Too soon we rise; the vessels disappear;
The feast, though not the love, is past and gone;
The bread and wine remove, but Thou art here;
Nearer than ever; still my shield and sun. “Here, O My Lord, I See Thee Face to Face” verse six
From the Treasury of Daily Prayer:
Maundy Thursday, the Day of Commandment (Dies Mandati), most properly refers to the example of service given us by our Lord and the directive to love as we have been loved (John 13:34). Yet we must not forget the command given in the Words of Our Lord to “do this in remembrance of Me.” This day, with its commemoration of the institution of the Lord’s Supper, is set off from the rest of Holy Week as a day of festive joy.
Today’s readings focused on Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. We read the accounts in three Gospels: Matthew 26:30-56; Mark 14:32-52; and John 18:1-12. This was one of the few occasions where we actually could have read the story in all four Gospels, because Luke 22:39-46 also recorded this event. In retrospect, I really wish I had also read the Luke passage out loud, as well, because it has a detail that none of the other Gospels include–that an angel comes to minister to Jesus in His agony in the garden. The children and I really like comparing the differences that are recorded in the Gospels, and this would have been a great one to discuss!
I can’t believe we only have one week of readings and symbols left! When we started this project, it seemed like it would take forever to get to Easter, but here we are in Holy Week already…time goes by too fast!
Today’s readings focused on Jesus instituting the Lord’s Supper. Again we read from three Gospels: Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; and Luke 22:14-20. The words in these readings were very familiar, as we hear them in church every Sunday that the Sacrament is celebrated. The Luke reading was probably the most different of the three, even mentioning a second cup in the Passover meal, but the Words of Institution were still familiar!
Today’s reading was found in only one Gospel–John 13:1-20. This is one part of the events that occurred on the day we now know as Maundy Thursday, the day the Feast of the Passover was celebrated, and when Jesus observed the Last Supper with His disciples. This reading focused specifically on when Jesus washed the disciples’ feet. Interestingly, even though this is a well-known story, this is the only other reading for which there was no corresponding story in any of our children’s Bibles. Maybe that’s because this is just one part of a larger story, or maybe because it’s only found in one Gospel. Still, I found it a little strange that we couldn’t read this one in any of the many children’s Bibles we have!
This is another story that I particularly like because, once again, Peter’s brashness and impulsivity is demonstrated. I can really relate to him, and never more than when he’s making a total and complete fool of himself!
Once referred to as the “still days,” the Triduum marks the three-day period from Maundy Thursday to Holy Saturday. The services of those three days are actually three parts of one long service, culminating in the Great Vigil of Easter.
On Thursday, we are blessed with the opportunity to partake of the Sacrament one last time before the altar is stripped in preparation of the solemn services of Good Friday.
On Friday, we enter the now-bare sanctuary, to hear the words of our Lord’s suffering and death, and hear the Bible slammed shut as we ponder Him giving up His Spirit for us.
On Saturday, is the agonizing wait, as we hold our breaths throughout Jesus’s rest in the tomb. And then the Great Vigil, in which the Light is brought back, and the first glimpse of the opening tomb is observed.
The Paschal Triduum marks the highest and holiest point of the church year. From Thursday through Saturday, we walk with Jesus from the Upper Room to Gethsemane to the trial, and finally to Golgotha. We watch as His body is placed in the tomb, and we weep with his mother and disciples. But we know the Story doesn’t end there, and we wait, with all the company of heaven, holding our breath, and waiting for that glorious festival on Easter Sunday…
Another great article by Dr. Gene Veith, this time regarding the Lord’s Supper, a very appropriate topic for this Maundy Thursday:
“As far as I know, I am the only Lutheran who writes regularly for Tabletalk, so please bear with me. Inviting a Lutheran to write about the Lord’s Supper is like asking a grandmother if she has any pictures of the new baby. So much affection for the subject matter can easily outpace other people’s interest. However, the Lord’s Supper is at the heart of a Lutheran’s piety. Calvinists too, as well as other Protestants, are rediscovering their own sacramental heritage, which has become somewhat forgotten. We Lutherans have never lost the Reformation’s emphasis on the sacrament, so perhaps this description of what it is like might prove helpful.
I do not intend here so much to argue for the Lutheran theological position on the sacrament, but rather to describe — in a way that I hope is helpful for non-Lutherans who are also trying to regain an evangelical sense of the sacrament — what it is like to believe in it. I will then make some cultural connections, showing why the Reformation emphasis on the sacrament is a bracing tonic against today’s highly-internalized pop-Christianity.
At the Marburg Colloquy in 1529, that great debate over the Lord’s Supper between Luther and Zwingli, Dr. Martin took a piece of chalk and wrote on a table: ‘This is my body.’ In answer to Zwingli’s long philosophical discourse, Luther whipped off the tablecloth and pointed to those words. For Luther, the conviction that the bread and wine of Holy Communion are the body and blood of Christ was a matter of trusting God’s Word. Since the Bible says, ‘This is my body,’ he would not countenance any arguments designed to prove ‘this is not my body.’ As at Augsburg, so at Marburg, Luther was saying, ‘Here I stand’ on the Word of God.
Lutherans are puzzled at the resistance from so many other Christians at their conviction that the Lord’s Supper involves ‘the real presence of Christ.’ Calvin had no problem affirming Christ’s true presence in the Lord’s Supper, but he did not understand this in terms of corporeal presence. Luther, who always encouraged Christians to look outside of themselves rather than within themselves to know God, believed in Christ’s objective presence through the objective Word of God that consecrates the elements. Another sticking point was whether an unbeliever receives the corporeal body of Christ. Calvin would say no. Luther, citing 1 Corinthians 11:27–30, would say yes.
By the way, in this ecumenical forum, let it be known that Lutherans, according to their official statements of faith, reject ‘consubstantiation.’ We do not believe that the body and the bread, the blood and the wine, constitute a new and unique substance. We reject all such philosophical attempts to parse this miracle, insisting that we must simply accept the biblical language without interpretation, that the bread and wine are still bread and wine and also the body and blood of Jesus.
But, for Luther, the Lord’s Supper is not just about the real presence of Christ. ‘The main thing in the Sacrament,’ Luther teaches in The Small Catechism, are the words ‘Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.’ Specifically, the words ‘for you.’
Whereas Rome taught that the rite of Holy Communion was a good work, man’s offering of Christ up to God, the Reformation reversed that. The Lord’s Supper is about Christ offering Himself — His body broken on the cross and the blood that He shed for the forgiveness of sins — to us. That is, the Lord’s Supper embodies the Gospel.
Many Christians look for signs and miracles. But there is no more miraculous sign than what happens during Holy Communion. Many Christians look for a religious experience, but there is no experience as vivid as tasting. Evangelicals talk about receiving Christ, something that happened way back at their conversion. But in the Lord’s Supper, as we are brought back to the Gospel again and again, we can continue to receive Christ.
Contemporary Christianity tends to be all internalized — a matter of my feelings, my inner life, and my personal opinions. People look inward for their salvation, with some health-and-wealth preachers urging the members of their congregation to ‘have faith in yourself.’ But the Reformers — Calvin as well as Luther — stressed how salvation is extra nos, outside ourselves, accomplished in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.
Contemporary Christians tend to be all spiritual. They often scorn the physical realm, even as they indulge their sinful flesh, reasoning like Gnostics that what they do with their bodies does not affect their spirits. They often construe God as a being primarily inside their heads, and they treat Jesus like some imaginary friend. The Reformers rejected such Gnosticism.
Recovering the Lord’s Supper can remind all Christians that their faith is grounded in objectivity, in a God who created matter and became incarnate in history, in a Christ who redeemed us by giving His body — not just His ‘spirit’ — in a bloody sacrifice.
What we do in our bodies and in our physical, mundane lives does matter, both for sin and for grace. When we eat the bread of the Lord’s Supper, Christ nourishes us both spiritually and physically, uniting us with His body on the cross and the body that is His church. When we drink the wine, Christ’s cleansing blood courses through our veins, such is the thoroughness and the intimacy of our salvation.”