Holy Thursday

Maundy Thursday message:

 


 

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Listen to this Word

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Usually Pastor Mark writes the daily devotionals that are posted on this blog.

But I wanted to post this audio message delivered by Pastor Mark.  

Of course it’s longer than a minute, but it needs to be heard. So please click on the link and listen, if you are at all able to:

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Click on link below  

http://theoldadam.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/i-believe-that-i-cannot-believe.mp3

 

 

 

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Thanks to flickr and amras_de, for the photo.

2 Corinthians 6

“We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”

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We live in a world that is uncertain and unstable and this critical situation can become defining of everything. But neither the challenging world or our broken lives are the last reality. We do not have to spend ourselves in endless efforts to remain in control. Jesus tried hard to impress this on His hearers. He still does. 

When Jesus reduced all the commandments to the simple and concrete love of God and the neighbor, He pointed us to a Kingdom within the darkened world, the light of which addresses universally the true hopes and aspirations of all people. The Kingdom of God, therefore, most passionately proclaimed through the Cross of Jesus, appeals to us to live in the freedom which creates the capacity to live within the sobriety of God’s kingdom – the kingdom for others – a kingdom at odds with the world, superior to it and destined to prevail.

If you find the Christian life perplexing, unsatisfying or even boring, the solution may not be as difficult to come by as you think. For, the Christian life is not about self protectionism, lived primarily inwardly. The Christian life is lived outwardly (for the sake of others). This is the great freedom of the Christian: that we may live without any self-consciousness, trusting in God’s grace alone, expecting nothing, yet having everything.

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“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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John 16:33

 

 

How do we deal with pain? Sometimes we try the “silver-lining” approach. We try to convince ourselves and our friends that things are not really as bad as they seem (not unlike the comforters of Job who told him things could always be worse).

Or, we may minimize suffering, anesthetize pain, explain away sin, decorate death until it is all but unrecognizable.

Another approach is to meet pain stoically. We bite our lips, grit our teeth, steel ourselves and forge ahead. “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” There must be no tears, no sign of weakness.

But we see nor hear nothing of this on the Cross. Jesus is in pain but He doesn’t pretend. There is a sober honesty in Him. There is no pretending that things are not as bad they seem. The God we see in the crucified Jesus is not a God who summons us to “suck it up” or “cheer up”. Nor is this a God who demands we keep a “stiff upper lip”.

Life at times can be hot and dry and parched, stretched to the point where it seems unbearable. What we receive at the foot of the Cross are not easy answers, quick solutions or soft speeches. What we do receive is a God who shares our pain and suffering and sin. This means, for me, that I have a God I can trust because He has been where I must go. He writes no prescriptions, offers no panaceas, invites no denial, but simply goes the way I must go, the way of mortality, sin, suffering, pain and death. He takes it all upon Himself.

In the dying form of Jesus we encounter the man who shares our need and the God meets our need.

May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Matthew 20:28

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“…the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

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A retired pastor once remarked to me, “Early in my ministry I used to complain that people constantly interrupted my work, until I discovered that the interruptions WERE my work.”

Our time seems to have its share of fearful, defensive, preoccupied people anxiously clinging to their property and well-worn routines and inclined to view the immediate world around them with suspicion and distrust. Even the closest relationships may be treated as unwelcome interruptions.

What a contrast we see in the life of Jesus. His days were characterized by attentiveness to those who often interrupted Him. While the religious folk guarded their morality, the wealthy their shekels, and the average people courted indifference, Jesus gave sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, forgiveness to real sinners and all with a graciousness that expected nothing in return.

When we live as servants of others it is not so blessings will come back to us. Among the great benefits of servanthood is the discovery that we can get along with so little.

In a world full of strangers pursuing the mute gods of affluence and the uninterrupted projects of the self, the Christian and the Christian community are called to practice hospitality and welcome. This need for community and relationship is probably why many of us were drawn to churches in the first place. It’s a good place to start but there is more. Sooner or later the mature Christian will begin to realize that “How can this church meet my needs?” is not the real question. As one who belongs to Jesus Christ I am called to ask, “How can I serve the needs of others?”

By calling His disciples to a life of servant hood Jesus was saying to all who bear his name that the unsuccessful, unlovely and unlovable who so often represent life’s interruptions are really life’s opportunities. When this awareness comes we move from ‘Me first’ to ‘You first’. And we do so because this is God’s way with us. So, St. Matthew tells us that the God’s life among us was the servant life, even unto death on the Cross.

To live these few, short years on earth in the Spirit of Jesus Christ is to reject the ethic of power, pride and indifference and to participate in the life of Him  who came “…not to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many.”

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“May the peace of god that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Isaiah 43:19

680c60_02f37878ce8a8e3e301065ead6daf435“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

Years ago, while serving as a pastor in Northern Minnesota, I was asked by our district president to assist a local congregation with a study on mission planning. They were between pastors and it was time to look at their mission. During a break in our sessions, a gentleman on the church council of that congregation confided in me over a cup of coffee. He said, “Pastor, I don’t really know why we are bothering with this. I like our church just the way it is.”

I understood his reluctance to change. After many years of membership in that small-town church with one pastor, the idea of embarking into new areas of mission was an uncomfortable prospect.

Similar comments can be heard in many congregations. Looking, really looking at a congregation’s life and mission can be sobering and challenging. Comfort zones can be hard to leave and things put in place in previous years by the church may need to be undone or modified to serve the current mission needs of the church. Complacency can lead to obstructionism as church members attempt to hang on to a past that is no longer relevant to the present mission requirements of the congregation.

We are in the season of Pentecost, that time of the Church year when we deliberately focus on the life of the church in the light of the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost reminds us that the work of the Church is God’s work, after all. The mission is God’s mission and we have no right to make of it our private enterprise, serving our needs only. When we resist change, however sincere our intentions, we must account for the possibility that we are resisting the work of the Holy Spirit, Whose work among us is not to keep us comfortable but faithful.

Pentecost is God’s call to us through His Living Word that we may dare to welcome the new breezes which are blowing, not as threatening portents of an approaching storm but as that new and renewing breath of life which the Holy Spirit most surely brings – that God’s work may be done.

 

“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 

 

 

 

 

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Hebrews 13:5

“I will never leave you or forsake you.”

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What do we mean when we speak of the presence of God?  To attempt an answer it may be helpful to look at human relationships, then we’ll look at Scripture.

When we use the word ‘presence’ in reference to someone we usually mean he/she is here or was there. The person was physically present. If we push it a bit further we can speak of someone as having a certain presence about them. I’ve known people, and you probably have also, who can walk into a room and somehow their presence dominates, stands out. If you’ve been in a small group and one person is remote or distant for some reason, you might say that so and so just wasn’t present. They were physically present but that’s all. Or someone in the small group may have a dominant presence which causes the others in the group to be diminished in their presence. And there are those relationships of consequence, spouses, deep friendships and so forth, that will have varying intensities of presence.

The point is that when we speak of the presence of God, our language may slip a bit if we are not careful. What are some things we can say about God where presence is concerned? Based on what we read in Scripture we can assume that God is eager for closeness. God is eager for intimacy. God wants to be as close as possible to those He loves. We can be sure of that. At the same time we might say that God is always having to work with the human need for varying intensities of presence and with the human desire to resist His presence.

Where the Lord’s Supper is concerned we speak of the “real presence” of Christ in the bread and wine. By “real” we mean to say that there is an intensity to Christ’s presence there with us. When we look at the Scriptures we find that there is a range of intensity where God’s presence is concerned.

In the opening verses of the book of Jonah we are told – twice – that Jonah fled from the presence of the Lord. Now, Jonah knew that God created the world and that God is present everywhere. So, it was not God’s presence, per say, that he was fleeing. It is the intensity of that presence in the direct command of God’s Word that he go to Nineveh.

When Jesus prayed a portion Psalm 22 on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”, He was acutely conscious of God’s absence while, at the same time, He WAS praying. So the sense of God’s presence was there. Forsakeness did not mean absence.

If we equate God’s presence only with those aspects of life that are pleasant, affirming, comfortable and so forth, we are going to miss the God of the Bible. For, the person whose trust, whose faith is in the God of the cross, the God who raised Jesus from the dead, who lives by God’s intimate and ever-present Word, there will always be a Nineveh to which we are summoned. This does not mean that God does not provide us with signs of the resurrection every day. Baptism, after all, is the Spirit’s promise of God’s intimate presence in all suffering and all joy through Christ.  

This does mean that while we may experience God as forsakeness or a Word that calls us to paths we would rather not walk,  God is never absent. To the contrary. God is there, shepherding His people through the valleys of shadow and death, leading them to the cool, still waters of his amazing grace.

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“May the peace of god that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 

 

 

 

 

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