiving end of some kind of divine judicial pardon. We were created in the image of God in order that we might live in Christ and have Christ living in us. The Lord’s Supper is the choice occasion for that indwelling to take place. Calvin calls it “the marvelous exchange”. He says “Godly souls can gain great assurance and delight from this Sacrament; in it they have a witness of our growth into one body with Christ such that whatever is his may be called ours also. As a consequence, we may dare assure ourselves that eternal life, of which he is the heir, is ours; and that the Kingdom of heaven, into which he has already entered can no more be cut off from us that from him; again, that we cannot be condemned for our sins, from whose guilt he has absolved us, since he willed to take them upon himself as if they were his own. This is the wonderful exchange which, out of his measureless benevolence, he has made with us; that becoming Son of Man with us, he has made us sons and daughters of God with him; that by his descent to earth, he has prepared an ascent to heaven for us; that by taking our mortality, he has conferred his immortality upon us; that, accepting our weakness, he has strengthened us by his power; that receiving our poverty unto himself, he has transferred his wealth to us; that taking the weight of our iniquity upon himself, he has clothed us with his righteousness”. The Lord’s Supper is not a simple remembrance. It is not even simple nourishment. There is a marvelous exchange between us and Christ that occurs as we eat this meal. He gives us himself and all that his life, death, resurrection and ascension means. Come with joy to the Lord’s Table that he may work this wonderful exchange in you. Amen. Blessed are they who hear the Word of God and do it.
Prayer When I Cannot Come to Communion In union, O Lord, with you and all your faithful people at every altar of your Church where the Holy Eucharist is now being celebrated, I desire to offer you praise and thanksgiving. I remember your death, Lord Christ; I proclaim and celebrate your resurrection; I await your coming in glory. And since I cannot receive you today in the Sacrament of your Body and Blood, I beseech you to come spiritually into my heart. Cleanse and strengthen me with your grace, Lord Jesus, and let me never be separated from you. May I live in you, and you in me, in this life and in the life to come. Amen.
Third Reading: St. John 1:1-5 Jesus prays for his disciples.
Reflection In intercessory payer we pray for the needs of others. We focus not primarily on our parochial needs, but rather on those who are not present: on the entire church of God, the created world, the nations of the earth, the community in which we reside, and those absent from our company because of sickness and troubling circumstances. This prayer trains us to have our heart with others, especially those in ill fortune. While contemporary psychology urges us to know our own hearts and solve our own problems, the Christian ethic calls us to live as if our hearts are not full and complete in our own bodies, but are always half with those in need. There is an African language in which to say, “John is sick”, one says, “We are sick in John”. That is precisely what a Christian theology of intercession teaches. Week after week, year after year, century after century, the faithful have prayed for the peace, justice, sustenance and health of the world. “Lord, hear our prayer, hear our prayer”. This continual praying is evidence of the faith of the church that God has acted, is acting, and will act to bring life to a world wrapped around in death. I wonder: Do you suppose the state of the world would be worse than it is if these intercessions were to stop? I am reminded of Frances McNutt, one of the great teachers of intercessory prayer. When Francis McNutt prayed at the bedside of a sick person he would pause periodically to ask them if they felt better. If they did not, he went back to praying until they did! That is the way it is with the church: if the prayers we offer seem to no avail, the faithful simply pray more. The widow in Jesus’ parable keeps on pestering the unjust judge for vindication of her cause until finally he acts in her favor just to be rid of her. So we, like the widow, keep hammering away on the doors of God’s providence; the God who is willing and ready to do more for us than we can ask or imagine. Certainly more than any unjust judge! We believe that in God is boundless life for the whole creation, and so we lament the brokenness and death we see all around us and plead for God’s creative Spirit to brood again over our chaos, restoring peace. We need to train our hearts to be with the needy, and so we give a entire part of the Sunday liturgy to those in need. We need to temper the deadly individualism that infects our culture with the Christian idea that, bound together in love, we will have no peace until everyone has peace. The last sentence Martin Luther wrote, scribbled on a piece of paper by his deathbed, was not a last will and testament like ‘I was the center of the century’s greatest social and religious upheaval”, but simply the phrase, “We are beggars, this is true”. The church is the body which begs that God’s generosity will enliven a begging world. It is in this spirit the Jesus interceded for us on the night when he was betrayed. Amen. Blessed are they who hear the Word of God and do it.
Pray the Great Intercession with Jesus as it is found in St. John 17:1-26
Reading: St. Matthew 26:30-32 Verses: The hour has come; THE SON OF MAN IS BETRAYED INTO THE HANDS OF SINNERS. St. Mark 14:41b For us and for our salvation, Christ became obedient unto death even death on a cross.
BLESSED BE THE NAME OF THE LORD.