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Wednesday, March 31, 2021
Thursday, April 1, 2021
Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday)—Holy Week, Year B
As on Palm Sunday, the preacher has choices on Maundy Thursday. There is the servant leadership on display in the foot washing, the mandate to love one another following Christ’s example, and the all-important institution of the Lord’s Supper. But the preacher will also find a helpful application in an oft-neglected tradition of expounding the Exodus reading on the Passover, (the pasch) and how Jesus fulfills it even now in his church.
Like the Israelites, the church has gathered together for Holy Week. Our lamb is Christ the Lamb of God, a male without blemish (as Jesus was sinless). In the Eucharist, his perfect once-for-all sacrifice is mysteriously made present, and his flesh and blood nourish those gathered in the sacramental bread and wine. In this way we come “under the doorpost” of the lamb’s blood, and death passes us over. But we are also to eat this Eucharistic meal with our loins girded, our shoes on our feet, supplied for action, since we are not supposed to rest in this world but with the Lord at the end of all things.
The church is not a sedentary institution, but the embodiment of God’s Spirit which is always on the move to convict the proud, to bless the needy, and to act as guides—with staffs in hand!—to show the way to salvation.
Friday, April 2, 2021
At the Cross, victory and agony are met, death is swallowed up in victory, and the way is opened to everlasting life. But yet sorrow is the theme of today.
Preaching on the passion and the crucifixion, the preacher is rarely without content—Christ’s death for our sins is the foundation of our salvation. Rather, it is the tone of sorrowful victory that is difficult to strike, hence the Isaiah prophecy of the Suffering Servant may be used as a framing device for expounding the passion narrative, offering many themes for the preacher to anchor the homily—and all of them intersect at the cross.
The multilayered theme of the servant “lifted up” (on the cross, in the resurrection, and at the ascension) recurs at Good Friday; his marred appearance is also his exaltation and victory. The reference to “sprinkling” in verse 15 recalls both Israel’s purification rituals and the priest sprinkling the blood of the atoning sacrifice at the altar. The double reference can be linked to the issue of water and blood from Jesus’ side and the water of baptism with which he will purify the nations of their sin.
The preacher will have no trouble finding further correlations between Jesus in John’s Passion and Isaiah’s foretelling of the cross (silent, stricken, pierced for our sins, scourged for our healing, yet sinless and blameless). But the mysterious alignment of suffering and victory in Christ’s “lifting up” at the cross is not to be missed, because it has the power to change the believer’s orientation toward suffering in this life: not as meaningless pains to be anesthetized, but as an opportunity for imitation of and intimacy with our Suffering Lord.