Maundy Thursday

I didn’t grow up in a liturgical tradition that followed the church year, so I was well into college before I heard of Good Friday, much less Maundy Thursday. This comes from the Latin Mandatum, the word for “command” or “mandate,” and that day is called Maundy Thursday because the night before Jesus died, he gave his disciples a new command: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34).

Almighty and everlasting God, who, of thy tender love towards mankind, hast sent thy Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, to take upon him our flesh, and to suffer death upon the cross, that all mankind should follow the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant, that we may both follow the example of his patience, and also be made partakers of his resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Book of Common Prayer (Canadian, 1962)

Good Friday, Part 3: The Reproaches of the Cross

The “Solemn Reproaches of the Cross” is an ancient text from the Western tradition of Christian worship that is used in many Good Friday services. The reproaches follow the pattern of Psalm 78, which rehearses God’s acts of faithfulness and Israel’s repeated rebellion. There are different versions of this, but here is the one we use:

Thus says the Lord: What have I done to you, O My people, and wherein have I offended You? Answer Me. For I have raised you up out of the prison house of sin and death, and you have delivered up your Redeemer to be scourged. For I have redeemed you from the house of bondage, and you have nailed your Savior to the cross. O My people. (Micah 6:3-4)

Holy Lord God, holy and mighty God, holy and most merciful Redeemer; God eternal, leave us not to bitter death. O Lord, have mercy.

Thus says the Lord: What have I done to you, O My people, and wherein have I offended You? Answer Me. For I have conquered all your foes, and you have given Me over and delivered Me to those who persecute Me. For I have fed you with My Word and refreshed you with living water, and you have given Me gall and vinegar to drink. O My people. (Jeremiah 2:6-7)

Holy Lord God, holy and mighty God, holy and most merciful Redeemer; God eternal, allow us not to lose hope in the face of death and hell. O Lord, have mercy.

Thus says the Lord: What have I done to you, O My people, and wherein have I offended You? Answer Me. What more could I have done for My vineyard that I have done for it? When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad? My people, is this how you thank your God? O My people. (Isaiah 5:2-4)

Holy Lord God, holy and mighty God, holy and most merciful Redeemer; God eternal, keep us steadfast in the true faith. O Lord, have mercy.

Good Friday, Part 2: Learn a New Hymn

Take the opportunity of Good Friday to learn some new hymns that reflect the Passion of Christ. In the last post I mentioned a classic hymn, “O Sacred Head Now Wounded.” There are two others I can mention that would start this list.

“Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted”

This hymn has images from the Old Testament, in particular Isaiah 53:4–“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.” Also notice the references to “David’s Son, yet David’s Lord” (Acts 2:34-35; Psalm 110), and the satisfaction of God’s justice: “But the deepest stroke that pierced him was the stroke that justice gave.”

Stricken, smitten, and afflicted,
See him dying on the tree!
This is Christ, by man rejected;
Here, my soul, your Savior see.
He’s the long expected prophet,
David’s son, yet David’s Lord.
Proofs I see sufficient of it:
He’s the true and faithful Word.

Tell me, all who hear him groaning,
Was there ever grief like this?
Friends through fear his cause disowning,
Foes insulting his distress;
Many hands were raised to wound him,
None would intervene to save;
But the deepest stroke that pierced him
Was the stroke that justice gave.

You who think of sin but lightly
Nor suppose the evil great
Here may view its nature rightly,
Here its guilt may estimate.
Mark the sacrifice appointed;
See who bears the awful load;
It’s the Word, the Lord’s Anointed,
Son of Man and son of God.

Here we have a firm foundation;
Here the refuge of the lost;
Christ, the rock of our salvation,
His the name of which we boast.
Lamb of God, for sinners wounded,
Sacrifice to cancel guilt!
None shall ever be confounded
Who on him their hope have built.

“Ah, Holy Jesus, How Hast Thou Offended”

This hymn is also loaded with Old Testament references and New Testament fulfillment. Have you ever noticed how hymns (good ones) are inherently biblical theological? This one has references to the Good Shepherd and the ultimate offering of atonement, but I particularly like verse two that reminds us of our role in the event: it was “my treason, Jesus, that hath undone thee.”

Ah, holy Jesus, how hast thou offended,
that man to judge thee hath in hate pretended?
By foes derided, by thine own rejected,
O most afflicted.

Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon thee?
Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone thee.
‘Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee:
I crucified thee.

Lo, the Good Shepherd for the sheep is offered;
the slave hath sinned, and the Son hath suffered;
for our atonement, while we nothing heedeth,
God intercedeth.

For me, kind Jesus, was thy incarnation,
thy mortal sorrow, and thy life’s oblation;
thy death of anguish and thy bitter passion,
for my salvation.

Therefore, kind Jesus, since I cannot pay thee,
I do adore thee, and will ever pray thee,
think on thy pity and thy love unswerving,
not my deserving.



Good Friday, Part 1: The Passion of Our Lord

Holy Week is the tradition of the Christian church of reminding ourselves of the most significant week of redemptive history: the time when our Lord was betrayed, scourged, nailed on the cross, and laid in a tomb. Through the events of Holy Week, we find forgiveness for our sins and the world is redeemed from the curse.

The spiritual significance of this week can be seen in the names given to it throughout church history. It has been called Major Week, Greater Week, Authentic Week, Passion Week, Week of Salvation, Sorrowful Week, and Mournful Week. For those who follow the church year, the heart of Holy Week is the three-day commemoration (often called Triduum) that begins on Thursday evening and ends on Easter Sunday morning. These three days constitute the heart of the church year, for during this time we move through the Last Supper, the denial by Judas, the Garden of Gethsemane, and our Lord’s trial, crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. The days are called Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday.

Today, April 22, is considered Good Friday. Since our church started having a Good Friday service, it has become one of my favorite services of the year. But perhaps you do not belong to a church that follows that tradition. You might do this on purpose, still convinced that these matters are not helpful. To each his own. But for those who are reading of these matters for the first time, perhaps you are interested in this tradition. If so, go to a Good Friday Service. Find one in your community and attend it. If it is too late, make the plans to attend one next year, and perhaps a Maundy Thursday service that reflects on the institution of the Lord’s Supper.

Since it is Friday afternoon, perhaps I can provide a few suggestions for observing the Passion of our Lord, and the first would be to read about it. “Passion” is the Christian term used to describe the events of Christ’s suffering and crucifixion. The term originated in connection to the Greek verb paschō, to suffer, and was used in the Latin Vulgate (passionem) and by Wyclif who retained the word by using “passion” in English. In our Good Friday service, we alternate between the reading of John’s Gospel and the hymn “O Sacred Head Now Wounded.”

Reading: John 18:1-27 (Betrayal, Arrest, & Trial)

O sacred Head, now wounded,
with grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded
with thorns, Thine only crown;
How pale Thou art with anguish,
with sore abuse and scorn!
How does that visage languish,
which once was bright as morn!

Reading: John 18:28-40 (Jesus before Pilate)

What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered,
was all for sinners’ gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression,
but Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior! ’
Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favor,
vouchsafe to me Thy grace.

Reading: John 19:1-24 (The Crucifixion of Jesus)

What language shall I borrow
to thank Thee, dearest friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow,
Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever,
and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never
outlive my love to Thee.

Reading: John 19:25-37 (The Death of Jesus)

My Savior, be Thou near me
when death is at my door;
Then let Thy presence cheer me,
forsake me nevermore!
When soul and body languish,
oh, leave me not alone,
But take away mine anguish
by virtue of Thine own!

Ascension Thursday

Today (Thursday, May 21st) is Ascension Thursday. If you are a preacher and have never preached on the Ascension, let me encourage you to do that this weekend. Take a break your series, and teach your congregation about the importance of the Ascension of Christ.

The Book of Common Prayer provides some helpful resources for this. Here is the collect for Ascension Day:

GRANT, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that like as we do believe thy only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into the heavens; so we may also in heart and mind thither ascend, and with him continually dwell, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

The central Scripture passage is, of course, Acts 1. But a great Old Testament passage would be Psalm 47. If you don’t preach on the Ascension this year, plan on doing it next year.

What is Maundy Thursday?

Kevin DeYoung:

Like millions of Christians around the world, we will have a Maundy Thursday tonight. If you’ve never heard the term, it’s not Monday-Thursday (which always confused me as a kid), but Maundy Thursday, as in Mandatum Thursday. Mandatum is the Latin word for “command” or “mandate”, and the day is called Maundy Thursday because on the night before his death Jesus gave his disciples a new command. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34).

Read his whole post. If you are not familiar with Kevin DeYoung, he is the pastor of University Reformed Church. Justin Taylor wrote a short introduction to him here. He is the co-author of Why We’re Not Emergent: By Two Guys Who Should Be, and the upcoming Just Do Something: How to Make a Decision Without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Open Doors, Random Bible Verses, Casting Lots, Liver Shivers, Writing in the Sky, etc. (What a great title!). Be sure to keep an eye on his blog.

The Collect for Maundy Thursday

“Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

-Book of Common Prayer (1929)

Music Suggestions for Lent from Cardiphonia

Cardiphonia is a blog/website that will be an ongoing collaboration of church musicians who are giving their first fruits to the church.  Right now there are three musicians involved: Bruce Benedict, Nathan Partain, and Rick Jensen. I went to RTS Orlando with Bruce Benedict, and his Shorter Catechism CD helped me pass my Shorter Catechism test! They recently posted some helpful resources for Lent. Keep an eye on their blog. I think you will find it helpful.

T. S. Eliot’s poem, “Ash Wednesday”

Here is T. S. Eliot’s  poem titled, “Ash Wednesday.” Gene Veith says that Eliot “wrote this upon his conversion to Christianity and his of the same name, which he wrote upon his conversion to Christianity and his baptism.” You can read the whole poem here. This is the section Veith included on his blog:

If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
If the unheard, unspoken
Word is unspoken, unheard;
Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
The Word without a word, the Word within
The world and for the world;
And the light shone in darkness and
Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
About the centre of the silent Word.

Ash Wednesday

Today (2/25) is considered Ash Wednesday by many churches who follow the church year. As I have studied the church year, I have discovered lots of interesting resources, and Ash Wednesday is one of those. Scot McKnight posted the  order for Ash Wednesday from The Book of Common Prayer on his blog. Here is the opening prayer:

Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wickedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Read the rest of the litany here. As I have read about this, I wondered, why is it that fasting has fallen on hard times in the Reformed churches (or broader evangelicalism for that matter)? Any thoughts?

The Evangelical Feast Days

Danny Hyde is the pastor of Oceanside United Reformed Church. He blogs at Pilgrims and Parish. Pastor Hyde has a short post at Reformed Reader on the church year, specifically the evangelical feast days. He also introduces us to a book on this topic: Stages of Experience: The Year in the Church. This book is a short introduction to the “high points of the church’s calendar, written as an ecumenical symposium, made up of Brother from the Taize ecumenical community in France, an Anglican, a Danish Lutheran, a Dominican, a Swiss Calvinist, and an Russian Orthodox theologian.” Read the rest of the post here.

The Biblical Theology of Epiphany

The Scripture passages for Epiphany this week have a very strong Biblical theological connection between them. Something I have not considered before is that the church’s use of the Church Year, as well as the various Scripture readings through that year (OT, Epistle, and Gospel) often display the work of Biblical Theology and the inter-connectedness of Scripture.

Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 60:-6

This passage speaks of the light of the Lord coming, and the glory of the Lord rising upon us. As the Lord does this, we shall rejoice and exult in the Lord. Then verse 6: “A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall bring good news, the praises of the LORD.”

The Epistle Reading: Ephesians 3:1-12

This passage speaks of the mystery of the gospel being revealed: “the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (v. 6). Now notice the connection with Isaiah 60, as Paul says that he will “preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things” (v. 8-9). The images of light and glory.

Gospel Reading: Matthew 2:1-12

You know this passage: the visit of the wise men from the east, Gentiles who are being drawn by the light of the star to the Light of the world.  They come and worship Him, and what do they bring? Gold and frankincense and myrrh…and they receive good news.

All Saints Day

Today is “All Saints Day” (also called “All Hallows”) in the Western Church. The traditions that flow from the Protestant Reformation are forever tied to “All Saints Day” because Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on “All Hallows Eve,” the evening before All Saints Day.

I for one believe that Protestants need to reflect more on the significance of Saints who have gone before us. At our church, usually on the last Sunday night of October, our young people give biographical presentations of different Saints from church history. It is one way we can remind ourselves of the importance of Christian history and the faith of the saints who have run the race before us.

One of my favorite hymns is a popular hymn for this day: “For All the Saints.” The words are by William H. How, and the traditional tune in the hymnbooks is Sine Nomine by Ralph Vaughan Williams. You can see all the verses and hear that tune at Cyberhymnal. Some of my favorite verses are the final two:

But lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day;
The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of glory passes on His way.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
And singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost:
Alleluia, Alleluia!

Although the traditional tune is good, I really like what RUF and Indelible Grace have done with “For All the Saints.” Christopher Miner has written some new music to the tune, and you can the lead sheet and the chords at the RUF Hymnbook website. You can also listen to it here. This hymn is also on the CD For All the Saints: Indelible Grace III. Enjoy!

Five Theses on the Christian Year

Since our church has started following the major portions of the Christian year [Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost], I have continued to grow in my appreciation of the depth and significance of following the Christian year in terms of formation. Halden has a very helpful post on the Christian year where he articulates five theses about the theopolitical formation of ecclesial identity that the practice of the Christian year seeks to foster:

1. The Christian calendar forms the church to understand herself as a community who is a participant in the story of the triune God disclosed in Scripture and to understand that biblical story as the context in which the world is interpreted and engaged.

2. The Christian calendar recasts the Christian understanding of personal identity within a narratival and ecclesial frame of reference.

3. The Christian calendar invites the church to order its daily life, seasonal celebrations, and familial and communal events in a Christocentric manner, relating all aspects of the ordinary to Christ’s lordship and offering them to him as worship.

4. The Christian calendar nurtures a distinctively eschatological imagination, inviting the church to understand her own being and actions as bearing witness to, participating in, and anticipating the fullness of the triune God’s eschatological kingdom.

5. The Christian calendar orients the church to see her primary vocation as the worship of the Triune God, finding the summit and center of her life in the proclamation of the Word of God and the communion of the Eucharist.

Read the whole post here.

Questions about the Church Year

UPDATE: Sean Michael Lucas has responded to a few things here.

I noticed the other day that Sean Michael Lucas, a professor at Covenant Seminary in St. Louis, MO, posted an argument against following the church year based on the Regulative Principle of Worship. You can read his argument here.

I had planned to ask some questions of the argument, but I noticed today that several people have asked some good and helpful questions in the comments section. So if you are interested in the discussion, make sure to read the comments on this one.

St. Nicholas Day – Dec. 6

Yesterday, December 6, was St. Nicholas Day. For those of you not familiar with him, St. Nicholas was the Bishop of Myra, and he is the basis for the story of “Santa Claus.” Nicholas was born to a wealthy Christian family, though was later orphaned during an epidemic, after which he sold his inheritance to help the poor and needy in what is now modern day Turkey. He was well known for his love and kindness to children and his great generosity toward them.

At the same time he was a great minister and bishop, but like many in his day, he suffered persecution and exile during the reign of Emperor Diocletian,. He was one of the bishops who lived through that exile and later enjoyed the freedom of the Edict of Milan in 313. Nicholas even attending the great Council of Nicaea in 325. Read more about him at the St. Nicholas Center.