Thursday, March 28, 2024

Maundy Thursday 2024

bread cup eucharist lord's supper holy communion
Lent into Easter

How was your Lent?

Did you participate in weekday or weeknight services and/or soup suppers? Did you grow from a special devotional or scripture study on your own or as a family? Did you extend any extra service to nearby neighbors or within your extended community?

What do you especially hope for during the Great Fifty Days of Easter and beyond?

Passover / Easter

The Council of Nicaea (325) that gave us the Nicene Creed calendared Easter for the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox.This year Easter is early, Passover is late. These great festivals of freedom and liberation focus on remembering God's acts of deliverance from death. Seder participants recount the Exodus narrative of Israel's wayfaring from slavery into the gift of the promised land with symbolic fresh food that no longer depends upon empire—they sometimes call it "eating history." After Lent ends, Christians retell and re-enact their experience of death and resurrection with the Triduum or Three Days: One Liturgy in Three Acts.

Triduum – Three Days

• Maundy – Mandate or Command – Thursday

The Three Days is a single liturgy in three acts. It begins with Maundy Thursday worship that concludes without a benediction; Maundy Thursday worship often ends with the worship space stripped and in darkness as everyone leaves quietly. Historical Lenten practice waits until Maundy Thursday to pronounce absolution or forgiveness to the gathered assembly that confessed their sins on Ash Wednesday.

• Good Friday

Good Friday, the day of Jesus' death, is Act II. Although the Revised Common Lectionary specifies scripture readings for Friday, many churches' traditions include other scriptures such as noon through 3 pm with Jesus' seven last words or statements, reading or singing one of the full scriptural passion narratives in the evening, or something else.

• Holy Saturday

The day nothing apparently happens is the day everything actually happens. Theology of the cross especially lifts up this day before Easter when we almost hang suspended in time anticipating gifts of rebirth, of spring, of new life.

• Easter / Resurrection

Easter is fifty days, a week of weeks! The Day of Pentecost is the fiftieth day of Easter. The Three Days/Triduum liturgy concludes by celebrating Jesus' resurrection. Very late Saturday afternoon, Saturday evening, or extremely early Sunday morning the Vigil of Easter revisits the meta-narratives of creation and of deliverance from death to life in the Exodus and Passion/Easter stories. Many churches and communities offer a Sunrise Service; the regularly scheduled worship at the usual time frequently features brass, often percussion, and a glorious choir. In this Covid-influenced time of smaller gatherings and reduced musical and other resources, congregational singing usually is the best of the entire year.

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

23 For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me."

25 In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

In words, in actions, and with food, God's people Israel remembered their passage from slavery into freedom; when the church obeys Jesus by breaking bread and pouring out wine, part of the liturgical action includes retelling the story of God's people from creation through redemption in order to make it part of our own history.

So it's not only about our Savior for each of us, for everyone gathered in person or virtually; remembering becomes about all of us throughout the history of the cosmos. We recollect how God has been with us and led us, how even those hard days didn't last forever…For the apostle Paul, the gospel is death and resurrection, though notice the founding narrative from Corinthians mentions only Jesus' death.

Today is Thursday; tomorrow's Friday—Sunday's coming!
Psalm 116:12-13; 17-19

What shall I render to the Lord
For all his benefits toward me?
I will take the cup of salvation,
And call upon the name of the Lord.
I will offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving,
And will call upon the name of the Lord.
I will pay my vows to the Lord
Now in the presence of all his people,
In the courts of the Lord's house,
In the midst of you, O Jerusalem.

Friday, March 22, 2024

Lent 6B Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday Palm branches
Mark 11:1-11

1 When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples 2 and said to them, "Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find tied there a [donkey] colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. 3 If anyone says to you, 'Why are you doing this?' just say this: 'The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.'"

4 They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, 5 some of the bystanders said to them, "What are you doing, untying the colt?" 6 They told them what Jesus had said, and they allowed them to take it.

7 Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields.

9 Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!"
11 Then Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple, and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.

Palm Sunday

You will find Palm Sunday in:

Luke 19:28-40

Matthew 21:1-11

John 12:12-15

The gospels record Jesus' genealogy, birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension; they also present carefully crafted theology. Events of the days before Easter that we call Holy Week or Passion Week occupy a large portion of Mark's gospel with its focus on Jesus' identity and purpose.

Many churches observe both Palm Sunday and Jesus' Passion on the sixth Sunday in Lent. For churches that celebrate the Triduum-Three Day liturgy of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter, Lent concludes Wednesday of Holy Week at sundown or at midnight.

In Mark, Jesus' journey to Jerusalem and the cross is relentless. Every year on the Sixth Sunday in Lent we re-enact his entrance into the city riding a young donkey and surrounded by excited onlookers waving leafy (palm?) branches. (Luke doesn't mention palms or hosannas.)


Jerusalem was the center of religion, commerce, and politics. Jerusalem was the center of Roman imperial rule. Jerusalem was the destination of the Savior's trial, conviction, death, and resurrection.

Many of Jesus' actions were upside down versions of those of conventional political, religious, and economic leaders—"The Establishment." Jesus rides into the geographical center of power on a donkey.

Jesus riding a donkey echoes Zechariah 9:9 that some scholars consider a messianic prediction. Matthew 21:5 and John 12:15 quote Zechariah; Mark and Luke probably knew the Zechariah text.

Does riding a small equine subvert the image of a conquering military general on an armored steed? Possibly. But there was a tradition of a military victor riding a donkey in order to present himself as a servant of the common people.


In a recent video on his Liturgy website, Bosco Peters outlines the probable historical Palm Sunday scenario of Roman armies entering Jerusalem from the west in order to control colossal crowds of Passover visitors. He describes Jesus coming in from the opposite direction – the east – on a donkey as a political cartoon, as a mocking parody of Pontius Pilate's military actions. The sarcasm of a kid's tricycle (against Vladimir Putin's armies, maybe?) would be our cultural donkey equivalent.

Bosco reminds us "Jesus is a holy fool," and asks if we'll join Pontius Pilate's procession of Power, Might, and Fear? Or Jesus' procession of Fun, Laughter, and Caring?

Jerusalem was the center of Roman imperial rule. Jerusalem was the destination of the Savior's trial, conviction, crucifixion, death—and resurrection.

Lent 2024 leafy

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Lent 5B

Jeremiah 31 New Covenant
I will make a new covenant
with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.

I will put my law within them,
and I will write it on their hearts;
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.

No longer shall they teach each other,
or say to each other,
"Know the Lord," for they shall all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord;

for I will forgive their iniquity,
and remember their sin no more.
Jeremiah 31:31,33,34

John 12:20-33
This was during what we call Passion Week or Holy Week:
• after Mary anointed Jesus at Lazarus' home. [12:1-8]
• after "the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death, as well." [12:10-11]
• after Jesus' final entry into Jerusalem surrounded by hosannas and palm fronds [12:12-15]

20 Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." 22 Philip went and told Andrew, then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 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."

25 Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

27 "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. 28 Father, glorify your name." Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again."

29 The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, "An angel has spoken to him." 30 Jesus answered, "This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." 33 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

First and Second Readings

The readings from Jeremiah and Hebrews compliment each other and the passage from John's gospel, so you may want to study them separately.

Jeremiah 31:31-34

Hebrews 5:5-10

The Fifth Sunday in Lent

On the Fifth Sunday in but not of Lent, we continue to follow Jesus to the cross. Early in Holy Week-Passion Week; the Savior and his retinue have reached Jerusalem; next week on the sixth Sunday in Lent, the church begins Holy Week, often halfway through the liturgy.

This scripture describes Jesus dying on the scandal of a tree. Jesus promises to draw all to himself: the tree of death – the cross – paradoxically becomes the new tree of life. In the Garden of Eden, "Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil." Genesis 2:9

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself. John 12:32

In a reference to the healing snake lifted up in the Exodus wilderness from Numbers 21:8-9, we hear about Jesus lifted up—on the cross, lifted up from the empty tomb, lifted up in the Ascension. Earlier in this gospel:

• And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. John 3:14-15

• So Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I am he…" John 8:28a

"I Am the snake" could be Jesus' eighth "I Am" statement!

They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." John 12:21

We see the Glory of God as we "see Jesus," the Human One, lifted up on the cross. We see the fulness of the glory of God's presence in the weakness, vulnerability and defenselessness of Jesus dying on the cross.

The Apostle Paul determined to preach only Christ crucified, lifted up in glory on the cross: 1 Corinthians 2:2
Psalm 51:12
Restore unto me
the joy of thy salvation;
and uphold me
with thy free spirit.
Psalm 51:12

Saturday, March 09, 2024

Lent 4B

Ephesians 2:8
For by grace you have been
saved through faith;
and that not of yourselves,
it is the gift of God.
Ephesians 2:8

Ephesians 1:20-23

20 God put this power to work in Christ when God raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. 22 And God has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Ephesians 2:1-10

1 You were dead through the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. 3 All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else.

4 But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us 5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ –by grace you have been saved– 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come God might show the immeasurable riches of grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God– 9 not the result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

Lent 4: Laetare, "Rejoice"

As we accompany Jesus to Jerusalem, to the cross, and to the day of resurrection, during Lent we've been spring cleaning and decluttering our lives, though most of us have been concentrating on only a couple of aspects, such as spirituality and service.

Thursday was halfway through Lent! This midway Sunday has several traditional names and practices. In the North American church, Laetare – "Rejoice" – probably is best known. Each Sunday in Advent and Lent has a designation taken from the opening of the Latin Introit or entrance prayer.

Rejoice, Jerusalem, and gather round, all who love her.
Be joyful, all who were in sorrow;
exult and be satisfied at her consoling breast.
Isaiah 66:10-11
I rejoiced when they said unto me:
let us go into the house of the Lord.
Psalm 122:1

Instead of somber penitential purple, the liturgical color for vestments and paraments is lighter, brighter rose that also can be used on Advent 3. The Fourth Sunday in Lent is a special day for those planning to be baptized at the Easter Vigil; in addition, it's sometimes called Refreshment Sunday, and it's Mother's Day in the United Kingdom and some other countries.

Scriptures during Lent

• On Lent 1 we considered Genesis 9:8-17 – God's covenant or unilateral promise with Noah.

• For Lent 2 it was Genesis 17:1-16 – God's covenant with Abram / Abraham.

• Last week on Lent 3 we reflected on the Exodus 20:1--17 – Ten Words (Decalogue) – the Sinai covenant.

In today's words to the Church at Ephesus, like God's promises to Noah and similar to God being the primary actor in the Abrahamic and Sinai Covenants, God's act of redemption in Jesus Christ is strongly covenantal and the language of Ephesians expresses that reality well. In the wake of considering specific biblical covenants on the last three Sundays, this passage logically continues the reality of God's grace-filled covenants or agreements with humanity and with all creation.

Today's Reading and Context

Although in general the theology of Ephesians piggybacks on Paul's undisputed letters, some of the vocabulary and sentence structure is quite un-Pauline. However, scholars have observed it goes in a direction Paul might have taken and almost definitely would have approved. Also, in alignment with the epistles to the churches at Rome, Philippi, and Galatia, insisting on our being redeemed by God's grace at no cost to us makes Ephesians very Pauline and extremely Reformation central.

Like literally every prominent city then and now, Ephesus was a commercial crossroads, facilitating exchanges and influences of ideas, merchandise, commodities, food, culture, and people. Ephesus famously had a temple to the goddess Diana—although Diana was the main deity out of thousands! Ephesus is part of present-day Turkey.

Grace Alone

Chapter 2 starts out by acknowledging we were dead. Throughout this passage, "dead" is nekros, where we get words like necrology, necromancer, necrologist. All the explanations related to "in which you once lived" "once lived among them" aren't zoë or bios or psyche life; they're peripatetic, going about our daily walk, our routine, our everyday lifestyles. However, in 2:5, "even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ" in a word that contains the zoë / life root, God makes us alive, quickens us! You may know the version of the Apostles Creed with "the quick and the dead." In 2:6 God raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

We are seated with Christ at God's right hand! Seated means claimed or assumed authority, similar to when someone runs or stands for elective office and if they win, they've obtained the job, so then they're seated or incumbent. We refer to a sitting president. The church board or session takes their places by being seated and then governing as representatives of those who elected them when they ran or stood for office.

What do you make of our being seated with Jesus Christ?

In these Ephesians verses, all the words about God's activity are grace and gift—grace alone through faith alone a gift of God. With its emphasis on salvation and the Savior as gifts of grace, this text is strongly Reformation Central, yet it concludes by reminding us God has created us to do good works. God even already prepared those good works that help transform the world to be our way of life, our daily walking about, (peripatetic) routine, our lifestyle. Theologian of grace Martin Luther insisted he loved good works so much he'd like to be called the Doctor of Good Works.

Saturday, March 02, 2024

Lent 3B

Psalm 19:8
The precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart.
Psalm 19:8

Exodus 20:1-5a, 7-17

1 Then God spoke all these words: 2 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; 3 you shall have no other gods before me.

4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them...
7 You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses God's name.

8 Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 10 But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.

12 Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
13 You shall not murder.
14 You shall not commit adultery.
15 You shall not steal.
16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
17 You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.


This third Sunday in but not of Lent brings us halfway to Holy Week.

On Lent 1 and Lent 2 we discussed the readings from Mark's gospel; the first readings those Sundays were biblical covenants:

• Lent 1: Genesis 9:8-17 – God's covenant with Noah (it's actually God's unilateral promise)

• Lent 2: Genesis 17:1-16 – God's covenant with Abram / Abraham

For this third Sunday the lectionary brings us another covenant.

• Lent 3: Exodus 20:1--17 – Ten Words of the Sinai covenant, sometimes referred to as the Ten Commandments or the Decalogue (Ten Words).

Covenant comes from co and venire – a coming together agreement. The bible is full of covenants between God and creation, though just how many is up for dispute. All biblical covenants are covenants of grace; in many ways creation itself is a covenant.

Biblical Covenant notes from the Fourth Sunday in Lent, 2019.

Chronology Leading to the Ten Words

• Exodus 12: the Egyptian Pharaoh finally tells Moses, "Take all your people and get out of here right now."
• Exodus 13: celebrating Passover; God leads the people by going before them in a cloud by day, fire by night.
• Exodus 14: Israelites cross the Red Sea on dry ground.
• Exodus 15: Song of Moses; Song and dance of Miriam
• They arrive in the Desert of Shur. A fresh tree branch sweetens the bitter waters at Marah – nature healing nature.
• Then to Elim with its 12 springs and 70 palms.
• Exodus 16: another desert / wilderness of Sin, between Elim and Sinai.
• Bread from heaven, quails from the sky. Manna = "what is it!" probably coriander/cilantro seeds
...Israel receives sustaining food as gift; then they know God is Lord.
• Exodus 17: another desert – Rephidim. God provides water from the rock for the thirsty people, "that the people may drink."
• Exodus 18: choosing elders / judges to help Moses
• Exodus 19: Israel reaches the Sinai desert in the shadow of Mount Sinai.

Sabbath-keeping is a specific commandment, yet the Israelites already had been observing Sabbath before God formally gave them the Ten Words via Moses.

These Are The Words

The Commandments /Sinai Covenant text in Exodus begins by telling us "God spoke all these words: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt..." Therefore. This God is worthy of trust, worth obeying.

God's ongoing presence and redemptive actions set up Israel to trust God's supply, to convince them this was a God worthy of obedience. Because God would provide the essentials they needed, there was no need to yearn for or covet anything they didn't have. Like all biblical precepts, counsels, laws, ordinances, counsels, and decrees, these commandments became a gift of grace.

Almost every time the Apostle Paul refers to law, he means ceremonial, ritual, sacrificial law and not the commandments. However, when magisterial Reformers Martin Luther and John Calvin talked about the uses of the law, they meant the commandments. Their third use of the law is about the neighbor, about the other, about neighborology. The Ten Commandments literally are the working papers for life in covenantal community they'd need to maintain their freedom when they reached the land of promise.

"A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject of all, subject to all." Martin Luther, On Christian Liberty


This Exodus passage charges us to keep Sabbath because God rested on the seventh day of creation. Deuteronomy 5 says we need sabbath resting, ceasing from social expectations, to temporarily quit working, earning, etc., because "You no longer are slaves—God brought you out of slavery into freedom, therefore—you shall keep Sabbath."

Just as God kept Sabbath rest on the seventh day of creation, because now you are free people (as God is free) and no longer beholden to any empire, you can take a time out. Both rationales remind us God created humanity in the divine image – imago dei – so keeping Sabbath is part of rocking that reality and a way to participate in God's own holiness.

Lent 2024 greenery