Tag Archive | Maundy Thursday

In Three Days

Mark 15:48

Today is Easter Sunday – the Christian holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus which brought salvation to the world, and all of us. This is the day that God has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!

This past Thursday, called Maundy Thursday of Holy Week, nearly 2000 years ago, Jesus was arrested by the high priests of the Jewish temples because they were jealous of the powerful following he was developing. They also feared the message he preached – one that said everyone was important to God. He was then questioned by Pilate, the Roman ruler, who wanted to release Jesus because he could find no fault with him. Throughout the questioning, Jesus remained silent until the end. Then he said one of the most significant statements that foretold his future:

‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’ (Mark 15:48)

As I am talking about Easter and Jesus’ resurrection, Saint John’s people will be passing out little Easter nests with three jelly beans. The nest represents the coming of Spring, the renewal of the earth and birth of new creatures. And the three jelly beans remind us of Jesus’ promise that the physical structure of the temple may disappear, the power structures of all men, but a new temple will arise. That temple is the resurrected Jesus who showed us life everlasting.

The number 3 is used 467 times in the Bible. We know from the Holy Week reading that Jesus prayed three times in the Garden of Gethsemane that God would remove this burden from him; we know that

  • James and John and Peter fell asleep three times while Jesus was praying;
  • that Peter denied Jesus three times before the cock crowed;
  • that there was three hours of darkness from the time that Jesus was nailed to the cross until he died.

And more importantly, Jesus was dead three days before he was resurrected.

So, let these 3 little jelly beans remind you of all that!

Also remember that throughout the Bible we are reminded that each of us are children of God, beloved by him, no matter our shortcomings. And, also, that our bodies represent the temple of God –where we try, to the best of our ability, to live worthy lives according to the teachings of Jesus.

Jesus suffered a painful and humiliating death to show us that death is not the end of life, but leads to an eternity of love in paradise.

This is the story of Easter.

Let us pray:

Even before the dawn breaks, you are with us. Even while our spirits are broken, you rebuild us. Though we are too weary to run, you renew us. Though we are too slow to believe but quickly ardent in idolization, you remain our God. When we barely remember our names and all hope seems lost to the grave, you love us forever. Now the eyes of our hearts are opened and the song on our lips is pure joy. Beloved Resurrection!

Delivered at In The Garden Ecclesia Ministry, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH; 1 April 2018

Remeber Those Last Words

John 13:1-17, 31b-35

Lord, speak in this place, in the calming of our minds and in the longing of our hearts, by the words of my mouth and in the thoughts we form. Speak, O Lord, for your servants listen. Amen.

This week that the Christian world calls ‘Holy Week’ commemorates the last – and most important week of Jesus’ life – for in this week, he moved intentionally from glory and praise to a painful death and martyrdom; from celebrations and acclamations of his divinity; from betrayal, abandonment, torture, mockery, humiliation and death. And then finally the resurrection!

If Jesus had not risen from death to appear to his disciples, we might not remember him at all – and if history did recall him, it would be perhaps as just another interesting, non-conventional Jewish prophet. But we are headed this week to Sunday – and to the resurrection of the Son of Man and the Son of God, and all that means for us. On Sunday we will joyfully celebrate the promise and assurance of eternal life that Jesus of Nazareth revealed to us all.

In this final holy week of Jesus’ life, he spent most of his time teaching his disciples the important lessons for life that he came to show: peace, forgiveness, and the need to love and serve one another to the end.

It was an important time in the Jewish religion – the week of Passover – and Jesus came to Jerusalem with his disciples to observe this high holy day. On this night, Thursday night, he gathered his friends, his disciples for the Passover feast.

Tradition has it that they gathered in the second story room of the house of John Mark’s mother – John Mark being the author of Mark’s Gospel.[1]  During this Passover Seder feast, Jesus demonstrated so many of the things he taught the disciples to do and be.

One thing that he did that has always stood out in my mind, was that he washed the feet of his disciples as they entered the Upper Room. It was the custom that when guests arrived at a home, a servant of the house removed their sandals and washed their feet – feet tired, sore, and dirty from rocky paths and streets. This menial task was beneath the dignity of the master of the house, so a servant did it.

But our Redeemer was a King like no other, and just as he had entered Jerusalem triumphantly on a donkey, rather than on a war horse, just as he was greeted by peasants with palm branches rather than legions of soldiers with swords, so Jesus became a servant to his friends, and washed their feet.

After the Passover dinner, he gave his disciples a ritual feast and asked them to remember him always by sharing a meal – the breaking of bread and drinking of wine.

On this Thursday night, Jesus knew full well what lay ahead of him – he knew Judas would betray him, that even Peter would not stand by him, that all his disciples would abandon him, hiding in a locked room, full of fear and cowardice. On this night he prayed for strength, he asked God, his father, to spare him, but knew it could not be.

Jesus knew if his teachings and examples were to go forward, his disciples would have to do it, and ready or not, he kept showing them what to do. He told them:

You can’t say you love me, if you won’t love those I suffered and died for!” (1 John 3:14-18 & 4:7-12.)

Jesus then went willingly to his trial, sentencing, and crucifixion in preparation for his resurrection for all humankind.

For anyone who has traveled the end-of-life journey with someone they care for, they have learned that near the end, the person leaves a message for those who survive. This is something that is extremely important to the dying person – something they want their loved ones to remember them by. It is always important to remember the last words of the person who is about to die; they usually spend their last breath saying things critically important to them. And finally, on this night, Jesus’ last words to them were:

“I give you a new commandment: Love each other. You must love each other like I loved you.” (John 13:34)

So tonight we remind ourselves what this world would be without love – we remove the music, the art, the flowers – and finally the light. We leave this place in darkness and silence – for our world and our lives would be dismal and fearful indeed, had Jesus not come to earth and shown that love and service, forgiveness and compassion are

“the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6)

His final words that night were for his disciples – and for us:

“I give you a new commandment: Love each other. You must love each other like I loved you.” (John 13:34)

As followers of Jesus – as human beings – we must remember those words, and do our best to live into them every day of our lives.

Let us pray:

God our creator & sustainer, thank you so much for Jesus! Thank you for blessing us with a spiritual meal which reminds us and proclaims again that Jesus died, offering his body and blood as the atonement for our sins. Thank you for giving us the day of his resurrection as the day we can powerfully remember this great sacrifice, and anticipate the great day of reunion that his resurrection has secured for your children. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
[1]      https://www.quora.com/Who-prepared-the-food-at-Jesuss-last-supper; Cenacle is a room in the David’s Tomb Compound in Jerusalem, traditionally held to be the site of the Last Supper.

Delivered at Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Worthington & Parts Adjacent, Worthington, OH; 29 March 2018

To Serve as Jesus Served

John 13:1-17, 31-35

On the evening before He died, Jesus was aware of the shame and agony that awaited him. This night on which Jesus shared Passover with His friends, has come to be marked by the Christian world as “Mandatum/Mandate”, or “Maundy Thursday” because Jesus commanded his followers to remember Him and continue His teachings. In total love, Jesus wrapped a slave’s towel around his waist, dropped to his knees and began one of the most menial tasks of the culture at that time: washing the dirty feet of his friends. It was the humiliating work of a slave, not the dignified work of a Master, let alone the Son of God.

Jesus knew that he was dining with Judas, who would betray him, and Peter, who would deny him three times. Yet he knelt before them and gently washed their feet anyway, modeling for them and for us a radical love that goes far beyond one’s worthiness. In this kind of love there is not only a willingness, but a plea for reconciliation – for broken relationships to be made whole again. The creator of the universe, through Jesus, willingly humbled Himself to reach out to the hearts of those who have fallen away and become lost, who would deny and kill Him. This is the sacrificial love of service..

William Gladstone, a member of the British parliament in the mid-1800s, announced the death of Princess Alice to the House of Commons. With the announcement, he told this story. The little daughter of Princess Alice was seriously ill with diphtheria. The doctors told the princess not to kiss her little daughter because that would endanger her own life by breathing in the child’s breath. Once when the child was struggling to breathe, the mother, forgetting herself entirely, took the little one into her arms to keep her from choking to death. Gasping and struggling for her life, the child said, “Mumma, kiss me!” Only thinking about her dying child and without a thought for herself the mother tenderly kissed her daughter. She got diphtheria and soon after Princess Alice died.[1]

Real love forgets self. Real love knows no danger. Real love does not count the cost.

The gospel text today is about this kind of love:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, just like I have loved you; that you also love one another.” (John 13:34).

Take note that love is not an option for the followers of Jesus. He says,

“A new commandment I give to you”. (John 13:34)

Not a suggestion, not a recommendation. A COMMANDMENT! This is not just a command to love our families or those who love us, not to try to love others, but to love everyone the same way that Jesus loves us.

“Love one another, just like I have loved you;” (John 13:34)

There is no way around this commandment of Jesus,

Love one another.” (John 13:34)

Why does Jesus command us to love? He gives this commandment because there is a part of every one of us that rebels against the idea of pure, unconditional love. Despite the example that we have in Jesus’ total and unconditional love for us – there is a part of us that says such love is out of place in the world in which we live. There is a part of us that says “sure, loving others is great – up to a point”

Isn’t that what we do all the time?

We draw a line and say, “That’s how much we are prepared to love the next person”. We draw a line and say, “That’s how far we are prepared to do a kind deed for someone else”. We draw a line and say, “Those are the people we are willing to love”.

We are happy to love a selective way. We are comfortable with love that doesn’t make us extend ourselves to strangers, unpleasant or funny-looking people, unkind or uncouth people, mean or vengeful people, people who make us feel uncomfortable.

But that is not the commandment! What Jesus says is quite plain. We should love others in the same way that Jesus loves us. He loved the unclean, the demented, the socially outcast; He loved the righteous and powerful who would kill Him, and the weak and fearful who could not even defend Him. His love is a complete giving of Himself as friend, teacher, Son, healer, and finally in His death. We see that on the cross.

He had no thought for His own safety, but put his own life at risk. He was prepared to risk pain and suffering, even death, because in His love for us, He would not deny the truth or the way to eternity He was showing us.

His love is a genuine, honest, compassionate love for everyone, all the time. His love is not turned off and on by fleeting passions, or emotional highs.

He drew no line and knew no limits.

And that is how he commanded us to love – totally and sacrificially.

Do you know why it is that we find it so difficult to love as Jesus commanded? This kind of love goes against our human nature; it goes against all human reasoning and logic. It is unreasonable to love those who are cruel, mean, arrogant and spiteful, murders and thieves, those who in no way deserve it. We may pity the poor, the lonely, the deranged, the unclean, but LOVE them. That is too much to ask!

To love totally and unconditionally requires us to become involved in other people’s live, to be bound up in the their needs and sorrows. It takes time, it takes commitment, it takes listening, it interrupts our schedules. Oh, we might manage it on the odd occasions but loving everyone unconditionally and sacrificially all the time, that is a tall order. But that is what we are commanded to do.

To love as Jesus commands us means that we need to immerse ourselves in His life example and teachings, and to let the love of Christ enter our lives and empower us to love, serve and work together. As we come to realize our place in God’s family and cast off everything that is opposed to love – the impatience, selfishness, greed, indifference, and fear that so often compel us –  we, instead,  will be led by His Spirit in everything we say and do.

There is a story about a man who had a huge boulder in his front yard. He grew tired of this big, unattractive stone in the center of his lawn, so he decided to turn it into an object of art. He went to work on it with hammer and chisel, and chipped away at the huge boulder until the ugly stone became a beautiful running deer. When he finished, it was gorgeous, breath-taking.

A neighbour asked, “How did you ever carve such a marvelous likeness of a deer?”

The man answered, “I just chipped away everything that didn’t look like a deer!”[2] 

Before we come to the Eucharist table tonight and every time, we are urged to go and resolve any bad feelings and arguments we may have with others. If you have anything in your life right now that doesn’t look like love, then, with the help of God, chip it away!

If you have anything in your life that doesn’t look like compassion or mercy or empathy, then, with the help of God, chip it away!

If you have hatred or prejudice or vengeance or envy in your heart, for God’s sake, and the for the other person’s sake, and for your sake, get rid of it!

Ask God to chip everything out of your life that doesn’t look like tender heartedness and love.

In John, we are told

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35)

Do people see the light of Jesus shining through you?

To love as Jesus loves us seems way out of our reach. To let love rule everything we say and do, may seem impossible. We fail again and again, but we MUST never give up. Our failures mean that we need the love of Christ more than ever before. We need His unconditional, never-failing love to forgive us for our lack of love and create the potential for us to love unconditionally and totally  all the time  as we are loved totally and for eternity.

So, on this “Mandate” Thursday, let us re-dedicate ourselves to love – to loving one another, those near and far, friends and perceived enemies, as Christ has loved us – to love in sacrifice and service, in joy and thanksgiving that Jesus came to this Easter to show us Truth, Beauty, and Eternal Love.

Delivered at Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Worthington and Parts Adjacent, 13 April 2017

[1]   Pastor Vince Gerhardy, “To Love as Jesus Loves Us”, SermonWriter.com
[2]   Ibid

The Seven Days That Changed the World

(Luke 19:28-44)

Today we begin the final week of Lent. In Jesus; at one time these seven days were called Passover, as it is still called today by the Jewish people. Christians around the world know these seven days as Holy Week, the Passion of the Christ. It is a week that starts with triumph and celebration, goes to betrayal, condemnation, and death; then climaxes on Easter Sunday with in the resurrection of Jesus – His triumph over death, and the saving of all mankind.

It is seven days that changed the world.

These seven days have been the topic of a thousands of sermons, countless debates, and numerous books and films. These seven days have inspired the greatest painters, the most skilled architects, and the most gifted musicians. To try and calculate the cultural and historical impact of these seven days is impossible. But harder still would be an attempt to account for the lives of men and women who have been transformed by the life of Jesus and the events of Holy Week. And yet these seven days, as they played out at the time in Jerusalem, were of little significance to anyone but a few people involved.

What happened on those seven days?

Let’s look at these seven days to see how they changed the world:

  1.  This Sunday, commonly known as ‘Palm Sunday, is the first of the seven days of Holy Week. As related to us in the Holy Gospels, Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem on a donkey to the shouts of ‘Hosanna’, fulfilling an old prophecy in Zechariah 9:9.
  2. Shout and cheer, Daughter Zion! Raise the roof, Daughter Jerusalem! Your king is coming! a good king who makes all things right, a humble king riding a donkey, a mere colt of a donkey.

    People were excited – the man they knew as Jesus was arriving in Jerusalem. . . coming to celebrate Passover and save them from the persecution and tyranny of the Roman rule. In The Gospel of Luke we learn they shouted:

    Blessed is he who comes, the king in God’s name! All’s well in heaven! Glory in the high places! (Luke 19:38)

    Or at least that what they hoped for and dreamed of and thought. People lined the streets and waved palm branches as He rode in on a donkey. People spread out their cloaks on the road to soften His path. It was a time of great celebration and anticipation. But little did they know what they waited for was not what they were going to get.

  1. On Monday Jesus walked into the Jerusalem Temple and found money changers and stalls of animals. This was the great temple of Jerusalem – the place of the Ark of the Covenant, the house of God. The Temple authorities had been using the Second Commandment about no graven images to cheat the people by requiring them to exchange their Roman money for Jewish shekels, thus making the Temple a place of profit rather than of prayer. In a great rage, Jesus overturned the tables and ran all the animal sellers out of the temple.
  1.  On Tuesday Jesus taught in parables, warning the people against the religious authorities who cheated the people. As we hear in the Gospel of John, Jesus also predicted the destruction of the great temple of Jerusalem, saying:
  2. Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days. (John 2:19)

    This enraged the Jewish religious authorities and they started to plan for the crucifixion of this troublemaker, Jesus. They asked him all kinds of questions, trying to trick him into saying things that would indicate He was a rebel and was aiming to overthrow the Romans. But Jesus stayed quiet and gave them no justification for arrest.

  1. Wednesday, the fourth day, is also known as ‘Spy Wednesday’. This is the day that Judas, who was going to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver met with the religious leaders and made the deal to identify Jesus the following night with a kiss. The thirty pieces of silver was the going price for the purchase of a slave in that time.
  1. On Thursday, in an upper room, Jesus celebrated the Passover meal with his disciples. But he gave it a new meaning. No longer would his followers remember the Exodus from Egypt in the breaking of bread. They would remember his broken body and shed blood in a meal that became known as ‘The Last Supper’ or ‘Communion’ or ‘Eucharist’.
  2. Knowing what was going to transpire, Jesus agonized in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane at what lay ahead for him in the Garden of Gethsemane.

    It was during His praying in the Garden of Gethsemane that the Jewish officials and Roman soldiers would come to the garden. Judas led the Jewish priests to the Garden of Gethsemane and identified Jesus by kissing him and addressing him as “Master.”
    Jesus foretold that he would not only be betrayed but denied as well by his closest friends. Peter, on whom He would found his church, indeed denied knowing Jesus three times before the cock crowed, just as Jesus had foretold. The priests and Roman soldiers took Jesus away and imprisoned Him.
    Thursday of Holy Week is also called ‘Maundy Thursday’. In the evening many Christians strip their altars of everything and cover all icons and statues and crosses with black cloth to symbolize the mourning of the betrayal and upcoming crucifixion of Jesus. The stripping of the altar also signifies the seizing of Jesus’ clothes and the humiliation he suffered.
    Trinity has a Maundy Thursday service which is very moving, held at 7 pm in the church. I would invite every to come attend the service and participate in the solemn remembrance of the imprisonment, death and resurrection of Jesus.

  1. Friday, the fifth day known as ‘Good Friday’, isn’t named ‘good’ meaning pleasant or fun but holy or pious. Jesus was abandoned by his disciples, suffered through a false trial in front of Pontius Pilate, and was condemned to death by the Jewish officials. The Bible tells ys that Pilate had been warned by a dream of his wife that Jesus was innocent of the charges made by the Jewish officials. But the crowd wanted blood and so he washed his hands, symbolically removing from him any responsibility for what was about to occur.
  2. It was the custom during Passover for the Roman officials to free one criminal. Pilate wanted to release Jesus, but the crowd, riled up by the religious officials. wanted blood. So Jesus was sentenced to death on a cross, a sentence which was only given to the lowest and vilest of criminals. He was even made to carry his own cross through the streets of Jerusalem to Golgotha (“The Place of the Skull”), where he was crucified with two common thieves.

    He suffered for about three hours and then died. Since Jewish custom required burial within 24 hours, His body was removed from the cross and placed in an unused tomb belonging to Joseph of Arimathaea.

    Many Christians honor these three hours with prayers and music and meditation, but there are no formal services with Communion.

    At Trinity, we observe Jesus’ walk to Golgotha and a walk around Capitol Square, with a life-size cross. This begins at 11 am from the front steps. When we complete the walk, we come into the church and meditate for three hours on the death of Jesus. You are welcome and come and go as you wish, respecting the solemnity and quiet of the vigil.

  1. On Saturday, the observance of Lent ends. Jesus lay dead in the tomb and women came and anointed his body with oils and spices, as was the Jewish custom. The disciples locked themselves in a room, afraid to come out for fear of being imprisoned or killed. No one remembers of understands that Jesus will rise from the dead the next morning. No one understood that when he said
  2. “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”(John 2:19)

    He was talking about Himself and His resurrection.

    Today’s Christians often hold an Easter Vigil at the onset of Saturday evening, as a time of waiting in prayer for the resurrection of Christ. Often baptisms are conducted so that these new Christians may rise with Jesus on Sunday. The practice of communion begins again in celebration of Christ’s resurrection.

  1. On Sunday, Jesus’ ordeal was over, the stone had been rolled away. Jesus was alive. He appeared to Mary Magdalene, to Peter, to two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and to the 11 disciples gathered in a locked room. His resurrection was proclaimed and our salvation ensured.
    Easter Sunday is a day of great celebration of Jesus’ resurrection and our salvation guaranteed by His death and resurrection.

Trinity holds a festival Eucharist at 9 am on Easter Sunday, with music and choir and trumpets to celebrate the wondrous resurrection of Christ. Following that service is brunch to celebrate. Please consider coming to enjoy the pageantry and celebrate in the resurrection.
Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH; 24 March 2013

Get To Washing Those Feet

John 13:1-17

Lord, may our eyes see, our ears hear, and your words be written on our hearts. Amen

Here, and throughout the Christian world, tonight we recognize the origin of two significant events in the life of Christ as we commemorate Maundy Thursday. One of them is Eucharist; we all know this ritual because we celebrate the Eucharist whenever we gather to worship. We are very familiar with that rite and sometimes feel detached if we don’t regularly receive the Body and Blood of Christ.

However, the second event is much less recognized and is often associated by many Christians with an ‘ick’ factor. . . that of feet washing.

I just saw some of you get that ‘not me’ look on your face when I even mentioned it.

But let’s examine the ritual and practice of feet washing.

We know that Jesus didn’t do anything without a very good reason. He only had three years to get his message across and change the course of human history, so he didn’t have any time to waste. So let’s look at the practice of foot washing and see if we can understand why he did what seems repugnant to so many of us.

  1. Foot washing was a sign of common courtesy.
    It seems to us that what Jesus did was bizarre and distasteful, but in those days foot washing was what you did when somebody came to your house. The roads in Palestine were dry and dusty, except when it rained and then they turned into a quagmire of mud. So even if your feet were clean when you began your journey, by the time you got wherever you were going, your feet would be covered with dust and dirt and grime and grit. The practice in those days was that when you entered a house you would be greeted with a kiss on the cheek, offered oil to rub on your face, and then a servant would kneel down, take off your sandals, and wash your feet. This was the practice.

    But what was NOT common was for the host or the master of the house to wash the feet of his guests. Foot washing was the work of slaves. A rich man never had to wash anybody’s feet because he had enough servants to cleanse the feet of anybody who came to see him. So when washed the feet of his disciples, he broke the accepted rules – and that’s why the disciples were so shocked—not that somebody would wash their feet, but that Jesus was the one doing it. That violated all customs of the day.

  2. Foot washing is dirty, smelly and humiliating.
  3. Have you ever tried to wash somebody’s feet at the end of a long, hard day? Feet that are covered with grime, perspiration, feet that don’t smell good? It is unpleasant, to say the least. There are some churches that practice foot washing as a part of their regular practice. They even call it a Third Sacrament —Baptism, Eucharist, and the Washing of Feet.

    I have participated in feet washing, as the one being washed and the one washing. I have found
    it to be humbling, every moving, both as the washer and the one being washed. You are exposing yourself completely to the other person; it makes you vulnerable. But this action, no matter which role you take, shows us immediately how Jesus washing his disciples’ feet was the ultimate feeling of servanthood.

  4. Foot washing is an act and symbol of servanthood.
  5. In the Gospel reading, we heard Peter object to Jesus washing his feet:

      “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”(John 13:8)

    In Peter’s mind and in the mind of the other disciples, what Jesus was doing was demeaning. You just didn’t do that. That was slaves’ work. What bothered them was not what he was doing, it’s that He was doing it. Foot washing was OK as long as a person of lower class or lower position did it. But to see the Son of God do it, that was a problem. Jesus was acting as a servant, not the Master!

    Everybody has dirty feet. That’s one good thing about foot washing. Everybody around you has dirty feet. What if we took a few minutes now to prove that, by taking our shoes off and checking everybody out? That would be the end of this service.

    It is a bit frightening to realize that underneath the exterior, we have all got dirty feet, and weaknesses, sores, scars and sins.

    Jesus came to a world of dirty feet. He came to clean the dirty feet, which means he came for you because your feet are dirty too.

    As our Gospel today told us, when Jesus had finished washing the disciples’ feet, He asked:

      Do you understand what I have done for you? (John 13:12)

    In washing their feet he was giving them a hands-on parable, an acted-out object lesson. He wasn’t just washing their feet. He was saying, “This is who I am. This is why I have come to earth. This explains the cross. I came as a servant, to cleanse dirty feet.” The answer to his question,

      “Do you understand?” (John 13:12)

    is ‘NO’, they didn’t, and often we don’t.

    So like any good teacher he goes ahead and gives them the truth, the command and the promise.

    In John 13:13 we hear the truth:

      You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.

    In John 13:15 we hear His command:

      I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.

    Here’s the promise in John 13:17,

      Now that you know these things, you’ll be blessed if you do them. (John 13:17)

    Now I know that you are not going to go out and wash the feet of every person you meet on the street.

As we know, Jesus spoke in parables – and this is one of those.

If we are to do what Jesus commanded, we must be servants!

How can you be a servant, you ask? There are lots of ways.

  1. Being a servant is an attitude, not an action.
    So many of us think, “Tell me what I need to do if I’m going to be a servant.” Being a servant doesn’t start with what you do, being a servant starts with the attitude of the heart.
  1. Servants come in all sizes, all shapes and all colors.
    Servants are some of the most ordinary people in all the world: think of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, or Mother Teresa. They may be short and fat, tall and skinny, someone you pass on the street and don’t even notice. They live unremarkable, ordinary lives.
  1. Anyone can be a servant if they have a servant’s heart.
    What is it that makes the difference between being a servant and not being a servant? Is it visiting a nursing home? Is it baking bread for those who are sick? Is it giving money to those who are in need?

    No, because you can visit a nursing home with a servant’s heart or you can do it out of a sheer sense of obligation. You can bake bread because you want to serve somebody, or you can do it because you want to win favor and have them praise you. You can give money because you really want to share your gifts, or you can give money out of pity or in superiority.

    The same action can be the action of a servant or the action of a proud person. What makes the
    difference is the motivation inside your heart.

  1. Some people will find it easier to be a servant than other people.
    Jesus commands us all to be servants whether we find it easy or difficult. We must acknowledge that there is such a thing as a spiritual gift of service. There are those people inside the body of Christ who are specially gifted by God at serving others. Romans 12:7 says,

      If your gift is service, let him serve.

    The other part is that all believers, whether they have the gift or not, are commanded to serve one another. Galatians 5:13 states,

      You therefore, have been set free. But do not use your freedom as an excuse to indulge the flesh, but rather serve one another in love.

    So whether you find it easy or difficult to be a servant, it is still commanded that you act with a servant’s heart.

  1. Jesus Christ was the ultimate servant for the people of God.
    There are two verses we all should engrave on our hearts. The first is Mark 10:45,

      For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve.

    The second is Philippians 2:5,

      Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.

Who was Jesus? . . . Why did he come? . . .

He was a servant, he came to serve. And by His serving, we are saved.

How was Jesus a servant?

  1. He saw a need and moved to meet it.
  2. He took the initiative.
  3. He took off his robe of greatness and got down on his knees.
  4. He didn’t announce what he was going to do. He just did it.
  5. He didn’t wait for a thank you and didn’t receive one either.

That is what a servant does. He sees the need and moves to meet it. And servanthood begins with an attitude of the heart.

Remember from today’s Gospel:

    Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them (John 13:17)

Let us pray:

Lord Jesus, for too long we have overlooked your words and we wonder why the world has overlooked us. Forgive us for our disobedience. Send the Holy Spirit to do a deep work of repentance within us. Grant that we might leave this place determined to become foot washers for you. As you were not ashamed to kneel before your brothers, may we not be ashamed to do as you have done, and so prove ourselves worthy to bear your holy name in the world. Amen.

Delivered at Saint Phillips Episcopal Church, Circleville, OH 21 April 2011

The Pressure at Gethsemane

John 13:1-17

O Lord, we pray, speak in this place, in the calming of our minds and in the longing of our hearts, by the words of my mouth and in the thoughts we form. Speak, O Lord, for your servants listen. Amen.

At the gate at the entrance of Jerusalem you can look up and see an indentation in the rock that looks a little bit like a skull. As you enter the gate, if you look up you can see a green, verdant garden: the Garden of Gethsemane.

A garden can be a place of beauty and peace and quiet reflection. A certain tranquility of spirit often accompanies those who withdraw from their busy day to stroll slowly through a garden surrounded by plants and flowers patiently growing in their natural setting.

We are told that for Jesus, the Garden of Gethsemane frequently served as a quiet place of peaceful reflection and especially for prayers with His heavenly Father. Luke 22:39 implies that He went as a frequent visitor to this garden on the side of the Mount of Olives. But this garden was different this time Jesus visited it.

The word ‘Gethsemane’ means ‘oil press’ – a very appropriate name since it sits at the base of the Mount of Olives. Here in this place was where the olives, a main staple of Judean life, were squeezed into oil.

But as Jesus visited his peaceful garden during Passover week it was different – it was not the olives that were being pressed.

Jesus had arrived triumphantly into the city of Jerusalem on Sunday, greeted by the waving palms and echoes of ‘hosanna’. What a wonderful celebration and beginning for the Passover. His disciples were with him and there surely was a sense of festival in the air. But by Thursday, all this had changed.

First, Jesus gathered his disciples around him and celebrated the Passover meal, what was to become the ‘last supper’. Before the meal, he washed all the disciples’ feet, much like we will be doing in a few minutes. In this action, the Son of God took upon himself to the role of a lowly servant, washing and drying the dusty, dirty feet of the disciples. Not an expected duty of someone who is a King.

Then they all sat and ate the Passover meal. We are all familiar with daVinci’s Last Supper. Looking at the painting, it looks like everyone is thoroughly enjoying themselves, having a good time without a care in the world. But not everyone. . . Jesus knew what would be coming and Judas Iscariot may have been suffering twinges of conscience for what he was about to do. But looking at the painting without knowledge of the events to come, one would think they were having a great time.

After dinner, Jesus and his disciples left for the Garden of Gethsemane to meditate and pray as they often did.

Now, this was not a large area, only about one acre, so they surely were within sight and sound of each other. But Jesus wanted three closer to Him as he went to pray – he asked Peter, James and John and go with him to a quieter place for him to pray. You can imagine that the noise of the rest of the disciples, having eaten and drunk their fill, was a distraction for anyone who wanted to do some intense, focused praying. So Jesus and the three men went a little further into the garden.

I would imagine that Jesus wanted Peter, James and John close by to protect him, to be able to warn him if anyone approached, to be there with him. I know when I am facing a major decision or know what is coming is not really what I want to do, it helps to have close friends near. Jesus must have felt the same way.

Jesus knelt in prayer, knowing what was about to transpire, praying that this burden might be taken from Him. He was alone and so lonely – although he had hinted of the upcoming events for several days, the disciples DID NOT GET it!

After praying he returned to Peter, James and John to find them asleep. Here he in deepest sorrow and need, and they were ASLEEP! Think how lonely He must have felt – those who were closest to Him couldn’t even stay awake long enough to share in his agony! He scolded them for sleeping, asking them to remain with Him as he prayed again.

After He prayed a second time, He returned to again find them asleep. Imagine how alone and rejected He must have felt. Those whom He trusted again had let him down. . . AGAIN. They could not comprehend the enormity and significance of the events to come.

So Jesus returned to that solitary spot in the garden to pray a third time.

He was more and more, finding himself in the ever increasing pressure to fulfill his destiny. And He was totally alone. Only He knew what was to come. He went to the garden craving fellowship with his heavenly Father. He had prayed a heart-wrenching prayer:

    “Father, don’t forsake me now. Let this cup pass, for to drink it I’ll have to cry ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!’ To live apart from you is death. Don’t leave me now.” (Luke 22:42)

We are told in Scripture that Jesus wished this burden be removed from Him. That He be allowed to live out his life, preaching and teaching with His disciples. But He knew that was not to be – no matter how much he wished it. He must fulfill his destiny.

Being the Son of God would not save him.

When Judas Iscariot, accompanied by the mob, appeared, Peter cut the ear of the servant in a feeble attempt to give support to Jesus and defend him. But after Jesus’ rebuke, everyone left. The forces of evil seem to have the upper hand. Faced with that prospect the disciples succumb to fear and forsook Jesus to the fate of his captors.

Jesus was left alone . . .

    alone in the clutches of the enemy,

    abandoned by all those He had come to save.

Yet Jesus understands that He must do this alone. . . there is no one else who can bear the cross or share His pain and death. He alone was the Chosen One. And He accepts this.

He is the servant who will give His life for all mankind.

He will bear this so that all may have salvation and live in the Kingdom of God.

He will show to all of us the glory of God and God’s love!

So as we remember that wretched night of our Lord’s suffering, let us begin to wash each other’s feet remembering Jesus’ words:

    So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. (John 1:14-15)

And later as we gather around the table, let us remember the word of Jesus:

    Do this in remembrance of me (Luke 22:19)

On this solemn night, let us remember the pain and suffering of our Lord, and our redemption bought by that pain and suffering. . .

And the Love of Jesus.


Delivered at Church of the Good Shepherd, Athens, OH 20 March 2008

Happy Holy Week!

This past weekend was beautiful — sunny (finally!), with bright flowers starting to pop out everywhere and little birds singing. Winter seems to have finally left, at least for a little while (I hear we are going to get more snow on Tuesday!).

A friend of mine, said to me, “You must be busy getting ready for Easter. So what’s the thing to say — do you tell people “Happy Holy Week?’” “Well,” I said. “You could say ‘Happy Easter,’ when it’s actually Easter day, or ‘Christ is Risen!’.

But until then it’s kind of confusing: there’s a lot of different things going on in Holy Week.

Think about it. During Holy Week, we wave palms in the air and hail Jesus as king, the long-awaited messiah who’s going to save us, then we change our minds and scream that the Romans should crucify him; we share a loving last supper with Jesus and he washes our feet, then we sneak out after dinner and betray him. Jesus begs us to stay with him, we promise we will, then we don’t. We abandon him, he’s arrested and beaten; he forgives us, then we run away. Then Jesus is killed; we lay him in the tomb and weep; we go back for him, then he’s gone, then he’s back, and then — wait! — he’s not dead at all.

We call this week before Easter Sunday ‘Holy Week’ because it was originally the time of the Feast of Passover when the Jews were saved in Egypt, and because of the miraculous things that Jesus did in the last week of His Life.

We witness to Christ in song and story throughout Holy Week.

On Palm Sunday we process with our palms and incense and songs. We celebrate Jesus triumphantly riding into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. Men, women and children lined the streets yelling ‘hosanna’ and waving palm branches. They were greeting the messiah who they believed had come to save them.

On Holy Monday we remember Jesus’ throwing all the money changers and vendors out of the Temple. The Temple in Jerusalem was the center of worship for the Jews and they were required to present money and animals for sacrifice to the priests when they visited. Animal vendors, and money changers had set up booths in the court. People believed that God actually lived in ‘Most Holy of Holy Places’ the inner sanctum of the Temple. This desecration angered Jesus so much that he turned over the tables of the money changers and ran all the animal vendors out.

On Holy Tuesday, Jesus spent most of the day on the Mount Of Olives, where he preached what we now know as the’ Sermon on The Mount’, telling crowds of people what the Kingdom would be like and how we could join Him.

On Spy Wednesday we remember Judas Iscariot, a zealot, who thought he was doing the right thing by agreeing to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.

He thought that if Jesus was jailed, the people would rise up and overthrow the Romans.

On Maundy Thursday, Jesus shared a common meal with his disciples – this has become the celebration we call Eucharist or Communion. Many churches strip their altars and cover any icons and statues on Maundy Thursday in preparation for the mourning of Jesus’ crucifixion on Good Friday. There will be no celebration of Communion until the resurrection.

Many other churches hold feet washings, washing each other’s feet, to commemorate that Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. Jesus reminds us that we are to love each other as he loved us.

After the meal, Jesus went to the Garden at Gethsemane to pray. He asks the disciples to stay and pray with him, but they all fall asleep. Jesus is left to pray for strength for what is to come by himself, abandoned by his own disciples.

Judas then identified Jesus for the Roman guards with a kiss and He was taken away by the soldiers.

We don’t know why this Friday got the name of ‘Good Friday’ – it certainly was not a ‘good’ day. Jesus was brought before Pilate, the Roman governor, and sentenced to death. He was then forced to walk to the Hill of Golgotha, carrying the cross on which he will be crucified. There is a commemoration of this walk called the ‘Stations of the Cross’ where participants remember each of the steps to the crucifixion. Here at Trinity, we do a Stations of the Cross around the Statehouse, interweaving Jesus’ trials with social justice issues.

It is generally accepted that Jesus was nailed to the cross around noon on Good Friday and died after three hours. Many churches, including Trinity, hold a vigil with readings and music during this three hour period. The Bible says that when Jesus died, the world turned black, which scientists think was a solar eclipse in the middle of the day. Jesus’ body is taken down from the cross and buried in an unused tomb.

Holy Saturday ends the season of Lent for Easter Sunday will be a celebration of new life. Holy Saturday is a day of waiting for the resurrection on Easter Sunday. Some churches hold a twilight or midnight vigil waiting for the resurrection; others have people praying throughout the night, waiting for Easter Sunday.

The word ‘Easter’ comes from the German ‘ostern’, meaning the direction from which the sun rises, celebrating the spring sun, when all things return to life again. Some churches, if they do not do an Easter Vigil, hold a sunrise service to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus as the sun comes up.

This is a day of great celebration with banners and special music and great feasting. We have left the penitential season of Lent and are reveling in the fact that with the death and resurrection of Jesus, we all have new and eternal life. All our sins have been forgiven with His death and have been promised a place in Heaven for eternity.

So this Holy Week, think about each of the days and what preparation you can make to be ready for the festive celebration of the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday.

Let us pray:

Dear Lord, was we approach the week of the trials of your Son, let us remember our own shortcomings and vow to cleanse ourselves of those things that keep us from you. By raising Christ, your Son, you conquered the power of death and opened for us the way to eternal life. Let our celebration raise us up and renew our lives by the Spirit that is within us. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Delivered at In The Garden Ministry, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square,
Columbus, OH 13 April 2014