Morning Prayer: Maundy Thursday

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Psalm: 102
Old Testament: Lamentations 2:10-18
New Testament: 1 Corinthians 10:14-17; 11:27-32

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. (1 Cor 10:16-17)

Maundy Thursday is always an interesting Feast Day for me, especially growing up a Roman Catholic background. In that particular tradition, the emphasis for today is placed on the institution of the Lord’s Supper…..celebrating the fact that Jesus took ordinary things, and transformed them so that we might never be without His presence.

But gathering around the table has a greater significance than being fed for our own benefit. In sharing the Body and Blood of our Lord with others, we are united in a spiritual bond that cannot be broken. A bond which makes us not only fellow human beings…..but brothers and sisters who find ourselves in relationship with one another.

I don’t know about you……but I DEFINITELY know some folks in Churchland that I don’t particularly enjoy. Personalities clash, differences of opinion arise, and in some cases, that schism can manifest itself in fighting, arguments, and seeing that person as “somebody else….someone I don’t have to interact with”

Holy Thursday challenges us to sit with others that we don’t enjoy or get along with. Don’t forget: Even Judas was able to share in this sacred meal. 😉

As we enter into the Three Great Days heading towards the Resurrection, may we come to see ourselves in the stories of Scripture, and recognize that we are called to enter into God’s presence….. even when the images are gruesome and ones that we would rather ignore……It is only through suffering, service, and fellowship with sinners that the Paschal mystery can really happen. +

Evening Prayer: Holy Saturday (Easter Eve)

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Psalm: 27
New Testament: Romans 8:1-11
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from a sermon on Holy Saturday

He suffered under Pontius Pilate. Was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead….

This part of the Creed–much like Holy Saturday–often gets overlooked in our excitement for Easter Sunday. One of the fundamental aspects of our faith is that the Resurrection was not just for us….but for all of the faithful throughout all space and time. I think the Patristic reading is absolutely beautiful in its description of why Holy Saturday and the Harrowing of Hell is so important to commemorate:

Something strange is happening – there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear….

He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve.
The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light….”

Christ’s victory over death is so gracious, so complete, so all-encompassing that Satan is literally left with nothing. The chains of death are shattered and all are invited to live life with abundance once more.

Everything our Lord did….all the insults he endured, the pain and suffering he faced, the utter humiliation of the Cross…..it was for us. ❤

Like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, Christ greets all sinners with the open arms of love. He adorns them with the jewels of Grace and Forgiveness and welcomes them to his table.

Alleluia! Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast. Alleluia! +

Morning Prayer: Holy Saturday

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Psalm: 88
Old Testament: Job 19:21-27
New Testament: Hebrews 4:1-16

You have put me in the depths of the Pit,
in the regions dark and deep.
Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
and you overwhelm me with all your waves (Ps. 88:6-7)

In the Incarnation, God became man to save us. Part of that salvation comes from the fact that our Lord was dead and buried. Just as he felt our pain and anguish and emotions when he lived amongst us, so now he tastes the finality of death.

This morning his body has no life in it, his flesh is cold; and the disciples have fled and hidden themselves away.

The resurrection means nothing unless there is a day where God lay in the tomb. How can the rising to new life be considered a miracle if there is never a day where God is still??? a span of time where God is inactive????

This morning, there is desolation and emptiness….this morning, it seems that the Messiah rests in shame and defeat.

This morning, we wait.

O God, Creator of heaven and earth:
as the crucified body of your dear Son
was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath,
so may we await with him the coming of the third day,
and rise with him to newness of life;
who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Evening Prayer: Good Friday

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Psalms: 40, 52
Gospel: John 19:38-42
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from the Catecheses of St. John Chrysostom

Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. (John 19:39-40)

Tonight, Nietzsche is right. God is dead. Christ’s corpse is lifeless. The flesh has already begun to deteriorate and the true horror of the Cross hits home. You see…..the real scandal is not that Christ suffered and died. All men do that.

The impossible thing is that God, the Word through whom all things came to exist has abruptly fallen silent.

We cannot yet see past the great stone. We have not yet been greeted by angels bearing Good News. Tonight, we too are overwhelmed by fear, anguish, and pain…….Despairing at the fate of our Lord.

Tonight Death has claimed its prize, and we like sheep are lost and have scattered. +

Evening Prayer: Maundy Thursday

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Psalms: 142, 143
Gospel: John 13:1-27
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from an Easter sermon of St. Melito of Sardis

When I first came to the Anglican Church I was a little baffled as to why it today was called “Maundy” Thursday. Maundy comes from the Latin word “mandatum” meaning “commandment”. And what is this new commandment????

[Jesus said to his disciples] “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.”

Coming from a Roman Catholic background, this shift in emphasis was a new thing for me. In the RC tradition, Holy Thursday is used as a day to give thanks for the Last Supper and an opportunity to venerate the Holy Sacrament. There was no talk of commands.

Yet in the Anglican faith, much more emphasis is placed on the directive of our Lord to love, and of His great humiilty washing the disciples feet. Not only that..but the readings always include Jesus’ prayer that his disciples may always be one:

‘I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am…. (John 17:20-24a)

No matter what lines divide us in denomination, doctrinal dispute, or personal greivances, we are called to love beyond all else. Not only that….we are strengthened through Jesus’ prayer to know that whatever divides us can never be as important proclaiming the Good News that Jesus Christ is Lord and that he has come to save us:

He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:5)

As we enter into the Triddium this year may we always be mindful of the great price paid for our salvation, the Sacrament which feeds us in body, mind and soul, and of the fundamental message to all Christians that the aim of this life is not to be served, but to wash the feet of others. +

Morning Prayer: Maundy Thursday

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Psalm: 102
Old Testament: Jeremiah 20:7-11
New Testament: 1 Corinthians 10:14-17; 11:27-32

Ever wonder why we say the General Confession before receiving the bread and the wine of the Eucharist??? We get that idea from Paul’s warning to the Corinthians this morning:

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink* without discerning the body,* eat and drink judgement against themselves. (1 Cor 10:27-29)

In confessing our sins to God, and by sharing the sign of peace with our brothers and sisters we are forgiven and reconciled. In those liturgical actions, any restraint from receiving Christ’s Body and Blood are shattered and broken.

Of course, it is not always necessary that the exact prayer of Confession be said…..but there is a real sense that one who approaches the altar should know what they are getting themselves into.

On the flip side, we must keep in mind that Jesus feasted with tax collectors and sinners…he never put any conditions on his hospitality. He simply welcomed them with loving arms. Asking that we–in turn–accept his love and free gift of grace. 🙂

In receiving Christ’s very Self and making it a part of our own bodies, we cannot help but be changed. We cannot help but receive the gifts of the Spirit and be given perfect remission of our faults and failings. For Christ died once for all. No matter how heinous your sins, they are both forgiven and forgotten in the name of Jesus.

By using ordinary things, God takes the fruits of the earth and makes them into something extraordinary. We too are made extraordinary by that spiritual food and drink…refashioned into a new creation that brings life, healing, and wholeness to the world.

So….as we celebrate this most Holy Thursday:

Come all you who love God and want to love God more.
Come, you who have tried to follow Jesus, and you who have failed.
Come, you who have been here many times, and you who have never been before.
Come, because it is Christ who invites you here.

Thanks be to God!+

Evening Prayer: Wednesday in Holy Week

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Psalm: 74
Gospel: John 12:27-36
Patristic Reading:An excerpt from a treatise of St. Augustine

‘Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—“Father, save me from this hour”? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ (John 12:27-29)

Tonight, I had the absolute pleasure of attending Evening Prayer @ the Cathedral using the Holden setting composed by Marty Haugen. There were about a dozen of us altogether and the music was superb.

I also got to hear a wonderful sermon preached by the Deacon. In her homily, she used the illustration to hammer home the significance of the crucifixion.

A bridge operator working the night shift decided to take his son into work with him one evening while working the night shift. As the midnight train came through, he got a call to lower the bridge so it could pass. Without thinking, the operator lowered the bridge.

To his absolute horror, he heard a blood-curdling scream. His son had wandered off onto the tracks when he was not looking and was caught in the mechanism that lowered the bridge.

The Father had a choice. Knowing that the train did not have enough time to stop and save the boy, he could either let his son live and have the train crash into the river, or save his son with the consequence that hundreds of passengers would die.

Faced with this agonizing decision, the father did the only thing he could do. He pressed the button to lower the bridge and let the train pass. Sacrificing his only Son while the people on the train ate, drank, and slept peacefully en route to their destination.

Such was the pain for God when Christ was put on the Cross.

Christ knew the pain and he laid on the tracks anyway. With a troubled spirit and a fearful heart, he faced death head on. Not so that he could be saved. But that we would be saved and God glorified.

I wonder how many of us realize how high the price of our salvation really was. Thanks be to Christ our Lord who valued us beyond all telling. +

Morning Prayer: Wednesday in Holy Week

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Psalm: 55
Old Testament: Jeremiah 17:5-10;14-17
New Testament: Philippians 4:1-13

My heart is in anguish within me,
the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
Fear and trembling come upon me,
and horror overwhelms me.
And I say, ‘O that I had wings like a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest (Psalm 55:4-6)

Following Bonhoeffer’s lead, I have been very intentional this week about reading the Psalm portions of the Office from Jesus’ point of view. When I came to these verses, I was immediately reminded of the Agony at Gethsemane.

I think it would be foolish to say that Jesus went stoically to his death. If that were the case, how could he be fully human? All of us fear pain and torture, and Christ was no exception. Throughout his entire Passion, the dark shadow of the Devil loomed…tempting him to abandon his mission.

And yet our Saviour chose not to fly away like a dove. Instead, he stayed in the company of sinners, bore the brunt of false accusations and died on a cruel Cross. Thanks be to God that our Lord is one who understands pain, fear, and doubt….and who overcame them so that we might be saved. +

Evening Prayer: Tuesday in Holy Week

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Psalm: 94
Gospel: John 12:20-36
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from On the Holy Spirit by St. Basil

Over the last few Sundays, the Church has been reading from the Gospel of John. In each of the readings–The Wedding at Cana, Jesus and Nicodemus, Jesus and the Samaritan woman, Jesus and the man born blind, and Jesus raising Lazurus–there is always mention of Jesus’ “time”.

Initially Christ is reluctant, telling his mother that the hour has not yet come. He warns Nicodemus that the time is coming when all people must be born from above. In speaking with the Samaritan woman, he states that the time is coming and is now here when all people will not worship God on mountains but rather in Spirit and in truth.

The final two miracles act as an unmistakable sign that the Kingdom of God and the reversal of the status quo has officially begun.

Now….some Greeks ask to see Jesus. At first glance, it doesn’t seem like Jesus grants their request. These are the words that come out of his mouth:

‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (John 12:23-24)

Here our Lord makes a definitive statement…..the hour has come and somehow it involves death and bearing fruit. It may not seem like it at first, but this cryptic statement actually answers the Greeks request……..if they want to see Jesus…..see him as he truly is……they need to see him like this:

Only in seeing the Lord and Friend who dies can we really come to know God. There is abundant life yes…..but first we face the shadow of the Cross. +

Morning Prayer: Tuesday in Holy Week

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Psalms: 6, 12
Old Testament: Jeremiah 15:10-21
New Testament: Philippians 3:15-21

Woe is me, my mother, that you ever bore me, a man of strife and contention to the whole land! I have not lent, nor have I borrowed, yet all of them curse me. (Jeremiah 10:15)

As I read this quote, I was immediately reminded of another infamous person who uttered the line: “I wish I’d never been born.”

In the movie It’s a Wonderful Life George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart) is pushed to the brink after a series of unfortunate events leads him to believe that he is worth more dead than alive, and that the suffering he causes in the world around him is too extensive. As such, he sincerely wishes that he had never been born and that his problems disappear.

In response, God grants his wish and George is given the chance to see what the world would be like without him. All his friends and family have become hard and embittered. The affordable housing he built in Bailey Park has been replaced with the expensive condos and dissolute living in Pottersville. The brother he saved as a child is dead…and the people whom he has helped are now lost in the streets.

I suspect Jeremiah’s despair was akin to George’s. He doesn’t understand why God is picking on him. He doesn’t understand why he must bear the brunt of Israel’s disregard and be held in such contempt. Here is a prophet who is at the end of his rope.

However–just like George–this persecuted messenger of God feels isolated because he cannot see the whole picture. He doesn’t fully understand teh importance of his words and actions in the context of God’s salvific plan.

What Jeremiah doesn’t know is that:

And I [God] will make you to this people
a fortified wall of bronze;
they will fight against you,
but they shall not prevail over you,
for I am with you
to save you and deliver you,

says the Lord.
I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked,
and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless. (Jeremiah 15:20-21)

When God puts us in the world…or gives us a ministry…..he never fails to equip us. We may feel discouraged, persecuted and weak….but we are assured time and again that God is with us in our struggles.

As we go through this week…may we be reminded that our stumblings indeed have a direction and that our vision may not be able to see the wider view…..the view that brings us salvation, comfort and glory to God in the highest heaven. +

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