April 9, 2020 – Maundy Thursday- Given and Shed for You, Jesus Prays for Us -Matthew 26:26-29, Luke 22:39-46

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Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”  And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you,  for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.  I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” Matthew 26:26-29 (ESV)

In these words of institution there is some argument among Christians as to what Jesus really meant.  Some Christians (such as Orthodox and Roman Catholic) believe that the water and wine transform themselves into body and blood, that once they are consecrated they are no longer bread and wine even though they look like and taste like bread and wine.  Other Christians look upon Communion as simply a memorial meal in which the language is figurative- it’s just bread and wine or crackers and grape juice, and we do it because Jesus did it.

An alternative view on the Supper is to take Jesus exactly at His word.

This IS My body. This IS My blood of the covenant.

In the Small Catechism we are taught:

What is the Sacrament of the Altar?

It is the true body and blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ, under the bread and wine, instituted by Christ Himself for us Christians to eat and drink.

In these times it is difficult when we cannot meet together and share the Sacrament. Yet Jesus is giving us a foretaste of the feast to come. By eating the bread that IS at the same time His body, and by drinking the wine that IS at the same time His blood, we are made stronger, we are reinforced as members of one Body.  We are reminded that because Jesus made the sacrifice of His body and His blood, the penalty for our sins is paid.  We are forgiven.

All we can do this Maundy Thursday is remember, even though for now we must forgo the benefit of physically sharing the meal, is that Jesus has still given His body and His blood so that we may have the gift of salvation.

Tonight we also remember after this Last Supper, before Jesus was arrested and taken, before His trial, before the crucifixion, Jesus’ long night of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane.

And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”  And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”  And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him.  And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.  And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow,   and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” Luke 22:39-46 (ESV)

Jesus is actually praying the third and sixth petitions of the Lord’s prayer – the third and most difficult, “thy will be done” for Himself. Even as He prayed, He sweat tears of blood, knowing it was God’s will for Him to drink the most bitter cup of punishment possible, and that the cup would not be taken from Him. For His disciples He prayed that they would not fall into temptation (the sixth petition) because He knew their weakness.

Jesus taught us to pray these petitions because He knows how much we chafe at the reality that we are subject to God’s will.  We don’t like to admit that God is holy and we are not.  We want to believe that we earn our daily bread, when in fact even the ability to earn anything is a gift from God. We are tempted at every turn by our own sinful flesh, by the world and by Satan the accuser as well.

Sometimes the cup of suffering is unavoidable. Sometimes we fall into temptation. Sometimes we forget that we aren’t the ones running the universe. Like the disciples we have to be reminded to wake up and pray that we don’t fall into temptation- that we aren’t tempted to despair, to give up hope, to run from Jesus instead of running to Him.

Today we pray that God’s will be done and that we would not be afraid to cling to Jesus instead of trying to rely on ourselves.

Lord, we thank you for the precious gifts of Your body and blood, given and shed for us to forgive us and to wash us clean of our sins. Deliver us from temptation and grant us the gift of unwavering faith in You.

March 2, 2018 – Betraying Jesus- Mark 14:37-42

sleeping disciples.jpgHe (Jesus) came and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour? Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And once more he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to say to him. He came a third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Enough! The hour has come; the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.” Mark 14:37-42 (NRSV)

Jesus had to have had some level of frustration with Peter and the rest of the disciples. All He wanted was for these guys to stay awake and pray with Him as He anguished in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Instead all of the disciples had found some way to abandon Jesus- if not by nodding off then it was by trotting off and selling Him to the authorities for today’s equivalent of enough money to buy a few gallons of gasoline.

Sometimes we just plain know our loved ones are going to let us down. Whether it is something simple as forgetting to set out meat to defrost for the evening meal, or something more serious such as taking the car through the garage door, our friends and loved ones are not perfect.  Our spouses don’t anticipate our needs, they spend money on things we might think are wasteful, or sometimes they are emotionally cold.  Our kids fail to follow instructions, tend to sass back, fail to do their chores, and break things.  Our friends don’t always show up when we need them.

Jesus had to be heartbroken being abandoned and betrayed by His friends. Betrayal, as much as it stings, is part of the human experience.  All of us have both been betrayed by other people and we have all betrayed other people in various ways. Hopefully none of us succumbs to the temptation to sell one of our friends to the executioner for less than what it takes to fill up a Toyota Camry, but before we judge Judas too harshly, we should remember, we share the same root of sin with Judas.   We are sinners and we live with sinners.  Our spirits are indeed willing, but our flesh screws up.

The good news is that unlike our loved ones and those around us, Jesus is faithful. He does not betray us even when we are imperfect and in our sin and error, we betray others, and we betray Him.

We are like those friends of Jesus so much of the time. We try and we fail. We can’t stay awake to pray with Jesus or stand by Him in His anguish. It is too much for us to bear. Even so, Jesus is faithful to us.  He forgives us.  He walks with us through the valleys of shadow. He pulls us out of our weakness and comforts us when we have been betrayed.

 

 

January 24, 2018 Pray With Shameless Audacity- Psalm 141:1-2, Luke 11:5-10

Jesus in Gethsemane

I call to you, Lord, come quickly to me; hear me when I call to you. May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice. Psalm 141:1-2 (NIV)

Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.

 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Luke 11:5-10 (NIV)

It is true that when we pray we are approaching Almighty God. We should address Him bearing that in mind.  Fear of the Lord (“fear” meaning reverent respect) is the beginning of wisdom. (Proverbs 9:10) This is why it is good for us to know a few things that Scripture teaches us about prayer.

Prayer is meant to be bold. Do we really believe in the power of the One we pray to? If we do, then why do we pray as if we are begging for scraps, as if God is only willing to give His leftovers?

God gives us the privilege of calling him Father (the word Jesus uses, “Abba,” is more accurately translated to the more intimate English word, “Daddy,”) and He invites us to include Him in our whole lives- the good, the bad and the ugly. God knows our needs more intimately than we do.  Prayer is more than anything a way for us to come closer to God. God does not want us to show Him a sanitized PG13 compartment of our lives.  God wants our whole heart, our whole life.

While one can debate the theological position of whether or not God changes His mind, (perhaps it is more correct to suppose that He changes our minds,) Jesus entreats us to pray boldly- with shameless audacity.  We should pray with complete surrender, and complete openness.

In other words, pray as though we have no boundaries and nothing left to lose.

In some traditions bold prayer is frowned upon, as though one can only approach God with nothing more than sweet platitudes and rote prayers. Those prayers have their place, but so do the prayers that come from the deepest, darkest gut wrenching depths of sorrow, desperation and yes, even anger.

When Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane it was said He sweat blood, His prayer was so passionate and heartfelt.

If we believe God is Who He says He is, we can surrender everything and anything to Him. He is big enough to handle our anger, our rage, our passion and all of those charged emotions we don’t like to deal with.  If we look at Jesus as a Precious Moments figurine or as a sanitized ethereal being (aka Wayne Newton in a white robe?) we miss His humanity, we miss His power, we miss His earthiness, we miss His sovereignty.  We miss the opportunity for Him to come to us in our human weakness, in our surrender and brokenness, so that He can make us whole again.

Jesus tells us to keep banging on the door, to make ourselves pests. Ask! Look! Keep knocking until the door opens. Keep asking, until our wills align with God’s will.