Maundy Thursday | Caleb Schut

Maundy Thursday is a Christian holiday celebrated on the Thursday before Easter. It commemorates the washing of the disciples feet by Jesus. The word Maundy traces back to the Latin word mandatum (see mandate in there?), which means command. In John's account of how the last few days of Jesus' life go, the disciples gather for a final meal with Jesus, and at this meal Jesus washes their feet. 

After washing their feet, the meal begins. At some point in the dinner, Jesus identifies Judas as the disciple who will betray him. After Judas leaves the group, Jesus tries to prepare the disciples for what is coming next. "I will only be with you a little longer," Jesus says. Then, as a final command, he says: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” This command is where the phrase for Maundy comes from. It is Jesus parting command...If you remember anything I've told you, REMEMBER THIS!

To love has become such an obvious sentiment. Love trends as a hashtag and is plastered across t-shirts and bumpers. Perhaps some credit for that ought to go to the man who commanded it so emphatically. Maundy Thursday is a day to remember exactly what it means to love "as I have loved you." 

Jesus Washes His Disciples Feet | John 13:1-17

It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 

The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” 

“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 

For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean. When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

Dry Bones | Caleb Schut

Ezekiel 31:1-14 | Dry Bones

Part 1. Death. 

Ezekiel is placed in a valley of dry bones. Very dry bones. They are the house of Israel. God asks Ezekiel, "Can these bones live?" The answer seems obvious. No, they cannot. They are bones, scattered through a valley. The context for this vision is that Judah has been sacked by Babylon. The story of God's people, which began with Abraham, seems to have run its full course. Israel was destroyed in 722 BC. Judah is now destroyed in 586 BC. What is left is a valley of bones. 

The image of bones reminded me of a trip I took to Rwanda. We visited a museum that tells the story of the Rwanda Genocide. In 1994 over 100 days, nearly 900,000 people were slaughtered. Our student group visited a site where room after room was full of bones. Skulls sat on shelves like books. On the ride back to our hostel that night, one of the students said to me, "tell me about your God after that." It was a jarring question. I had been pondering the same sort of dilemma she had. I was speechless. 

I imagine this is how Judah is feeling. "Tell me about your God, now," Babylon seemed to say with their swords and dominance. "Tell me about how great your God is, about His steadfast love, about how His mercies are new every morning." Judah is hopeless and they need a vision. They need to believe that God is still God.

Part 2. Prophesy.

"Prophesy to the bones," God instructs Ezekiel. He begins to speak to them and as the Word of God goes forth from him mouth, the bones begin to move. The text tells us what it sounds like...they begin to rattle. Soon they are coming together. Bones that were broken in the heat of battle are mended and put together. Wounds that were caused by the sword are healed by the word. The Word of God goes forth and reverses the effects of violence. God's word breaks the cycle of violence. In Ezekiel's vision, God's people are restored, not by sword or strength, but by the Word of the Lord.

Next, Ezekiel prophesies to the Spirit. The Spirit of God (or breath of God) moves in the dusty remains and brings life. Just as the spirit breathed life into dust at creation, so God's spirit brings life again. The God that created in the beginning would create once again. God is not a static deity stuck in the past. He is the living God whose breath would continue to create and would constitute a people once again. 

Part 3. Life.

God causes life to flow into the bones of Judah. There had been no cause for hope. What is more helpless than a pile of dry bones? Nothing. Judah is done. The people of God, their story, is finished. They are like the disciples on the evening before the resurrection. They are in some dark room. The windows and doors are locked. They keep their voices down in order to not be discovered. Their head rests in their hands. There is no reason to be optimistic. But God's stubborn love, his steadfast faithfulness is more resilient even than death. God had made a covenant promise to Judah, that they would be his people and dad-gum-it if God wasn't going to see His promise through. Even if that meant breathing life into dry bones. Even if that meant making the Word become flesh and dwelling among us. Even if that meant taking on the form of a slave and becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. God's steadfast love had to be satisfied. 

God's love does not give up on His people. Can these bones live? The answer is no...unless there is a resurrection. Unless God can create again. If God can make life come out of death, then perhaps, yes.  Perhaps these bones can live. 

Prayers of the People

God of peace, we continue to pray for those affected by the violence in our city.  For those who have lost friends or family members we ask that you would comfort your people and provide your presence to them.  We ask that people would react with love and not with revenge in the wake of tragedies.  We thank you for organizations who work every day to eliminate gun violence in our city. May they continue to be beacons of hope in communities who need your transforming presence. 

Discerner of hearts, you look beneath our outward appearance and see your image in each of us. Banish in us the blindness that prevents us from recognizing truth,
so we may see the world through your eyes and with the compassion of Jesus Christ who redeems us.

Lord in your mercy...Hear our Prayer

Service Recap; March 13

Our worship this lent has been wrenching. James and Davin have led us into uncomfortably honest places where, like in this week’s communion song we exclaim, “I want somebody to tell me what is the soul of man.” This Lent has been an invitation to listen to “sit in the dark and wait for the light.”

This Sunday, Jesus sat at the table of Lazarus, Martha, and Mary. Perhaps Jesus and Lazarus empathized withone another about what it felt like to be wanted. Lazarus, because he was raised from the dead, is undeniable proof of Jesus’ power and both men have a price on their heads.

The political and religious elite want both men silenced. They don’t know how else to respond to the inexpressible light that has just broken into their worlds. They are understandably frightened by the claims that Jesus is making and the actions that back him up. The brightness of Christ is blinding to them, not illuminating. It reminded me of a passage from Frederick Beuchner:[1]

“People are prepared for everything except for the fact that beyond the darkness of their blindness there is a great light. They are prepared to go on breaking their backs plowing the same old field until the cows come home without seeing, until they stub their toes on it, that there is a treasure buried in that field rich enough to buy Texas…They are prepared for the potluck supper at First Presbyterian but not for the marriage supper of the Lamb…the good news breaks into a world where the news has been so bad for so long that when it is good nobody hears it except for a few.”

Mary is one of the few. She has sat in the darkness. She has wept. Listened. She breaks open a forty-thousand-dollar bottle of perfume onto Jesus feet, but Judas cannot see it as light. He sees it as folly, as waste, as the move of a pathetic woman who isn’t smart enough to use her money more wisely.

Bob suggested this week that often, the only faithful thing to do is wait in the darkness for the light. This Lent we’ve been waiting, sitting, listening. This Sunday we arrive in Jerusalem where we will experience great darkness, but we are also prepared to see extravagant light.

Why Ash Wednesday?

Luke 4:1-13 (The Story of Jesus in the Wilderness)

What a sight? Our savior, bent over with hunger pains, his hand in the dust of the wilderness, his head hanging limp.

Why would we want to follow him there? Why would we take up fasting and preparation for 40 days? Of course, none of us will go into the wilderness or without food for any significant amount of time, but why mark this event with a special service? Why gather on a Wednesday to remind ourselves of our mortality?

The somber reflections on our own finite limits and our inevitable deaths is, to use the theological word, a drag, a serious bummer.

What about the wilderness is good news?

The route through the desert is not the path we prefer to take. It is dry, barren, lifeless, purposeless, it is chaotic and unorganized, it is not where you are supposed to be: productive, efficient, successful. When you find yourself in the wilderness you do everything you can to get out of it. You turn back to find out where you went wrong, or maybe you press on, head down legs moving quickly.

If it were up to us, we would never pass through the wilderness. So it’s shocking when we read that it was the Holy Spirit that drew Jesus there. And it is no different when we are the ones taken into the wilderness.

Ash Wednesday is not another excuse for Christians to indulge their guilt, to wallow in self pity, to convince themselves that they are not worthy.

One of my professors recently reflected on the temptation of Adam and Eve faced in the garden. He writes, “it was precisely our limited humanness that left us with the sense, I am not enough- paving the path for the slithering serpent to make the offer of a life without limitation. Somehow we are ashamed of our humanness. Humiliated when we fail. Disturbed when we can’t get it all done in a day.”

Ash Wednesday is an invitation into the wilderness to experience our humanness and the freedom that comes from being limited. The freedom of being dependent upon another. It will feel terrible at first. Oh, it will be terrifying-to face your own limits.

Fits of panic and anxiety, sweaty palms, heart racing.

It will feel like head hanging, hand in the dust of the wilderness, bent over with hunger pains.

But if you follow the spirit to the quiet open wilderness you will first hear silence. And then a still small voice saying…

You don’t have to be anything other than human.

You don’t have to be anything other than who you are.

You are enough.

To hear our Savior whisper those words is why we gather for Ash Wednesday, it is why we follow him into the wilderness.