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Sermon Illustrations for Maundy Thursday (2018)

Exodus 12:1-4 (5-10) 11-14
This was something like a last supper. After this they left Egypt. Just as in the Lord’s last supper blood was symbolically spilled as wine. Yes, the Israelites had to do something to be saved. Centuries later, Jesus did it for us and the Lord’s Supper is a reminder of what He sacrificed for us. Many in the world today have experienced great disasters like the recent earthquakes in Nepal and hurricanes and floods and the memory will go on for many years for the people who suffered from them. There were both Christians and non-believers who may have had other gods who all suffered together. I’m sure that sacrificing animals would not have saved those Christian believers, but I’m sure many felt that if they were saved, the Lord had saved them.

It is not easy today to separate the good from the bad as the Lord separated the Egyptians from his people.

Are we ready to follow him when we hear his call for us? Are we ready to make a sacrifice of something important to us to be saved? The alternative can be disaster as it was for the Egyptian families who lost some of their children. Even though they had obeyed, the journey the Israelites took was not an easy one. They suffered along the way and at times assumed the Lord had deserted them. The Lord may lead us through some rough times, like our recent hurricanes, but we must remain faithful and not doubt that he cares for us and is still guiding us so that one day we will be with him in the promised land of heaven -- the land he promised us if we obey him. We are lucky to be in a wonderful country compared to some others in this world. People are begging to get into the U.S. and away from the horrors they were experiencing in their lands. The Lord has led some here, but some will not be invited in. Trying to separate these is a job that our country faces, and we need the Lord to help us! Sometimes our churches do better than the government. We may be the ones to do the Lord’s will even if it requires violating our laws to do it.

I can’t help but think of some in the mission field, as the one’s I served in Nepal who suffered that terrible earth quake a couple years ago. We did all we could to support them with our mission funds. We sent over $50,000 in two years. The average yearly income in Nepal was only about $200. The church over there was lucky to get $50 a month if some American tourists attended. That had to cover the pastor’s salary. So there are even problems if there are no earth quakes.

Even those in our church today have their problems.
Bob O.

Exodus 12:1-4 (5-10) 11-14
It came as a surprise to all the young monks at the priestly fraternity of St. Peter in Lincoln, Nebraska. But when they released an album of Gregorian chants on May 12, 2017, they never expected it to be a best-selling classical album on Amazon. The album “Requiem” has many of the 80 seminarians and Catholic priests singing a traditional Latin funeral mass. What is equally more astonishing is the order was established as early as 1988. Rev. Gerard Saguto, the order’s North American superior, said, “We just wanted to put something out there to get people to think more about eternity, God and our life in reference to those things, and it seems we’ve been blessed with popularity, which none of us expected or were even trying to achieve.”

Application: A central theme in or lectionary reading is worship.
Ron L.

Exodus 12:1-4 (5-10) 11-14
The Passover is an important celebration of the Jewish faith. “The eight-day festival of Passover is celebrated in the early spring, from the 15th through the 22nd of the Hebrew month of Nissan, March 30-April 7, 2018. It commemorates the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. It is observed by avoiding leaven, and highlighted by the Seder meals that include four cups of wine, eating matzah and bitter herbs, and retelling the story of the Exodus. In Hebrew it is known as Pesach (which means “to pass over”), because God passed over the Jewish homes when killing the Egyptian firstborn on the very first Passover eve.”1

Christian churches and faith communities may celebrate Passover, but remember that what we add makes the celebration a Christian one. It is important to celebrate the essence of the Jewish tradition with respect and adherence to tradition. Perhaps it is better yet to reflect on the fact that Jesus was celebrating Passover with his friends, all his friends including men, women and children (since Passover is a family celebration), when he offered to those gathered bread and cup, as symbols of his life -- his body and blood. Perhaps remembering that Jesus was a man of Jewish faith who formed a new way of worshipping God and living in covenant is more than enough.
Bonnie B.

Exodus 12:1-4, 11-14
Twentieth-century Jewish rabbi Morris Joseph has noted that “Passover affirms the great truth that liberty is the inalienable right of every human being." But we know that this inalienable right is consistently under threat. Racial imbalances continue to plague our nation. Pew Research Center found that in terms of 2015 salaries, Black men earned only 73% in salary of the white male paycheck and that Hispanics only garner 67% of a typical white male salary. A 2016 study of the Sentencing Project found that African Americans are incarcerated in state prisons at a rate that is 5.1 times the imprisonment of whites. And a 2017 Gallup Poll showed that the majority of Americans still do not think immigrants help the nation.

Overcoming injustices with the promise of freedom and liberty was associated at the Passover with the sacrifice of the lamb. We Christians see a connection between Christ’s sacrifice and this lamb. But one of the great theologians of the early church, Justin Martyr, pointed out the difference between Christ and the Passover lamb. While Hebrews continued to offer sacrifices, he says, Christ, the new sacrifice put an end to more sacrifices (Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol.1, pp.214-215).

Martin Luther also explained the nature of Christ’s Sacrifice:
Christ, therefore, became both “a curse,” and afterwards also “sin,” that is, a sin-offering upon which rest the sins of all men, and hence also the wrath of God and a miserable death. Since these things rest upon this offering, we are relieved for they rest on us no longer. (Sermons On the Passion of Christ, p.168)
The sacrifice of Christ means that freedom and liberty have already been achieved. We don’t need to be martyrs ourselves, to repeat Jesus’ sacrifice, in order to make them happen. But Passover and the Christian version of it are occasions for reminding ourselves, for strengthening our confidence that the threats to freedom and justice can never have the final say.
Mark E.

1 Corinthians 11:23-26
On November 1, 2006, Adrienne Shelly was found hanging from the shower rod in the Manhattan apartment that she used as an office. The incident was first ruled as a suicide, but then a further investigation reported it as a murder. A construction worker entered her apartment and killed Shelly during a robbery. He wanted her death to look like a suicide. Adrienne Shelly was an actress who also liked to write. She wrote the movie Waitress which she hoped would be shown at the Sundance Film Festival. The movie is about an unhappy pregnant married woman with a talent for baking pies. The year after Shelly’s death the film was shown at Sundance. A decade after her death, Waitress debuted on Broadway as a play. Shelly’s husband, Andy Ostroy, said of the Broadway production, now “the world gets to know Adrienne Shelly again in a whole different way. I think about what she would think if she had seen her name in lights on Broadway.”

Application: Maundy Thursday and Holy Communion is a way to see Jesus in a whole new way. Every time we participate in the sacrament his name truly does appear in lights on Broadway.
Ron L.

1 Corinthians 11:23-26
Transliteration means you didn’t bother to translate the word. You just move it over from one language to another. Good examples from the Bible include baptize (the Greek word literally means “immerse,” and is used for washing clothes and dishes), and Alleluia (the Hebrew means literally “Praise Yah!” with Yah the shortened version of the name for God in the Hebrew scriptures).

People sometimes call communion the Eucharist, but that’s a transliteration. The translation is “Thanksgiving.” A good translation (as compared to transliteration) is when the apostle Paul tells us in this passage that “…the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it (1 Corinthians 11:23-24).” There’s that Eucharist word, translated instead of transliterated, as “giving thanks!”
Frank R.

1 Corinthians 11:23-26
Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper is one of the most admired, most studied, and most reproduced paintings the world has ever known. There are, though, some aspects of this painting that tend to get overlooked. The painting is large. Countless reproductions have been made in all sizes, but the original is about 15 feet by 29 feet. It was not created for a museum, nor does it reside in one. Although The Last Supper is easily one of the world’s most iconic paintings, its permanent home is a convent in Milan, Italy. And moving it would be tricky, to say the least. Da Vinci painted the religious work directly on the dining hall wall of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie back in 1495. 

Visitors to Milan are often disappointed when they see DaVinci’s famous painting The Last Supper. The colors are so faint you can barely see the painting. Restoration has been going on for years with little success. The background of the world’s most famous fresco invites even more sadness. The wall on which it was painted began to crumble almost immediately after it was done. Not long after it was complete, the monks cut a door in the wall cutting off the feet of Christ. Later the building became a stable, then a storage room, then a barracks for soldiers. It is amazing that this great work of art should have been treated so casually. But then, the very supper that inspired it is treated casually by many -- even by some who profess that they follow the Christ who instituted it.
Bill T.

John 13:1-7, 31b-35
As a local church pastor, I have occasionally done foot-washing as a part of a Maundy Thursday worship service. I am amazed at how many people are unwilling to have their pastor kneel at their feet and wash them; well, really, only pour warm water over them and dry them. I cannot imagine how the disciples felt at their teacher and mentor, the one they believed to be the Son of God, kneeling at their feet. Jesus is clear. He was called to serve among the people, not lord any status over them. He was called to be the one who provided care.

Imagine the wonder of the moment of having the Savior of the world bow over your feet and wash them. It is an act of service, but more than that, it is an act of love. Washing the feet of the members of my congregation has been one of the most spiritual of experiences I have had as a pastor. To walk in the footsteps is one thing but to love as Jesus loved, to serve as Jesus loved and loves is another thing altogether. My friends, don’t deny anyone the opportunity to serve and to love.
Bonnie B.

John 13:1-7, 31b-35
All Judas wanted to betray Jesus for was only few dollars! Don’t let profit make us betray our Lord and savior. Ask the Lord to guide you.

Don’t we often misunderstand our Lord? Like Peter, it is embarrassing to have him wash our feet!! We may want him to wash our whole body! Why can’t we leave it up to him what he will do for us! Using his example can we humble ourselves to wash other’s feet? One of the great leaders of the church in Nepal, old Pastor Tir, came to a meeting where, at the end of the meeting, we were asked to wash each other’s feet. What a shock it was to have old Pastor Tir come and wash our feet. What an example! Would we wash a Baptist’s feet or a Catholic’s feet or the feet of one of those in a non-denominational church? To make it even worse, would be wash the feet of a North Korean even if he were a Christian? We are so surprised at what the Lord does for us or wants us to do for others. In one church back east the pastor had the people put their foot on the altar rail with their shoes on. Then he would dust the shoe with a rag. He said it was only symbolic.

The answer comes in our Lord’s command to love one another. We are even told in another place to love our enemy. How can we tell that to a soldier in the army? Yes, some have treated enemy prisoners with respect and even a level of love. We seldom think ahead to those occasions. We saw an example of it in Ken Burn’s TV story about the Vietnam War, where many had trouble having to kill someone on “the other side” who were often just citizens of a village on the wrong side.

Jesus even seemed to forgive Judas at the last supper.

At 90 I am close to going home to be with the Lord, so should I live any differently now? Even if we are younger shouldn’t we always want to follow Jesus’ example? We should think of that as we take the Lord’s Supper in our church.
Bob O.

John 13:1-17,31b-35
Jesus’ whole Ministry and the event depicted in the lesson are all about humility. In a society that thrives on self-promotion, that is not a message we want to hear. Self-promotion, we think, is the key to success. Success Coach Bonnie Marcus puts it this way:
Self-promotion is a leadership and political skill that is critical to master in order to navigate the realities of the workplace and position you for success.
Martin Luther nicely describes true Christian humility, the humility Jesus displayed and the kind that inspires Christians to display in life:
In a word, a truly humble man turns into the sort of person who is false to no one but has an honest, pure, and sincere heart... For he does not seek his own interests by his works and life; his eyes are not fixed on anything that is his... He does all his works for nothing, merely to serve others. (What Luther Says, pp.671-672)
Early 20th-century Anglican Bishop William Temple offers another deep insight about the humility of Jesus and his followers:
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.
Jesus’ humble love frees us from ourselves!
Mark E.

1 http://www.chabad.org/holidays/passover/pesach_cdo/aid/871715/jewish/Pas...
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The Immediate Word

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John Jamison
While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”


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Pause, Sign, Ponder, Reflect
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Psalm 4

When you are disturbed, do not sin; ponder it on your beds, and be silent. (v. 4)

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Acts 3:12-19
Wayne Brouwer
Note: This installment was originally published for April 22, 2012.

During the time of the Reformation, John Foxe of England was impressed by the testimony of the early Christians. He gleaned the pages of early historical writings, and wrote a book that has become a classic in the church: Foxe's Book of Martyrs.

One story he tells is about an early church leader named Lawrence. Lawrence acted as a pastor for a church community. He also collected the offerings for the poor each week and that led to his death.

The Village Shepherd

Janice B. Scott
Call to Worship:
Jesus said, "Peace be with you. You are witnesses to the living Christ." Let us welcome the living Christ in our worship today.

Invitation to Confession:

Jesus, sometimes we are frightened and anxious.
Lord, have mercy.

Jesus, sometimes we aren't good witnesses to you.
Christ, have mercy.

Jesus, forgive us for all those things we think and do which we know are wrong.


John A. Stroman
The theme of 1 John all along has been the love of God. The author now expands that love in the phrase, "the children of God," and for the first time he considers what it means to be the children of God. Earlier, he presented love within the fellowship and now he speaks of the meaning of God's love for us and its implications for the future. The consequences and proof of the love of God are evident in being called "the children of God." He is careful to point out that the love of God is a gift; we do not earn it.
Robert A. Noblett
Here's the scene. The disciples are huddled together and they have just heard Simon's account of experiencing the risen Christ when Cleopas and his companion enter and add word of their encounter with the risen Christ. Luke describes the scene like this: "While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, 'Peace be with you.' They were startled and terrified, and thought they were seeing a ghost" (v. 36).
James R. Wilson
First Lesson: Acts 3:12-19
Theme: Responding to God with repentance

Call To Worship
Leader: Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord!
People: Let us lift up our hearts and hands to God in heaven!
Leader: Let us proclaim in all the world the glory due God's name!
People: Let us bring our offerings into the courts of Almighty God!
Leader: Let us come together and bring praise for our salvation in Christ!
All: Blessed be the name of the Lord!


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