Tag Archive for Maundy Thursday

Holy Week: Changing Humanity’s Mind About God

Throughout Holy Week, I invite you to see the awesome strength of love unfold in the life of Jesus – a love that is stronger than the violence and the powers of this world, a love that is stronger than death, a love that includes and does not exclude, a love that reconciles and heals, a love that changes the lives of you and me.  Notice too, during this week, how Jesus’ sacrifice is not intended to change God’s mind about humanity. It is about changing humanity’s mind about God.

Palm Sunday — On this day, as Jesus enters Jerusalem humbly on a donkey, Pontius Pilate enters in grand style with his horses and heavily armed troops. Pilate is there to “keep the peace” at a time when the city is overflowing with those who are gathering for the Passover. He will keep that peace by crucifying anyone who might oppose the Roman Empire. Two parades – one offers a new way of living and creating a world of mercy, compassion and hope, and another parade celebrating power for some and oppression for most.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday — During these days Jesus teaches in the Temple. Perhaps the whole key to the drama of Holy Week and why Jesus becomes so dangerous to the Roman authorities and the Temple leadership lies in the “riot in the Temple.” Many theologians have written insightfully about this event. One book I recommend highly is Rabbi Jesus by Bruce Chilton. The money changers had replaced the area of the Temple where the Gentiles could worship. That is why Jesus screams, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations, but you have made it a den of robbers!” On an even deeper level, Jesus was challenging the whole “sacrificial system” of the Temple which was intended to appease a God who did not need appeasing. It avoided the divine calls of their own prophets down through the centuries who proclaimed, “Is this not the fast I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?”

Maundy Thursday  Could it be at the Last Supper, as Jesus gave away his Body and his Blood, he was bringing about a great escape? Oh yes, Jesus really died the next day, but before Pilate and his executioners killed him, he had already given himself away. Jesus had given himself to us – Body and Blood. His mission would continue to live even as he died because he made us the Body of Christ; we are the ones who continue to do what he did. Pilate could not kill the mission of Jesus.

Good Friday — Theologies of the Cross have many dimensions. One dimension I heard in a sermon by The Rev. John Osgood several years ago. He said “the reason we spend hours and hours praying before the Cross, is to instill in us that when we see the Cross we see suffering. That means when we see suffering, we will see the Cross.” In other words, in the suffering of this world, we will see Christ present. We will see Christ; the one who did not run from the cross but embraced it so there will be no place that is ever God-forsaken.

Easter — Easter is the life changing reality that with God nothing is impossible. As our Presiding Bishop has said “The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is about the eternity of hope.” It is the eternal “Yes!” of God to all that is and will be. Love is stronger than death. This truth – this gift of life that never ends – allows us to live and love in freedom. We open ourselves to new possibilities, to new hope, to new ways of living. And, isn’t that Resurrection – a new way of living?

We can share the resurrection when we ask the hurting people of this world the same question the risen One asked Mary Magdalene: “why are you weeping?”

  • Resurrection begins when we ask immigrants and refugees, “Why are you weeping?”
  • Resurrection begins when we ask the families who have lost loved ones to gun violence, “Why are you weeping?”
  • Resurrection begins when we ask our earth dying of global warming, “Why are you weeping?”
  • Resurrection begins when we ask people of color, “Why are you weeping?”
  • Resurrection begins when we ask transgender persons, “Why are you weeping?”

 

The Great 50 Days

Remember Easter is not a day but a whole season. It seems to me that we give an ample effort to the holy season of Lent and to the great feast of Christ’s passage from death to new life.  We don’t tend to plan the Easter season with equal energy or passion.  What might mark these days with great joy in your congregation? How might your prayer deepen with gratitude for the mystery of Easter? We can start with Easter 2.

Momentum Sunday

Easter 2 is for the survivors – the remnant who never miss a Eucharist no matter how “high” or “low” the celebration.  What if we kept the momentum of the resurrection in our life together and made Easter 2 a joyful, engaging event?  It’s good liturgy and it’s good for the mission of Christ’s Church, so I encourage you to transform “Low Sunday” into “Momentum Sunday.” Bring the choir back. Keep the liturgy highly spirited. Consider having an adult education class on Sunday morning about the basics of prayer and the varieties of prayer for those who might have come to church on Easter for the first time in a long time.

  • “How to Pray” or “Prayer 101”
  • “The Five Bible Stories Everyone Should Know”
  • “Why the Church Makes a Difference in the World.”

Have ministry tables in the church hall to provide information about the many things your church does. Don’t slow down when the Resurrection invites us all to New Life in Christ. Expect them to return.

My prayers are with all our congregations, with all our ministers – lay and ordained – as we prepare to enact the most sacred mysteries of our faith. Be as certain as I am that we who have died with Christ will be raised with him in glory. This is our faith. This is our most precious truth.

+Doug

Reflections on Holy Week

holyweekApril 7, 2014

I don’t want to rush the holy season of Lent to a close, but I am writing about Holy Week in this blog, a week early, because in the last days of Lent I will be in Oklahoma City for the conference RECLAIMING THE GOSPEL OF PEACE: An Episcopal Gathering to Challenge the Epidemic of Violence. I will write a blog from there about the conference. Although I think the main themes and theology of Holy Week will be in abundance at Reclaiming the Gospel of Peace, I want to devote a special blog to this very special week.

On Ash Wednesday we told one another a great truth: “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” It is a great truth but not the whole truth. At the Cathedral on Holy Tuesday the clergy will renew our vows in a service open to all.  We will anoint one another with oil on the forehead where the ashes were imposed and say “Love is always stronger than death, and unto that love you have now returned.” It is the other half of the great truth.

Throughout Holy Week, I invite you to see the awesome strength of that love unfold in the life of Jesus. A love that is stronger than the violence and the powers of this world. A love that is stronger than death. A love that includes and does not exclude. A love that reconciles and heals. A love that changes the lives of you and me.  Notice too, during this week, how Jesus’ sacrifice is not intended to change God’s mind about humanity. It is about changing humanity’s mind about God.

Here are the briefest of reflections on the days of Holy Week. The blessed preachers of Western Massachusetts will have a lot more to say and with much more depth – as will the Holy Spirit speaking in the soul of each of you.

Palm Sunday — On this day, as Jesus enters Jerusalem humbly on a donkey, Pontius Pilate enters in grand style with his horses and heavily armed troops. Pilate is there to “keep the peace” at a time when the city is overflowing with those who are gathering for the Passover. He will keep that peace by crucifying anyone who might oppose the Roman Empire. Two parades. One offers a new way of living and creating a world of mercy, compassion and hope. Another parade celebrating power for some and oppression for most.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday — In these days Jesus teaches in the Temple. Perhaps the whole key to the drama of Holy Week and why Jesus becomes so dangerous to the Roman authorities and the Temple leadership lies in the “riot in the Temple.” Many theologians have written insightfully about this event. One book I recommend highly is Rabbi Jesus by Bruce Chilton. The moneychangers had replaced the area of the Temple where the Gentiles could worship. That is why Jesus screams “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations, but you have made it a den of robbers!” On an even deeper level, Jesus was challenging the whole “sacrificial system” of the Temple which was intended to appease a God who did not need appeasing. And it avoided the divine calls of their own prophets down through the centuries who proclaimed “Is this not the fast I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?”

Maundy Thursday Here is a theology of the Last Supper that I have not read anywhere else. So don’t tell the bishop. Could it be at the Last Supper, as Jesus gave away his Body and his Blood, he was bringing about a great escape? Oh yes, Jesus really died the next day. But before Pilate and his executioners killed him, he had already given himself away. Jesus had given himself to us- in every way- Body and Blood. His mission would continue to live even as he died because now we are the Body of Christ; we are the ones who are to do what he did. Pilate could not kill the mission of Jesus.

Good Friday — The theologies of the Cross have many dimensions. One dimension I heard in a sermon by The Rev. John Osgood several years ago. He said “the reason we spend hours and hours praying before the Cross, is to instill in us that when we see the Cross we see suffering. That means when we see suffering, we will see the Cross.” In other words, in the suffering of this world, we will see Christ present. We will see Christ; the one who did not run from the cross but embraced it so there will be no place that is ever God-forsaken.

Easter — Here is the life changing reality that with God nothing is impossible. As our Presiding Bishop has said “The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is about the eternity of hope.” It is the eternal “Yes!” of God to all that is and will be. Love is stronger than death.

Remember Easter is not a day but a whole season. I encourage you to transform “Low Sunday” into “Momentum Sunday.” Bring the choir back. Keep the liturgy highly spirited. Consider having an adult education class on Sunday morning about the basics of prayer and the varieties of prayer for those who might have come to church on Easter for the first time in a long time. Have ministry tables in the church hall to provide information about the many things your church does. Don’t slow down when the Resurrection invites us all to New Life in Christ.

Our Book of Common Prayer provides a very helpful instruction for what to do during Lent. But there is no such instruction for the holy season of Easter. Here is one I wrote a few years ago. Use it if it is helpful.

“Dear People of God: In the weeks after the Resurrection of Jesus, the apostles overcame their fears, and experienced forgiveness, peace, joy, amazement, and hope. Their hearts burned within them as they understood the scriptures in a whole new way. They ran from place to place, telling the Good News. They were filled with New Life.

“I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to a Holy Easter Season. Take into your souls the words of the angels: ‘do not be afraid.’ Face your fears. Forgive someone – perhaps even yourself. Allow yourself to be amazed at what God is doing. Read the scriptures and find a God of love. Go on an adventure. Try new things. Get creative. Use your imagination. Expand your horizons.  Be joyful – God has a hold on you and will never let go. Tell others the Good News. Practice mercy, compassion and hope. Praise God. Amen.”

+Doug