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Maundy Thursday / Holy Thursday

Preaching
Lectionary Preaching Workbook
Series IX, Cycle B
Theme of the Day
What God does to get us to love.

Collect of the Day
Two options are available. In the first, petitions are offered that Christ's commandment to love one another be written on our hearts and we be given the will to serve others. Sanctification as exhorted is here emphasized. The second alternative, after referring to Christ establishing a new covenant in the Lord's Supper and showing us the dignity of service, petitions are offered that God grants by the Holy Spirit and the aforementioned signs refresh us and speak to our hearts. This alternative emphasizes the Sacraments and the Holy Spirit.

Psalm of the Day
Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19
* A thanksgiving for healing.
* God praised for hearing us (vv. 1-2).
* Reference to lifting the cup of salvation (v. 13) reminds us of the Lord's Supper.
* Reference to being a servant of the Lord, the child of a serving girl (v. 16), could be applied to Jesus (especially the v. 15 reference to how precious the death of the faithful is to the Lord).

Sermon Text and Title
"Christ the Passover Lamb Without Blemish Liberates Us"
Exodus 12:1-4 (5-10) 11-14

1. Theological Aim of the Sermon and Strategy
To clarify the nature of Christ's atoning work in relation to the Passover, its implications for the Lord's Supper, and how the Passover origins of the atonement entail that its impact is liberating for Christians today (attention to Justification by Grace through Faith as a liberating word).

2. Exegesis (see Lent 5)
* P's version of the establishment of Passover. This follows the account of the final plague the Lord worked against Pharaoh, which does not succeed in liberating the people (ch. 11).
* The month of Nisan (March-April) is to be designated the beginning of the year (v. 2).
* On the tenth of that month, each family is to take a lamb or share a lamb with its closest neighbor and divide the lamb (vv. 3-4). The lamb is to be one year old and without blemish (v. 5).
* Instructions are given to put blood of the lamb on the doorposts and lintels of the houses of the people (these were the holy places of a house). The lamb was to be eaten the night it is killed, and instructions are given on how it is to be prepared and what is to be eaten (vv. 7-9). The lamb is to be entirely consumed, save remains to be burned the next morning (v. 10).
* Instructions are given on the attire one is to have when eating the lamb. It should be consumed hurriedly (v. 11).
* Passover explained, how the Lord would strike down the firstborn of all living things in Egypt, but the blood on the doorposts would be a sign for Him to pass over that house so the plague would not destroy them (vv. 12-13).
* Henceforth the day was to be one of remembrance, a celebration of perpetual observance (v. 14).

3. Theological Insights (see Charts of the Major Theological Options)
* Consideration of the Satisfaction Theory of Atonement and relation to Justification by Grace and Sanctification (construed as thankful pilgrimage).
* John Wesley notes that as the Passover lamb was killed not just to be looked upon, but to be eaten, so "we must by faith make Christ ours, so we do that which we eat, and we must receive spiritual strength and nourishment from Him, as from our food, and have delight in Him…" (Commentary on the Bible, p. 72).
* With reference to the perpetual observance of Passover, Wesley adds:

As long as we live we must continue feeding upon Christ and rejoicing in Him always, with thankful mention of the great things he has done for us.
(Commentary on the Bible, p. 72)

* Early African monk Macarius the Egyptian (who influenced Wesley) notes that just as the Hebrews having observed the Passover leave, so individuals, having received the life to the Holy Spirit and eaten the lamb, progress and move on (Pseudo-Macarius, p. 236).

4. Socio-Economic, Political, Psychological, and Scientific Insights
* See this section for the First and Second Lessons, Passion Sunday, for leads on getting statistics for prevailing social trends from which we need liberation.

5. Gimmick
You and I (America) are unclean. We need somebody to clean up our act. (pause) We know that man.

6. Possible Sermon Moves and/or Stories/Examples
* Our First Lesson, the story of the establishment of the Jewish Passover, gives us some hints about how Jesus makes us clean, liberates us.
* In a way, the connection between the Passover and Jesus is obvious, insofar as the events of the Last Supper and Christ's Crucifixion are said to have transpired just before Passover (John 13:1; 19:14). But there are other connections. Never forget that the reason for Jesus' death is related to the Jewish belief that sacrifices for the sins we have committed were necessary. Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice.
* Of course the sacrifice of the Passover lamb is understood by Christians to refer to the ultimate sacrifice, who is Christ. (Use first quotation by John Wesley in Theological Insights.) John Wesley also added another interesting insight about our text today. There is something important about the fact that the perpetual commemoration of the Passover was mandated for Jews. It means in his view that just as the sacrifice of the lamb is forever observed in Jewish circles, so we Christians can never overlook the sacrifice of our Lamb, never fail to observe the great things He has done for us. (See second Wesley quote in Theological Insights.)
* Yes, the Passover observance teaches Christians some lessons about Jesus, about what He did for us. Let's always remember what Passover is all about, what happened to the Jewish people.
* Rehearse the story of Jewish slavery in Egypt. They were slaves. And God used the blood of the Passover lamb to set them free!
* Continue the analogy: Christ, as the true Passover Lamb, must function to liberate us too.
* From what do we need liberation? Racism, sexism, conspicuous-consumption addiction, even liberation from a business ethos that makes success more a matter of image than achievement. Christ's sacrifice sets us free! Don't forget your own personal chains -- the bad habits you cannot break, the feelings of inadequacy and aimlessness that do not seem to go away. The true lamb's blood set us free.
* How? The dehumanizing affects of racism and sexism get washed away by Christ's blood and then came away with a word of self-respect. There is no such thing as a second-class citizen when we realize that Jesus so valued these minorities that he died for them. Died. No matter how much oppression is left, its victims cannot be convinced that they are nobody -- not if they know Jesus. More in a moment on the next steps.
* Same with the other dehumanizing modern forms of bondage. You don't need madly to buy as much or to succeed in making a lot of money in order to prove your worth if you already know that you're somebody because Jesus died for you.
* Even the inner demons that haunt us, that chain us in unhealthy behaviors and feelings of inadequacy, are washed away by our lamb's blood. Those unhealthy attitudes and behaviors can no longer keep us down now that we know we are valuable and worth the sacrifice of Christ.
* Okay, Christ's sacrifice proclaims that we are somebody. But how do we get free? An ancient African monk, Macarius the Egyptian, said it well. (See Theological Insights.) He urged his hearers to keep in mind that just as the Hebrews moved on after the Passover, so with the Holy Spirit after Christ's sacrifice progress and move on. Liberation gets finished when you move on.

7. Wrap-Up
Conclude with reflections about moving on. Consider how America might move beyond racism, sexism, its captivation with conspicuous consumption, a business culture that values "spin and image" more than accomplishments. Self-confident people, cleansed of their hang-ups by Jesus, can move on to solutions, just as our nation will in the new elections. With such confidence we can change our own lifestyles. Christ the Passover Lamb liberates. We can begin tonight.

Sermon Text and Title
"One in the Body of Christ"
1 Corinthians 11:23-26

1. Theological Aim of the Sermon and Strategy
To help the faithful appreciate the way in which the Lord's Supper builds community.

2. Exegesis (see Introduction to Selected Books of the Bible)
* After critiquing certain reportedly aberrant practices in the Corinthian church pertaining to the celebration of the Lord's Supper (vv. 17-22), Paul reports Jesus' words of institution, which he claims to have received from the Lord (v. 23).
* The words of institution for the sacrament are reported (vv. 24-25).
* Paul reports that as often as the bread and cup are eaten and drunk we proclaim Christ's death until he comes (v. 26).

3. Theological Insights See Charts of the Major Theological Options
* The doctrines of the Lord's Supper, church, and Sanctification (the communal aspects of Christian life) receive attention.
* For Martin Luther, preaching on this text, "the Sacrament serves to keep Christians united in one mind, doctrine, and not faith, not each being his own kernel of grain…" (Complete Sermons, Vol. 6, p. 45).

… Christ used bread and wine for His Supper because as many kernels, each having its own body and form are ground together, becoming one bread, so every human being is an individual kernel, that is, his own person and a separate creature. But because we all are partakers, we are all one bread and body and are called one lump.
(Ibid.)

He claims that Christ instituted the sacrament to keep Christians together that they would know nothing but Jesus Christ (Ibid., p. 46).
* The Reformer also speaks of what the Sacrament has to offer for everyday life:

But our Lord Christ desires that just as your greed speaks to you and preaches to you endlessly of money and goods, or power and honor, in the same manner you would let yourself be drawn and led into that life, and think on your redeemer, who died on the Cross for you; and so set your heart on fire, that you desire to be with Him, being weary of this world….
(Ibid., p. 47)

4. Socio-Economic, Political, Psychological, and Scientific Insights
* On the increasing American social isolation, see Robert Putnam, Bowling Alone; Socio-Economic, Political, Psychological, and Scientific Insights for Second Lesson, Lent 1.

5. Gimmick
If you think the Lord's Supper is a little chance for private time with Jesus (just you and the Lord), if you think Christianity is just a private individual matter, you're in the wrong place.

6. Possible Sermon Moves and/or Stories/Examples
* It seems that the church in Corinth in Paul's day was struggling with something like the individualism just described. Members were just grabbing some of the bread and wine at the Lord's Supper, to heck with whether there was enough left for everybody else. It seems like some were getting a little high on the wine (vv. 19-21). Maybe it's not that bad for us today, but the individualism that characterizes America, our increasing social isolation (see Socio-Economic, Political, Psychological, and Scientific Insights) has crept into the church. That's why it's common today to speak of religion belonging to the "private sphere."
* Paul and Jesus had something else in mind. Paul reports that Jesus used one loaf -- not the individual wafers used in most churches (v. 23). And he only used one cup in that first Lord's Supper celebration -- not the shot glasses so common in American Christianity today (v. 25).
* Why? Jesus wanted to make sure that His meal was for and with everyone. He wants us always to remember when we eat this meal, wants us never to forget that we are all one in His body. Christianity is countercultural when it comes to our individualism and growing social isolation.
* Martin Luther nicely explained how the sacrament of the Lord's Supper helps build community. Use the first quotation in Theological Insights. We are all one in Christ's body. In swallowing the bread which is Christ, we swallow every kernel of the bread. In short, we receive each other in sacrament, not just Christ. Nobody here just receives Christ. We receive each other in the bread and the wine!
* We should not forget the observation of seventeenth-century English poet and clergyman John Donne: "No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent."
* So what? A sense of community makes for more contentment in life. It is easier to face life when you are not alone (Putnam, Bowling Alone, pp. 331-334; Stefan Klein, The Science of Happiness, pp. 150-162).
* There is some deep wisdom in the words of an ancient Kenyan proverb: "Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable."
* The Lord's Supper binds us all together and so makes each of us stronger. Think of it: This sacrament is not just about your faith and Christ. And so if you feel a bit uncertain in your life, uncertain about your faith, look at all those receiving with you. Some of us feel better about things than others, have a stronger faith. Lean on each other. We are not alone. It's true: "Sticks in a bundle [really] are unbreakable."
* The Lord's Supper offers us even more. Cite the next-to-last bullet point in Theological Insights. The Lord's Supper focuses us on Christ and then on each other.
* One more point about how this other-directedness matters in everyday life. Use the last quotation in Theological Insights. The focus on Christ and the community gets us away from ourselves; life is a lot better that way.

7. Wrap-Up
The world calls us away to loneliness, to chasing money and goods, power and honor, but Christ and the sacrament of the Lord's Supper call us back. In calling us away from ourselves, in bringing us together we become people with hearts set on fire, bundles of unbreakable sticks. It is good to be one. Celebrate that oneness now; it will strengthen us, put us on fire with desire for Christ and for the greater good of each other. This sacrament, the commemoration of Holy Thursday, truly does strengthen us.

Sermon Text and Title
"A Humble Love"
John 13:1-17, 31b-35

1. Theological Aim of the Sermon and Strategy
A proclamation of God's love for us shown in the Passion, understood as a humble love (Justification by Grace) and how it might inspire such loving by us (Sanctification).

2. Exegesis (see Introduction to Selected Books of the Bible)
* The story of the events of the Last Supper.
* Before the Passover festival, Jesus knew it was time for him to depart and go to the Father. Loving those who were His, Jesus is said to have loved them to the end (v. 1).
* Notes the devil had already put the idea of betraying Jesus in Judas Iscariot's heart (v. 2).
* Jesus is said to come from God, receiving all things from the Father, and knows he is to return (v. 30). He proceeds to wash the disciples' feet (vv. 4-5).
* Peter protests against his Lord washing his feet. Jesus responds that unless one is washed they will have no share of Him (vv. 6-9). The atonement is here prophesied.
* Jesus says the disciples are clean, but not all of them, indicating His knowledge of His betrayal (vv. 10-11).
* Jesus explains the significance of his washing the disciples' feet, though He Himself was their Teacher and Lord. It is an example to the disciples (vv. 12-15). Servants are not greater than their master, nor messengers greater than the One who sent them. If these things are known, there are blessings if they are done (vv. 16-17).
* After further discourse and the identification of Judas as His betrayer (vv. 18-20), Jesus leaves the room of the supper. He notes that now the Son of Man has been glorified and God glorified in Him (vv. 31b-32).
* Jesus adds that He will only be with the disciples a little longer. They cannot go with Him (v. 33).
* He gives them a new commandment -- to love one another as He has loved them (v. 34). By this everyone will know who His disciples are (v. 35).

3. Theological Insights (see Charts of the Major Theological Options)
* The washing of the disciples' feet by Jesus is analyzed as a sign of the Passion and of God's love for us (Justification by Grace) as well as a sign for Christian living (Sanctification).
* John Wesley contends that Jesus' insistence on washing the disciples' feet (v. 8) referred to the fact that if He does not wash us in His blood we have no communion with Him (Commentary on the Bible, p. 466).
* Wesley also adds that Jesus sought to teach a lesson of humble love (Ibid.).
* John Calvin saw the washing of feet as a testimony "that the love with which he embraced them [His disciples] was firm and lasting; that, though they were deprived of His presence, they might still be convinced that death itself would not quench this love" (Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. XVIII/1, p. 54).
* Regarding Peter's sin of not wanting his feet washed (v. 8), Calvin notes: "In short, until a man renounces the liberty of judging as to the works of God, whatever exertions he may make to honour God, still pride will always lurk under the garb of humility" (Ibid., p. 57).
* About our human condition, he writes: "… every man thinks more highly of himself than he ought, and despises almost every other person" (Ibid., p. 60).
* We are to love the weak, he adds:

… the man who does not think of associating with weak brethren, on the condition of submitting mildly and gently even to offices which appear to be mean, claims more than he has a right to claim, and has too high an opinion of himself.
(Ibid., p. 61)

* The Reformer also reflects on the awesomeness of the Passion:

Even at the present day, the remembrance of the cross of Christ is sufficient to make us tremble, were we not instantly met by the consolation, that He triumphed in the Cross, having obtained a victory over Satan, sin, and death.
(Ibid., p. 73)

4. Socio-Economic, Political, Psychological, and Scientific Insights
* American life is infected by the malady of self-promotion. It is thought to be the only way to succeed in American life. For a good examples just Google "Self-promotion as a key to success" to see the astounding number of sites devoted to this topic.

5. Gimmick
John's version of the Last Supper is a lot different from the other gospels. He devotes much attention not to describing the institution of the Lord's Supper, but instead about Jesus washing the disciples' feet. What does this story have to do with the sacrament we commemorate tonight, with the Passion? Quite a bit. It's all about humble love.

6. Possible Sermon Moves and/or Stories/Examples
* Our lesson says that Jesus, having loved His own, loved them to the end (v. 1b). He loves you and me to the end. John goes on to tell us that Jesus know that the Father had given all things into His hands (v. 3b). All things are in Jesus' hands.
* Then it happened. Jesus got up, took off His robe, tied a towel around himself, poured water, and began to wash the disciples' feet. He even used the towel he had on to dry their feet (vv. 4-5)! The Lord of the universe, the One who has all things in His hands, washes the feet of His followers!
* John Wesley has said that this action on Jesus' part was a lesson of humble love (Commentary on the Bible, p. 466). Jesus told His disciples in our lesson that this is the way He wants His followers (like us) to love (v. 34): Loving one another with a humble love.
* John Calvin said that this love was firm and lasting, one that is not quenched by death (see quotation in Theological Insights). But it is a love we really do not want to receive or give.
* We see this reticence about such love in Peter's response to Jesus' actions. He tries to stop Jesus from washing his feet (v. 8). John Calvin contends that Peter was simply expressing what we would all do in such a circumstance. None of us wants to receive or have to give humble love. For one item, to have your feet washed by God -- and he (like us) doesn't think it's appropriate for God Himself to wash our feet. I feel like that too, don't you? Calvin claims that that is because we like to judge God. Use the fifth and sixth bullet points in Theological Insights. When you are brash enough to judge God's behavior, it's a short step to think of yourself more highly than everybody else.
* Thinking highly of yourself, or at least spinning yourself that way, is the American way these days. Cite data in Socio-Economic, Political, Psychological, and Scientific Insights.
* Jesus is right. Humble love is something we need in America. Sociologist Alan Wolfe has noted something wonderful about humility. He contends that you can't have forgiveness without it, because without humility we play god, taking a position of moral superiority to the offender, which makes real forgiveness impossible (Moral Freedom, p. 163).
* There is no forgiveness if we don't love with humility. Maybe that is why forgiveness is so rare in America. The anonymous wisdom many of us have heard is truly wise: "Swallow your pride occasionally, it's non-fattening."
* How do you get this get kind of humble love? It's easy. Hang around Jesus. It rubs off on you. And then you begin to experience it too. He gets into you. That sort of thing happens in the Lord's Supper we soon celebrate.
* Saint John's version of John the Baptist (3:30) makes the classical statement of this sort of humility: "He [Christ] must increase, but I must decrease." Augustine grappled with what this might mean: "… He must give, but I must receive... May the glory of God then increase in us, and our own glory decrease, that even ours may increase in God!" (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 7, p. 95).
* Augustine beautifully elaborated on this -- how often beset by our cares and concerns with self, we cry with him with a humility that would have Christ increase in us:

Cramped is the dwelling of my soul; do Thou expand it, that thou mayest enter in us. It is in ruins, restore thou it… for Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless 'til they find rest in Thee.
(Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 1, pp. 45-46)

* Early twentieth-century Anglican bishop William Temple offers a deep insight about the nature of humility: "Humility does not mean thinking less of yourself than of other people, nor does it mean having a low opinion of your own gifts. It means freedom from thinking about yourself at all."

7. Wrap-Up
Jesus' washing His followers' feet is an expression of the humble love He demonstrated for us on the Cross. It is a love that challenges America, that can change us. William Temple is right: This is a love that can free you from yourself!
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