Worship Sunday at 10:30

Bethany Evangelical
Lutheran Church

Ishpeming, Michigan † Est. 1870

 
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Maundy Thursday 4/1

          As I mentioned last Sunday, in the Passion story that we consider throughout this week it’s not hard to find villains, or if not villains, at least severely flawed characters.  To put it another way, there aren’t many heroes in this story.  You’ve got the crowds that shouted “Hosanna!” just a few days ago who will soon be yelling, “Crucify him!”  The religious authorities who have been working in the background, plotting to kill Jesus, threatened as they are by his popularity and by his assaults on their traditions, they’re getting ready to move their attack to the foreground now that Jesus has arrived in Jerusalem. 

Political leaders like Pilate also become part of the mix, the positive spin being that they are trying to keep the peace, a more cynical take being that they are just trying to hold on to their positions of power.  Judas is plotting to betray Jesus even as he eats and drinks the Last Supper with him and the other disciples and those other disciples don’t come off a whole lot better either.  No sooner is the supper over than the disciples are arguing about who is the greatest showing that they still don’t get it, and of course as things play out they too will abandon Jesus; Peter will deny him three times and the rest will scatter after Jesus is arrested. 

          It’s a sorry account, no shortage of characters at which to point fingers and throughout history there have always been those who want to point fingers of accusation concerning who killed Jesus;  but when all is said and done, we know that it was you and me that killed Jesus.  We find ourselves in all the weak, sinful characters portrayed in the biblical accounts so fingers of guilt point back at all of us for any number of reasons, but especially when we fail to live as Jesus taught us to live. 

For example, tonight we hear Jesus’ command to love one another as I have loved you and we don’t have to think too hard to know we haven’t done that very well.  We see him model humility and service as he washes the feet of the disciples and we know that those are not the values that are most highly honored by our society that proudly calls itself Christian.  Sadly, they’re often not the values most highly honored by the church either as it gets hung up on internal who’s holier than who conflicts not a whole lot different than the disciples arguing about who is the greatest.  Fingers of guilt point at all of when we don’t love one another and when we create idols, making other things more important than a relationship with the living God.

          So what the stories and liturgies of this week do in various ways is to function kind of like one big parable.  We get drawn in thinking that we are observers of all that happens, only to have the rug pulled out from under us as we realize that what the stories and liturgies do is to reveal to us our own part in all that happens. 

          The Holy Week services of last Sunday and tonight and tomorrow and tomorrow night create a dark picture of a fallen world, a world where evil exists in large and small ways, a world where forces that work against the will of God are alive and active.  Those forces have their say and have their effect on all of us and these services unmask this truth and this reality.  It’s not pretty; it’s not fun; many prefer to skip this time and only show up on Sunday for the joy of Easter maybe because what we do during these preceding days hits a little too close to home; but only if we experience this emptiness, this darkness, this sadness can we come to a fuller understanding of why it was necessary for Christ to enter the world and bring light into darkness, to announce the promise of new life.

          So tonight and tomorrow and tomorrow night; we experience the emptiness and the darkness, with only occasional glimmers of hope; and then on Saturday there is absence; quiet and absence.  But in the Easter Vigil liturgy on Saturday night, we begin to put things back together.  It’s dark when we start but then there is the light of a new fire, light that is brought inside in the flame of a new Paschal candle. 

We hear the old stories that remind us of how God has been present in many and various ways to our ancestors of the faith and as we hear the stories, hope begins to build.  The absence was real, but hearing the stories, there’s hope.  We celebrate the sacrament of Holy Baptism and we’re reminded of God’s covenant promises.  We know that the covenant made long ago with God’s people still holds; we know that the power of death can’t hold this God who makes promises to us. 

          Late on Saturday night, hope is building.  Hope is building, but we still have to wait.  We wait in candlelight through the night in quiet and prayer, waiting for the light of the new day to conquer the darkness and to fulfill our hopes.

          Talking about it only goes so far though.  Explanation only goes so far.  As I said in my newsletter article, it’s the experience of these three days that really matters.  It’s the experience that makes God present in profound ways.  I’m glad that you’re here to share in that experience.   

Rev. Warren Geier           

 
 

Bethany Lutheran Church
715 Mather Avenue
Ishpeming, MI 49849

Phone: 906-486-4351
Fax: 906-486-9640
contact@bethanyishpeming.org

Rev. Warren Geier, Pastor
pastor@bethanyishpeming.org

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“Whoever
welcomes
one such child in my name
welcomes me, and whoever
welcomes me welcomes
not me
but the
one who
sent me.”
 
 

 

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