Holy Thursday ~ Maundy Thursday

[34] A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. [35] By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35 ESV)

[12] “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. [13] Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. [14] You are my friends if you do what I command you. (John 15:12-14 ESV)

“Maundy” comes from the Latin word that means “commandment”. And the text we traditionally look at is John 13:34-35 but John 15 12-14 is a great followup and explanation of what this love looks like. So I offer these reflection points as you enter this Triduum, “The Three Days” (Maundy Thursday – Easter Vigil) and look forward to Easter:

(1) Jesus FREELY laid down his life for you. He wasn’t forced.

(2) Jesus calls you friend, not servant, since he has made know to you what the Father has made known to him.

(3) Laying down your life may not mean a physical death for someone but rather humbly serving one another (Washing their feet; see John 13:1-20)

(4) Laying down your life for someone should never feel coerced; if it does then you’re really not laying your life down for them.

(5) If you believe that Jesus laid his life down for you then laying your life down for someone else will be a joy.

(6) If the truly value the Life you have through faith in Jesus, then laying your life down in this life is not a loss but rather a gain.

(7) And as I have written about before, if you truly love Jesus, then following the commandment to love one another is done joyfully and not begrudgingly.

Reflect on these points.
Read these texts over and over.
Give thanks to God that Jesus gave his life for you.
And then go out and joyfully give your life for someone else.

Praise be to God!

Holy God, thank you for Jesus and I praise you that he laid his life down for me, a sinner, that I may have Life eternal. Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Keep your eye on the ball

I read a good blog post yesterday titled Distracted.  It addressed a distressing distraction that has been going on this week; something that has (and is) drawing people’s attention away from what is ultimately important.  Do you know what that distraction is? It’s…

…the Supreme Court discussing and considering a ruling about (so-called) same sex marriage.

And in a show of support on Facebook, people have been changing their profile pictures to a red-ish/pink-ish equal sign (meaning marriage equality).  As I browsed through Facebook this week I saw a ton of those pictures and a lot of status updates defending “marriage equality”…and all of this in the midst of Holy Week.

The blog post gave kudos to Satan on his brilliant scheme to distract people from the glory of this week.  And I have to agree.   All of the discourse I read on Facebook was about gay marriage and condemning those who would hold a different view.  I read these and I was sadden.  But what saddened me even more was that as I look back on this past week I too was drawn in.  My thinking was caught up in this distraction.  I didn’t post anything on social media indicting my view but I was thinking about it…and being distracted.

So I am here this morning confessing my sin and repenting of my actions.  This week is Holy Week.  Yesterday was Maundy Thursday where we celebrated the Last Supper with Jesus and his disciples and then walked to the Garden of Gethsemane to see Jesus arrested and then beaten, mocked, spit upon and tried.  Today is Good Friday where we will walk to the cross and see how our Lord and Savior died to save us from our sins.  He will be buried, but on the third day rise that we may have eternal life.  But instead of pondering what our Lord and Savior did for us we have taken our eye off the proverbial ball.

This is Holy Week.  Look to the cross.  See how Jesus took OUR sin and destroyed the grip of death.  See how Jesus defeated Satan and won the victory for you and for me.  We are ALL sinners…worthy of punishment and condemnation, but through the grace of God we have forgiveness through Jesus Christ.  Let’s keep our eye on the ball people and give glory to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen!

From the Heart of a Pastor -|—

Where’s the cross?

A few weeks ago my wife and I were chatting with some friends about Holy Week.  We were sharing what our respective congregations were planning.  Here…we share Maundy Thursday and Good Friday worships with Belmont Lutheran Church (the small county congregation I serve).  We each take one of those services and then flip the following year.  This year we worship at Belmont on Maundy Thursday and at Salem for Good Friday.

As I was sharing this I was talking about this old rugged cross that a couple Salem guys made a few years back.  It stands about 6 feet tall and made from two nice-sized tree branches.  They did a very nice job and it’s perfect for Good Friday worship.  As soon as I mentioned this I froze.  You see…on Ash Wednesday we put a larger cross in Salem’s narthex (we decorate this cross with palm branches and lilies for Easter Sunday).  There is a crown of thorns on top and it is draped with a purple cloth.  It greets people as they enter the narthex to remind then of Lent and of Jesus’ suffering and death.

Well…the cross was not there in the narthex.  I forgot to put it out 😦

How could I possibly forget the cross?  My wife was quick to remind me that our custodian always put it out…but here’s the thing…that person is no longer our custodian due to a stroke he suffered last June.  I always took for granted that Dave would have the cross out and ready to go for Ash Wednesday and Lent.  But that doesn’t absolve me for forgetting that cross.

I mean…think about it.  Lent is a time for us to remember why Jesus suffered and died on the cross.  We are to remember our mortality and sin.  We are to remember that from dust we came and to dust we shall return.  We are to remember that without the cross we are condemned to hell.  The cross is the focus…and I forgot that narthex cross.  But here’s another thing…no one else noticed either (or at least they didn’t say anything to me).  I am not sure what bothers me more:  Me forgetting or no one saying anything about it.

So the solution was  to put it up for Palm Sunday (which we did); marking the beginning of Holy Week.  The purple cloth on that cross will be replaced on Maundy Thursday with a black one.  The cross will then be put outside for Good Friday to REMIND people of what Jesus did for us.  And…the cross will be “decorated” with palm branches and lilies to remind us of the joy that comes through the cross.

Now…when I walk through the narthex I feel a little more complete…with the reality of the cross staring at me.  I hope that when Easter is done that I won’t need a large cross in the narthex to remind me of what Jesus did FOR YOU and FOR ME.

May you have a blessed Holy Week and a very happy Easter!

Praise be to God!