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Posts Tagged ‘Holy Week’

 

[Christ] entered once for all into the holy places, by means of I his own blood,* thus securing an eternal redemption.  Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant,*  so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance. He sent redemption to his people;*  he has commanded his covenant forever.  Heb. 9:12

Historical Note:  It must be remembered that during Great Week, or Holy Week, Jesus was teaching in the Temple:

  • The Parable of the Two Sons, Matthew 21: 28-32
  • The Parable of the Tenants, Matthew 21: 33-46
  • The Parable of the Wedding Feast, Matthew 22:  1-14
  • Paying Taxes to Caesar, Matthew 22:  15-22
  • Sadducees Ask About the Resurrection, Matthew 22:  23-33
  • The Great Commandment, Matthew 22:  34-40
  • Whose Son Is the Christ?, Matthew 23: 41-46

Indeed, the Lord was busy!  It was not His good works by which He was condemned  but His teaching. This goes for the Church as well, if she is faithful to the Lord. Indeed, this connection between teaching and civil punishment is foretold in Isaiah. Indeed,  Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled:

Isaiah 50:  The Lord God has given me
    the tongue of those who are taught,
that I may know how to sustain with a word
    him who is weary.
Morning by morning he awakens;
    he awakens my ear
    to hear as those who are taught.
The Lord God has opened my ear,
    and I was not rebellious;
    I turned not backward.
I gave my back to those who strike,
    and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard;
I hid not my face
    from disgrace and spitting.

But the Lord God helps me;
    therefore I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like a flint,
    and I know that I shall not be put to shame.
    He who vindicates me is near.
Who will contend with me?
    Let us stand up together.
Who is my adversary?
    Let him come near to me.
Behold, the Lord God helps me;
    who will declare me guilty?
Behold, all of them will wear out like a garment;
    the moth will eat them up


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

Reflection:  Congregations, churches, pastors, priests fret over the question:  how do we attract new members?  What is our “draw”?  I  ask that question and that is more than a simple admission and more like a confession.  Is it our choir? Our youth program?  Our peppy service?  Our warm and welcoming people?  Our meals on wheels?  etc. etc. etc.  All those things can be fruit of the Gospel but they are not the Vine from whence comes the fruit.  There is only one “draw” in the Church, for the life of His world and you in His new creation:  Jesus Christ.   It is written that our preaching IS, not “was”, Christ and Him Crucified (1 Corinthians 1:22-24).  H0ly Baptism is into His Crucifixion and Resurrection (Romans 6:2-4 ; Colossians 2:10-12 ).  Holy Communion is the preaching of the Lord’s Death (1 Corinthians 11:26). In His Body given unto death is our life:  ALONE.    The Cross stands at the center, radiating out, Christ Jesus embracing us in His forgiveness.  And so the Christians from almost day one would trace the Sign of the Cross over their bodies.  And so the cathedrals in Europe were cross-shaped.  Crosses and crucifixes hang about our necks and adorn our walls.  He is the Draw.

“…ponder what sin is, and what kind of anguish will result for those who do not seek forgiveness for sin in Christ and protection from the wrath of God. Here stands God’s Son, who carries (upholds) everything by the power of His Word, Heb. 1, who is of the same essence with His heavenly Father. One might think that He will readily overcome and easily bear the burden of sins and divine wrath, and it will be for Him a light, little blade of straw. But look here, how this holy Soul agonizes; indeed, the more you reflect on Him, the better you will comprehend what a huge burden sin is. With the unrepentant, sin is regarded as an insignificant thing. Some intend to atone for it with their own deeds.  However, this sad spectacle (of the Cross) knocks down all these thoughts.  For, if (sins) were such insignificant matter, why was Christ Himself thus permitted to grieve (over them)?”   (from Lutheran Pastor and Professor Johann Gerhard’s An Explanation of the History of the Suffering and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ (published 1663)

“By Your struggle-unto-death and Your bloody sweat, help us dear Lord God.”

(from the Litany, as cited by Pr. Gerhard, ibid)

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Here is an interesting idea by Pastor William Cwirla:

“Rather than Friendship Sunday, we should consider Enemy Sunday. Invite an enemy to church. Pray for them. Give them a free lunch.”

After all, it is written as the Lord said:

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (St. Matthew 5)

When we get right down to it, isn’t this what the Great Week, Holy Week is all about, that is the Crucifixion and the Lord praying, forgive them for they know not what they do?

10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

Invite your enemies. Invite your mother-in-law.  Invite the guy who said the church is filled with hypocrites.  Invite the atheist professor whom you could not best in class.  Invite the guy who ran into your car and told you to go to hell. Invite the friend who blabbed your deepest secret all over facebook.  After all, His death reconciled you and I as well, that is, God’s enemies.  “Oh, oh, but…I am…”  What’s the end of that sentence?  No “buts” at His Cross, only His enemies. God is plain in His Word. He is plain in His judgment…and His mercy through His bloody love at the cross. He invited you and it’s not your good sense that accepted the invitation but your need for His forgiveness.  

So, I think Pastor Cwirla is on to something:   Enemy Sunday.

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Wednesday in Holy Week

COLLECT OF THE DAY:

Merciful and everlasting God, You did not spare Your only Son but delivered Him up for us all to bear our sins on the cross. Grant that our hearts may be so fixed with steadfast faith in Him, that we fear not the power of sin, death, and the devil; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

READINGS:

Isaiah 62:11-63:7

Psalm 70 (antiphon: v. 5)

Romans 5:6-11

Luke 22:1-23:56 or John 13:16-38

VERSE:   The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.       (John 12:23b)

Cross Reflections:  Graham Greene’s novel The Power and the Glory is set in the 1920s Mexico when the Roman Catholic Church has been suppressed.  Priests are not allowed to say Mass.  The main character is an unnamed priest, given to whiskey, who goes about the country saying clandestine Masses.  In the scene quote below he is in a shed and mestizo is crawling in the shack and grabs the priest’s ankles.  He wants the priest to hear his confession about adultery and “boys”, as his confession comes forth between his yellowed teeth, the priest reflects:

“How often the priest had heard the same confession–Man was so limited: he hadn’t even the ingenuity to invent a new vice: the animals knew as much. It was for this world that Christ had died: the more evil you saw and heard about you, the greater the glory lay around the death; it was too easy to die for what was good or beautiful, for home or children or civilization–it needed a God to die for the half-hearted and the corrupt.” 

Greene is illustrating the Scripture text appointed for Holy Wednesday from Romans:

6For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

For God and country, a man will dare to die.  Even for a “good person”.  When I think of the petty larcenies and lusts lurking in the attic of my heart, it’s shameful. It is true we can not even invent a new vice.   I do not remember if the priest absolved the penitent in the novel.  Christ Jesus has for all who know they need fixing in their hearts. He will. No amount of fixing on our part will do it.

In the prayer of the day, we pray, ” Grant that our hearts may be so fixed with steadfast faith in Him, that we fear not the power of sin, death, and the devil”.    In Advent there is a collect with the petition that “our hearts may be fixed where true joy is found.”  Fix:  eyes on the prize or corrected/ healed.  Which is it?  I suppose the former but the former makes for the latter.  Our eyes fixed upon Him, in the depths, height and breadth of His love stretching out from the Cross to us  and we are fixed, by steadfast faith, as sinners, in Him.  It seems to me that sin, death and devil dogs us when we are not so steadfast in faith.  Our true condition apart from Him is just as it is written in Romans 5:  weak, sinner, enemy.  His power and glory has been shown upon the Cross and on the third day and today.

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

INTROIT         Ps. 42:3, 9-10 (antiphon: Ps. 42:5-66)

Why are you cast down,O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?*

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation I and my God.

My tears have been my food I day and night,*while they say to me continually, “Where I is your God?”I say to God, my rock: “Why have you for- I gotten me?*Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the I enemy?” As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries I taunt me,*while they say to me continually, “Where I is your God?”

 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?

*Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation I and my God.

COLLECT OF THE DAY:

Almighty and everlasting God,grant us by Your grace so to pass through this holy time of our Lord’s passion that we may obtain the forgiveness of our sins; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord,who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

READINGS:

Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 71:1-14;  1 Corinthians 1:18-25 (26-31);   John12:23-50

GRADUAL:

     Heb. 9:120,  Ps. 111:9a:

[Christ] entered once for all into the holy places, by means of I his own blood,* thus securing an eternal redemption.  Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant,*  so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance. He sent redemption to his people;*  he has commanded his covenant forever.

   “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”-John 12: 32, for Holy Tuesday

Reflection:  Congregations, churches, pastors, priests fret over the question:  how do we attract new members?  What is our “draw”?  I  ask that question and that is more than a simple admission because it is  more like a confession.  Is it our choir? Our youth program?  Our peppy service?  Our warm and welcoming people?  Our meals on wheels? The pastor? (that’s me!) etc. etc. etc.  All those things can be fruit of the Gospel but they are not the Vine from whence comes the fruit.  There is only one “draw” in the Church, for the life of His world and you in His new creation:  Jesus Christ.   It is written that our preaching IS, not “was”, Christ and Him Crucified (1 Corinthians 1:22-24).  H0ly Baptism is into His Crucifixion and Resurrection (Romans 6:2-4 ; Colossians 2:10-12 ).  Holy Communion is the preaching of the Lord’s Death (1 Corinthians 11:26). In His Body given unto death is our life:  ALONE.    The Cross stands at the center, radiating out, Christ Jesus embracing us in His forgiveness.  And so the Christians from almost day one would trace the Sign of the Cross over their bodies.  And so the cathedrals in Europe were cross-shaped.  Crosses and crucifixes hang about our necks and adorn our walls.  He is the Draw.

“…ponder what sin is, and what kind of anguish will result for those who do not seek forgiveness for sin in Christ and protection from the wrath of God. Here stands God’s Son, who carries (upholds) everything by the power of His Word, Heb. 1, who is of the same essence with His heavenly Father. One might think that He will readily overcome and easily bear the burden of sins and divine wrath, and it will be for Him a light, little blade of straw. But look here, how this holy Soul agonizes; indeed, the more you reflect on Him, the better you will comprehend what a huge burden sin is. With the unrepentant, sin is regarded as an insignificant thing. Some intend to atone for it with their own deeds.  However, this sad spectacle (of the Cross) knocks down all these thoughts.  For, if (sins) were such insignificant matter, why was Christ Himself thus permitted to grieve (over them)?”   (from Lutheran Pastor and Professor Johann Gerhard’s An Explanation of the History of the Suffering and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ (published 1663)

“By Your struggle-unto-death and Your bloody sweat, help us dear Lord God.”

(from the Litany, as cited by Pr. Gerhard, ibid)

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Tuesday in Holy Week

COLLECT OF THE DAY

Almighty and everlasting God, grant us by Your grace so to pass through this holy time of our Lord’s passion that we may obtain the forgiveness of our sins; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

READINGS

Isaiah 49:1-7

Psalm 71:1-14 (antiphon: v. 12)

1 Corinthians 1:18-25 (26-31)

Mark 14:1-15:47                                                                                                                                                                          or John12:23-50

Verse:  The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.

Cross Reflections:

Graham Green’s comic novel, Monsignor Quixote takes place in Spain under the brutal dictatorship of Francisco Franco and is about a Roman Catholic priest Monsignor Quixote.  Yes, his name is the same as the great fictional character.  Fr. Quixote lives and serves in a sleepy town who’s Mayor is an ardent Communist and the Father’s best friend.  Father, not known for ambition, is made a Monsignor and this sets off a chain of events that brings together the new Monsignor and his Communist friend in a series of adventures in the Father’s old car Roncinante.  In this scene the Father and the Mayor have fallen asleep, but Monsignor Quixote wakes up from a bad dream:

He had dreamt that Christ had been saved from the Cross by the legion of angels to which on an earlier occasion the Devil had told Him that He could appeal. So there was no final agony, no heavy stone which had to be rolled away, no discovery of an empty tomb. Father Quixote stood there watching on Golgotha as Christ stepped down from the Cross triumphant and acclaimed. The Roman soldiers, even the Centurion, knelt in His honor, and the people of Jerusalem poured up the hill to worship Him. The disciples clustered happily around. His mother smiled through her tears of joy. There was no ambiguity, no room for doubt and no room for faith at all. The whole world knew with certainty that Christ was the Son of God.

It was only a dream, of course it was only a dream, but nonetheless Father Quixote had felt on waking the chill of despair felt by a man who realizes suddenly that he has taken up a profession which is of use to no one, who must continue to live in a kind of Saharan desert without doubt or faith, where everyone is certain that the same belief is true. He had found himself whispering, “God save me from such a belief.” Then he heard the Mayor turn restlessly on the bed beside him, and he added without thought, “Save him too from belief,” and only then he fell asleep again.

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Rev. Robert Schuller of the Crystal Cathedral offered for donors on his TV show the “possibility thinker’s Bible” with all the positive passages in blue. I wondered if the Lord’s suffering and death were in blue.  He preached   the crucifixion is in blue of course because Jesus was a positive thinker and He knew  He would rise again.  This hideous picture is like that positive thinking Jesus, kind of cross between Robert Schuller and Arnold Schwarzeneggar.  This is not the picture of the man who wanted His Father to take the cup of suffering and wrath away and sweated blood….not the picture of the man who Isaiah prophesied some 5 centuries before, “…we esteemed him stricken,    smitten by God, and afflicted, and wounded for our transgressions” (Isaiah 53: 4)…not the picture of the man who cried out on the Cross, “My God, my God, why have forsaken me?” 

Why so many ‘negative’ thoughts?  Answer:  He is the Lamb of God who bore the sins of the world.  Nothing positive in separation from God and each other in the iniquity of Adam.  He died so that sin is dead and we are alive in Him because He bore the terror of our life and death apart from God.

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