7:00 pm Maundy
Thursday April 1, 2010
Valley Church of the Brethren
Is it Foolishness?
(a time for quiet reflection)
Beginning with the Word
1 Corinthians 1:18-31
May the Lord bless
you this evening with the sense of his presence. Before we even
ask, we know the Holy Spirit is beside us, within us, around us,
above us, below us, upholding us, nudging us forward into this
strange thing called “Love” - though not as the world
understands love, mind you. Instead, it is “Love” that is
peculiar in its own way, and we are gathered in its name - that
is Jesus. Welcome.
As this is
the first day of the month of April, which has traditionally, I
guess, been known as “April Fools,” are when then gathered as
“fools” for Christ? Is it foolishness that draws us here? Some
may say, well, yes, this is a rather foolish thing to do… I
mean, it is such a beautiful day and we have chosen to come on
this evening and gather together in the name of love, Jesus.
You know that
“love” is a verb, don’t you, not a noun. Just like faith,
though sometimes we take faith to be something that is flat upon
a piece of paper, like a creed. But faith is likewise a verb.
It is what we are about . . . it is what God implants within us.
Some may call it foolishness, yes!
Let us begin
with a word of foolishness. Let me read to you from Paul’s
letter, his first letter to the folks in Corinth . . . The first
chapter starting with the 18th verse:
18For the message
about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but
to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19For
it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
20Where is the one who is
wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has
not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For
since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through
wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our
proclamation, to save those who believe. 22For Jews
demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23but we
proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and
foolishness to Gentiles, 24but to those who are the
called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the
wisdom of God. 25For God’s foolishness is wiser than
human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human
your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise
by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of
noble birth. 27But God chose what is foolish in the
world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to
shame the strong; 28God chose what is low and
despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing
things that are, 29so that no one might boast in the
presence of God. 30He is the source of your life in
Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and
righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31in
order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in
Call to Worship
We do not come to
this place because, as Brethren, we are better than anyone else.
We do not come to this place because we are somehow holier than
others, perfect . . . if truth be told, we are anything but
perfect, that’s why we need the message, foolish as it may be,
of this hour. That is why we need the cross. That is why we are
here. Is this foolishness? Yes…, but the foolishness of God is
wiser than the wisdom of this world…
A bit of
foolishness, something that is a bit like a creed and yet it is
not - would you turn to the back of your hymnal, to #714, and
join me in this affirmation. Would those of you to my right
begin by reading the first line, with those on my left echoing
with the second in bold print, continuing in this pattern until
we are finished? Let’s look to Jesus
He was the Son of God.
He was the Son of Man.
He came down from heaven.
He was born in a stable.
Kings came to his cradle.
His first home was a cave.
He was born to be a king.
He was a child of Mary.
He was the greatest among rulers.
He was the least among servants.
He was loved and honored.
He was despised and rejected.
He was gentle and loving.
He made many enemies.
He counseled perfection.
He was a friend of sinners.
He was a joyful companion.
He was a man of sorrows.
He said, "Rejoice."
He said, "Repent."
"Love God with all your heart."
"Love your neighbor as yourself."
"Don't be anxious."
"Count the cost."
"Ask and receive."
In him was life.
He died on a cross.
He was a historic person.
He lives today.
He was Jesus of Nazareth.
He is Christ the Lord.
adapted from We Gather Together,
Kenneth I. Morse, ed.
copyright © 1979 Brethren Press.
Lord and Father of mankind"
(take your hymnal and journey to the feetwashing circles)
The ‘Foolishness’ of Feetwashing
before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour
had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having
loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
2The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas
son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper 3Jesus,
knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and
that he had come from God and was going to God, 4got
up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel
around himself. 5Then he poured water into a basin
and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the
towel that was tied around him. 6He came to Simon
Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
7Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am
doing, but later you will understand.” 8Peter said to
him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I
wash you, you have no share with me.” 9Simon Peter
said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my
head!” 10Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does
not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean.
And you are clean, though not all of you.” 11For he
knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of
you are clean.”
12After he had washed their feet, had put on
his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do
you know what I have done to you? 13You call me
Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am.
14So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet,
you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15For I
have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done
to you. 16Very truly, I tell you, servants are not
greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the
one who sent them. 17If you know these things, you
are blessed if you do them.
Meditation and Prayer
We come to what is
perhaps one of the most foolish of the practices of our church.
I mean, really, when you think about it . . .washing feet! You
talk to people about this where you work or go to school, this
is probably one of the most peculiar things about our faith as
you try to explain the why . . . why do you do this? Sounds
kind of foolish doesn’t it. And yet, even the disciples, even
Peter considered it to be a bit of foolishness… Why else, when
Jesus got down on his knees to wash Peter’s feet, did Peter say
“why are you doing this?” And yet Jesus did it anyway, and then
said “do this.”
we have not called this a “sacrament.” We call it an
“ordinance,” like our other ordinances, simply because an
ordinance is what? . . . an order. Not some military order, but
a word of Jesus saying, “do this,” and we have done this - and
the amazing thing about this bit of foolishness is what it has
spawned. Think about it. Those who get down on their knees and
wash one another’s feet, they are just doing some kind of
religious ritual. Well, it is a ritual. But it is a ritual which
leads beyond itself. It has sparked things over the years, as
we reach beyond this room, as we reach beyond this tub and
towel, as we, well, have done things like provide heifers around
the world or done things like disaster relief. Feetwashing is a
prod to service. Now, we can become boastful in our history, as
we have, and say, “look what we have done.” But that is not what
Jesus calls us to do. If anyone has anything to boast, Paul
wrote, boast not about what you do. Instead, boast about what
God is doing.
out of this is what matters. Now, my encouragement is, as
foolish as it might seem, when your brother or sister gets down
on their knees, look into their eyes and seek to see Christ
before you – here is Jesus. And as you wash the feet of someone
else, look at them and seek to see Jesus in them. That’s a
simple request. Foolish maybe, but simple. Would you pray with
O God, we are gathered
for a bit of foolishness, but it is your foolishness. So
re-clothe us, in our “rightful mind” (as we sang), and help us
down on our knees in giving. But also guide us in receiving.
Help us to see in our brothers and sisters here what we need to
see - you present in us, among us, as well as beyond us. Seeing
beyond “us” is very important. Without your aid, we become just
another “holy huddle” instead of getting out on the field and
doing in this world what you are calling us to do and to be -
your hands, your feet. Bless this time, we pray, in Jesus name.
(take your hymnal and journey to the Lord’s table)
The “Foolishness’ of Fellowship
my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and
crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved. 2I
urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the
Lord. 3Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion,
help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work
of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my
co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.
4Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will
say, Rejoice. 5Let your gentleness be known to
everyone. The Lord is near. 6Do not worry about
anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with
thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And
the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard
your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever
is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is
pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence
and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these
things. 9Keep on doing the things that you have
learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of
peace will be with you.
For many of us
those are familiar words - “rejoice in the Lord always,”
and “think on these things,” focus on these things.
However, these words began with a note of conflict. Did you hear
it? In the church in Philippi, there were two women who did not
agree. They were in conflict with one another. The church, you
see, when it comes to harmony is not always together. In fact
it is kind of foolish that God would work through this thing we
call the “church,” because so often we grow in faith in spite
of believers instead of because of them. And yet God
foolishly works among such people - like you and like me -
working in conflicted situations, working towards peace in the
midst of anxiety, working to bring together what is broken
It is foolish
what we heard. Didn’t you think so as you listened to it.
“Rejoice in the Lord,” Paul wrote. Not “sometimes,” but “always”
… Oh, come on! … And this “peace that passes all understanding.”
… Really? Yes, really.
gathered around these tables for a bit of foolishness. I know
that in some Brethren churches this is silent time. Perhaps it
was so in the church in which you grew up (I see Mel nodding
over there). Silence. As much as I have sometimes tried, I can’t
get this group to be quiet, you are just a communing bunch. You
want to talk, and that’s good. Share around these tables,
because I’m sure when Jesus was sharing with his disciples in
that upper room, they weren’t sitting there going, “shush, shush
… this is holy time.” They were probably gabbing away. Of
course, there was more to happen around those tables, just as
there is more to happen here tonight. But remember, allow the
foolishness of this time together to be God’s foolishness, not
your own… God’s foolishness, and we are fools for the sake of
be the tie that binds"
Eternal God, giver and
sustainer of life, we sense your almighty presence in these
sacred moments. We offer our thanks and praise for your
invitation to each of us to be present around these tables.
As we share in this
fellowship meal, make us mindful of that table almost 2,000
years ago where our Lord and Savior ate with his disciples. We,
like them, do not always understand your teachings; and those we
do understand, we too often fail to follow.
Stir our hearts to
obedience, an obedience that springs forth from a heart full of
devotion for you. Move in our midst, touch our hands, transform
our darkness into your light; but most of all, teach us to love
you with our hearts, souls, and minds. O Spirit of God, lead us
In Christ’s name, Amen.
by S. Joan Hershey
from Deacon Manual for Caring Ministries
Copyright ©1998, Association of Brethren Caregivers, p. 238-39
The “Foolishness’ of a Feast
"Be present at our table,
14When the hour came, he took his
place at the table, and the apostles with him. 15He
said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with
you before I suffer; 16for I tell you, I will not eat
it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17Then
he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and
divide it among yourselves; 18for I tell you that
from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the
kingdom of God comes.” 19Then he took a loaf of
bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to
them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this
in remembrance of me.” 20And he did the same with the
cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you
is the new covenant in my blood. 21But see, the one
who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. 22For
the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to
that one by whom he is betrayed!” 23Then they began
to ask one another, which one of them it could be who would do
Again, we hear the
note of betrayal, there is no perfect meal. We wonder, is it I.
We foolishly call this a feast . . . and yet it is only a small
piece of bread and a little bit of juice, that’s it, and yet it
is so much more. With Christians around the world we remember,
we may understand these elements differently in our various
traditions. And, sometimes it looks to outsiders kind of
foolish that we don’t agree as Christians on the meaning, but we
still break bread and we still drink from the cup. A foolish
feast, yes, but in it we remember what God has done for us in
Jesus Christ, something we could not do for ourselves. God is
at work still, this salvation business, this redemption
business, while we were yet sinners, scripture says, “Jesus died
for us” while we were enemies in fact, that’s what it says,
while we were enemies, God reached out through his son. A
foolish feast, yes, but it is the foolishness of God.
Blessing the Bread and
O God we ask your
blessing upon this bread and upon this cup - such simple things
really - and we remember our Lord broke the bread with his
disciples, and how they shared from the common cup. And he spoke
of his body being broken and his blood shed, and they struggled
to understand - as we struggle even today, but we know that in
this meal we find our meaning and our hope and life itself. We
ask your blessing on the breaking of the bread, realizing that
in many ways we are broken with Christ, and we find our
wholeness through you. O God, we ask your blessing upon what we
are about to do. Through it help us to proclaim, foolishly yes,
to proclaim his death until he comes. And we know the rest of
the story. This we pray in the name of the one who said “Do this
in remembrance of me.” Amen.
(unison statements of faith spoke
“The bread which we break
is the communion of the body of Christ.”
Take and eat.
“The cup which we bless
is the communion of the blood of Christ.”
Take and drink.
Be Still and Know
the cross of Christ I glory"
From the table our
Lord went out into the garden, in the stillness of the night,
there he prayed. You know the story. A foolish story or a real
one? One we remember. If this cup could pass by me, no, not my
will but thy will be done. Then the darkness of that night
unfolded. (extinguish a candle) He was betrayed with a
kiss. (extinguish a candle) He was arrested.
(extinguish a candle) He was brought before the religious
authorities (extinguish a candle, and motion for others to
extinguish the rest)…
we think of the dark and to keep from getting scared, we laugh…
It is Maundy Thursday, tomorrow is Good Friday - the day upon
which our Lord was crucified. He died, he was taken down from
the cross and put into the tomb, and then we have Holy Saturday…
It is Maundy Thursday, brother and sisters, but don’t be afraid
- Sunday is coming, Sunday is coming, Sunday is coming. Amen . .
The Lord bless you
and keep you. The Lord make his face to shine upon you. The Lord
be gracious unto you and give you peace. Go in peace.
All scripture quotations
taken from the New Revised Standard Version, copyright
©1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the
National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States
of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
announcement in bulletin:
You are invited to
stay and clean up from our meal. Thank you to all who helped
prepare this meal, those who shared in leadership during it, and
those who cared for children so parents could participate.
#'s are from Hymnal:
A Worship Book