April 10, 2020
Walking in the blue shadows of the moonlight moves the spirit and stirs the soul. Your mind takes you to another such night so long ago. There in the darkness, you see the dim figures moving and a man speaking to his friends. The voices from the past still echo on this night “Stay here and keep alert while I pray.” Then you hear a passionate trembling voice saying, “Abba, if it be your will let this cup pass from me, not my will but yours be done.” In the distance comes the flickering light of torches, the lights of soldiers approaching in the night. We are surrounded by things that connect us to those who have come before. Another man’s eyes gazed upon the face of that same moon so many years ago. A man called Yeshua, rabbi, messiah, and who the Greeks would call, Jesus.
Something I wrote a few years ago that is suitable for this day...
The night is unusually cold, as cold as I feel in my heart. Without the moon, I am plunged into the same darkness that I feel within my soul. I feel so lost and can’t stop crying. This was supposed to be a happy time, a time of celebration for God has delivered our people, but I can’t begin to understand where things began to fall apart.
Just a short time ago and we were all together. He was there with us and when we were together nothing had ever felt more right. He had called all of us and when He spoke to me I didn’t want to leave. Follow? Follow to go where? I have a life. I have a home to care for. What more do I need? And yet, something about His eyes and the way he would look at me, it was if he could see me in a way no other ever could. Something was so soothing about His gaze and so troubling at the same time. There were times I just wanted to hide, but when He looked at me I knew that there was no hiding. He knew everything, nothing could be hidden.
Still, he would ask me things even though I feel that He already knew the answers. It was as if He wanted me to hear the words myself coming out of my mouth. I have never known man or woman who could make me feel this way. Huh, He called me a rock; I don’t think I could be anything further from that. I am just a stupid man, weak and confused. He washed our feet before we ate together. Just imagine that. He was the host. If anyone should have done it, it should have been me. It was not his place to lower Himself, but He did.
As usual, I didn’t understand and refused. I mean I could feel his humiliation. I couldn’t let Him do this. But he told me that was the only way to have a place in his kingdom. Hearing that I was willing for Him to wash all of me, to take all of me for right now I question what good is it? What good is the moon on this dark night? What good is any of life without Him? How could it come to this? While we ate He spoke of things that I struggled to understand. He has been with us for so long. How could it be that He was going somewhere and why
could we not come as well?
And I have never had a Passover meal like this one, my body and my blood? How could I be so dumb as to not understand and yet, if I said I was He would always correct me in such a caring way. If I had only known why Judas had left so early, but by the time it happened it was too late. He wouldn’t let us save Him. He wouldn’t let me fight. After we had eaten we went to Gethsemane in the darkness. He wanted to pray alone as was normal for Him. We sat and waited. I’m ashamed to say that the day had been long and I drifted off to sleep only to be awakened by Him. His face looked different somehow, almost ashen and pale.
Then it came. In the distance I could see lights in the night, torches carried by those who were approaching. There in front was Judas. What could this be? What had he done? Then He appeared right at the same moment as Judas tenderly kissed Him. He was taken and I was so afraid that I fled as the others did. But I could not stay away. I followed at a distance. I was so terrified. This man had done such amazing things and in so many ways I felt He was the answer to everything, all the questions in my life, even the ones that a man keeps deep within him. What would they do with Him?
People were gathering at this late hour in the street to see what was happening. They began to approach me and said that I was seen with Him. I was so afraid. I told them repeatedly that I didn’t know Him. After the third time, I remember that He told me I would deny him. I ran from that place in anguish and tears. I have been hiding here in the dark so afraid and confused by all of this. I never thought this could happen. I never wanted this to happen. What to do? I don’t know where the others have gone. What events will this night hold? I want to see, but fear for my life should I be recognized. Yeah, some rock I am.
Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday
John 13:1-17, 34
I have heard people lament the reality that we are not together during Easter. And it is truly odd that we have come to call this Easter or maybe not so odd. The reason I say this is because if you research the etymology of Easter you will find it relates to a pagan goddess of fertility and Spring, Eostre. Other possible gods this might be related to is Astarte or Ishtar. The reason I say it is not so odd is that the Church Catholic would often place festivals on or near pagan feast days to help in the conversion to Christianity. The Church would prefer to refer to this day by its proper name, the Resurrection of Our Lord.
Yet while I did hear many lament missing Easter, which is an impossibility, by the way, I never heard anyone say that I can’t wait to have my feet washed or to witness the stripping of the altar or the “strepitus,” the slamming of the book on Good Friday. Not many lament the idea of pondering how when the nail was first driven that it was silent because it was not hitting wood, but sinking into the flesh of Jesus. People tend to like the comfortable, the celebration, rather than reflecting that it was OUR SINS and sin in general that nailed Jesus to the cross. And we could get into a deep theological discourse about the cross, substitutionary atonement, and how that reflects upon the God we love, but this is not the time or place.
Jesus did something unexpected. Jesus did something unusual. Then again, we might say that what is unexpected was actually the norm for the Son of Man. He washed his disciple’s feet. This was a task reserved for the lowest servant of rank within the household and was not something that a host should do. Especially when that host was God. Nevertheless, he did wash them.
Simon Peter is seen to object to having his feet washed and said that Jesus would never do this, for Peter knew that this should not be Jesus’ task. But Jesus’ reply is one we need to meditate upon, especially when you consider the path of spiritual growth and faith. Jesus said that you do not know what I am doing, but later you will understand. We have all heard the cliché that hindsight is 20/20. We tend to have a better understanding of things when we look at them in the future and reflect upon what has truly happened.
This is still true in the Church of Jesus Christ today. Leaders lead in ways that resemble the way of Christ, speaking of things that are not always clear, doing things that are often misunderstood, and being judged, revealing the heart of the one who judges. It is no surprise and our Lord endured it as well. Indeed, Jesus tells the disciples in this very passage that servants are not greater than their master and if he washed their feet, then we should wash each other’s feet. It is a challenge to walk in humility and in service to others that they may grow in faith. It is a challenge to know that in doing so we will be persecuted and attacked. Regardless of this, we press on in serving God.
Jesus tells Peter the results of wanting things his way rather than the Lord’s way. If you do not let me wash you, you have no share with me. And our exuberant Peter asks that Jesus wash his hands and head also. You have to smile at Peter’s exuberance and enthusiasm, even if it is occasionally misguided.
Jesus told the disciples that they were clean although not all were clean for he knew what was in the heart of Judas. And think about that for a minute if you will. Although Judas intended to hand Jesus over to those who would eventually kill him, Jesus did not turn his back upon him. Jesus had washed Judas’ feet. He was still serving and caring for those who would do something against him. This too is an example for us.
Years ago, I was a Sunday school teacher. An elderly man who had served in Italy during the World War told the story of getting in trouble for handing out food to hungry Italian children. The man explained to his sergeant, but they’re only children. The sergeant replied, “Well, just don’t let me see you do it.” He was caring for his enemy in the same way that Jesus continues to love everyone, even those who would turn against him. We are blessed when we follow Jesus.
Finally, Jesus gives them a new commandment, to love one another just as I have loved you. Commandment, that is where we get the name of this holy day. Maundy comes from the Latin Mandatum, which means commandment. It is Commandment Thursday where Jesus gave the disciples and all of us the joy of loving others always, always in all ways.
April 9, 2020
Be still and know that I am God. It is perhaps one of my favorite verses in the Bible. I have a small piece of wood above my kitchen door that has this verse on it that was made by the Amish. We are now given an opportunity to know God in a way that we haven’t taken time for.
We often become slaves to our schedules and agendas. Running through our lives at a breakneck pace as if life is a competition to see how much we can do and how much life we can squeeze into a day. However, our Lord taught us that none of us can add one day or minute to our lives by our own power. Wouldn’t our lives be better if we could ask how much of God we could squeeze into our days? For once you begin to grow in the Spirit, then true wisdom and understanding begin. The world looks different somehow and the things we spend our days doing and striving for seem trivial compared to the truth that is Jesus Christ.
This is a time to be alone with God and I wonder if we ever really realize just how much we need to be alone with God. Even our Lord Jesus would walk away from his disciples and the throngs of people who would constantly follow him. Surely, if Jesus required this and if no servant is greater than the master, then we must need this time as well. And need that time in a far greater quantity than he who was and is God.
It is also a time for you to teach. How many of us really have devotions to God with our families? Do we sit down with our children and tell them the stories of faith? I had a grandmother and great grandmother who did just that. I would sit beside my granny’s bed, as she was bedfast, and listen to the stories of her life and faith for hour upon hour. When she would lift her frail voice in songs about Jesus, tears would come to her eyes and her voice would quiver. Yet, on the day that she died, as hard as it was to see her leave, there was no one present that had any doubt where she was going because her love for Christ was more than just proclaimed, it was lived to the fullest.
I imagine you know similar saints in your lives. I know this because I have helped you to say farewell to some of them since moving here. Have you shared what their witness to Jesus has meant to you with others? Have you shared how your faith was formed by their examples? I have known people who I have never heard a cross word from about anyone that they knew. Their lives were running over with kindness, compassion, and love. In those qualities, those fruits of the Spirit, we knew why they were as they were, Jesus.
Do not lament over what you have lost but rise up and claim what you have gained in Christ Jesus. Rejoice now and always, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand, and it is the Father’s good pleasure to give it to you that you may walk all your days in the light that is Christ.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
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Sunday Worship: 10:30 AM