Welcome to our 6th and final week of our Fear(Less) Bible Study! We’re going to do something a little bit differently to conclude our study. With this being Holy Week, I feel that we should understand our rituals that take place during this special time of the church year. Hopefully by learning more about this week, you’ll be able to appreciate more fully the church services we have planned for this week through Easter, and, in the context of this study, you’ll gain a fresh perspective on why we can be fearless through our lives.
Maundy Thursday is the Thursday before Easter, and it is the first of three days that mark the remembrance of the events leading up to and immediately following the the crucifixion of Jesus. For any budding etymologists out there, the word maundy comes from the Latin mandatum meaning “commandment.” The reason behind this comes from John 13:34.
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. (NRSV)
Maundy Thursday may also be referred to as Holy Thursday, Covenant Thursday, Great and Holy Thursday, and Thursday of Mysteries. It initiates what is called the Easter Triduum which is the period that commemorates the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ. These days include Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and ends Easter evening. John 13:1-5 records one act by which churches remember Jesus.
Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour and come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas, son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. (NRSV)
By this act, we remember Jesus lowering himself to the level of a servant to the already humbled disciples. As a result of this passage, some churches incorporate foot washing into their Maundy Thursday services, and the trend is gaining popularity within United Methodist churches.
The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke record Jesus’ Last Supper. Read Luke 22:14-20.
When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the Kingdom of God comes.” Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” (NRSV)
It is because of this passage and the corresponding passages in Matthew and Mark that we take communion during our Maundy Thursday services.
ood Friday commemorates the passion and crucifixion of Christ. Some of you may wonder why we call it “Good” at all. There are several theories as to how this came about. First, “good” could be derived from a word meaning “pious” or “holy.” The other option is that it is a corruption of “God’s Friday” that became “Good Friday” over time, much like “goodbye” is a corruption of the original “God be with ye.” German speakers may refer to it as “mourning Friday,” and our Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters know it as “Friday of Preparation.” Our services for Good Friday are solemn since they mark the execution of our Lord. There is an acknowledgement of our communal sins as well as of our own personal sins. I’d like to share with you Oscar Wilde’s poem E Tenebris as it came about from a Tenebrae service which was a medieval Good Friday service.
Come down, O Christ, and help me! reach Thy hand,
For I am drowning in a stormier sea
Than Simon on Thy lake of Galilee:
The wine of life is spilt upon the sand,
My heart is as some famine-murdered land
Whence all good things have perished utterly,
And well I know my soul in Hell must lie
If I this night before God's throne should stand.
'He sleeps perchance, or rideth to the chase,
Like Baal, when his prophets howled that name
From morn to noon on Carmel's smitten height.'
Nay, peace, I shall behold, before the night,
The feet of brass, the robe more white than flame,
The wounded hands, the weary human face.
Some churches do what is called the Stations of the Cross, where they remember the different points of Jesus’ suffering on the way to Golgotha to be crucified as a rebel. Other times, churches do a Tenebrae service in which candles are extinguished one by one until none remain lit while scripture is read. It is a period of introspection awaiting Easter.
aster commemorates the truth that Christ is risen. Technically, Easter begins with Easter Eve which occurs at sundown on Holy Saturday. What may be unknown, however, is that Easter is not just one day. Easter is the beginning of an entire season known as Eastertide, which lasts for 50 days and ends on Pentecost. Lent, in the ancient church, was a time of learning and preparation for new converts who would be baptized on Easter Sunday. Eastertide then was a time to continue faith formation within the community. Today, Eastertide “gives us time to rejoice and experience what it means when we say Christ is risen. It’s the season when we remember our baptisms and how through this sacrament we are, according to the liturgy, ‘incorporated into Christ’s might acts of salvation.’” Here at Lewis Center UMC, we have already begun our ALPHA recovery program, we have reached out to our community with our Free Store, we are active with PIN and with Church for All People, our youth go on a mission trip yearly, and we have established a missions team. Daily, it seems, we are living into our calling as church, but there is always more work to be done. “As ‘Easter people,’ we also celebrate and ponder the birth of the Church and the gifts of the Spirit (Pentecost), and how we are to live as faithful disciples of Christ.” Just because Lent has ended and we worship a Risen Christ does not mean that what we’ve learned about God and ourselves can be shelved. During this period of Eastertide, it is my hope that you continue to ask yourself “how can I live as a more faithful, fearless disciple of Jesus Christ.” After all, it is because Jesus was crucified and rose again that we have hope. It is because of Jesus that we can follow God without fear in all we do. Thanks for journeying with us for the past 6 weeks, whether in person or online. We hope to see you at our Maundy Thursday service at 6:30pm, our Good Friday prayer and meditation from 3-6pm (it's not a 3-hour long service, just come when you can and leave when you must; just allow for about a half an hour), Easterbash on Saturday from 9:30-11 am and our Easter Sunday services 9 & 10:30 am!