Thursday Holy Week
Welcome to our Holy Communion service on Maundy Thursday.
If you want to take part in the communion part then you may want to pause the talk now and go and get some bread and something to drink.
Our reading tonight is from Mark 14: 32-41 (From the Message: Gethsemane)
What a time we have been through, and where is God in all of it?
As we have seen in previous nights of Holy Week, the disciples were going through an equally chaotic time.
If I had the chance to ask one of the disciples at which point did they feel close to God I wonder what they might say...
Maybe it would be the triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
Surely that was when the Kingdom of God was close.
God was with them.
They were entering Jerusalem and the while city was shouting that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of David.
They could feel the power of what they were doing as the hairs at the back of their neck stood.
In the success and the power and the adulation and the wonder of that moment when people acknowledged God was at work.
Is that what the kingdom of God looks like?
Maybe it was later, in the Temple.
Jesus is turning over the tables in the Temple, declaring that the Temple was meant to be a place of prayer but they had made it a den of thieves.
Justice was being done, right was being done.
They were standing up for the poor and the powerless.
They were standing against the powers and the principalities with the full strength of God.
Is that what the Kingdom of God looks like?
Or later in the Upper Room where Jesus takes a bowl of water and a towel and taught them the meaning of discipleship, where they learn what it means to love their neighbour, where they learn what it means to love one another, and lead one another.
In that place of growth and maturity, isn’t this where the Kingdom of God is?
Or later in the garden of Gethsemane when Judas the betrayer comes and the soldiers seek to arrest Jesus and Peter lashes out with a sword chopping of the ear of a Temple guard, or more importantly defending Jesus.
It is in that moment when we are willing to stand up against-the-odds against those that would attack our Lord; when we are righteous in our defence of all that is precious.
Is that what the Kingdom of God looks like?
Following Jesus to see where they go. Following into the home of Caiaphas the High Priest.
Going to the heart of the enemy and having to wait in that place of danger. Keeping warm round a fire to see what will happen at the trail of Jesus, waiting to see if there is anything that can be done.
That place of anticipation and fear, is that where the Kingdom of God can be felt?
Or later still...
Watching Jesus on the cross; seeing the levels of sacrifice that God is willing to endure, seeing just where God’s love is willing to take him; watching God take on the pain and the agony of our mistakes.
Surely here is the Kingdom of God?
Or the empty tomb, when the power of death had been conquered, the power of sin had been vanquished.
In which of these places would the disciples say they had experienced the kingdom of God?
Though I do not dispute that The Kingdom of God could be seen, could be felt, in all of these places, all of these times,
the greatest sadness is that the true opportunity they had to feel the kingdom of God...is the opportunity they missed.
Jesus offers them the chance to share in prayer; to be in the presence of God, to listen, to hear, to be still.
The Kingdom of God is not about us.
It is not about those times when we feel that we are successful, or we are working hard, or we are defending the faith, or we are praising, or we are suffering for our faith, or we are feeling helpless, or feeling awesome.
It is not about feelings of stillness and quiet, it is not about being euphoric and ecstatic, it is not about understanding deep things or learning profound things.
The kingdom of God is not dependant on us and our works and our feelings.
The kingdom of God is about God, it is about his presence, about his power, about his strength, about his Will being done, and God invites us to be with him in his presence.
Like Jesus invited the disciples to join him in the presence of God.
And true to the disciples through all the ages, the disciples where so preoccupied with what they had done, what they are doing, that they miss the chance to be with God.
Jesus was inviting them to see that God was present. Even in that time of paradox and conflict and uncertainty.
Because the disciples missed that opportunity they spent the remaining night in fear, with guilt with shame, with remorse.
They struggled to understand what was happening and believed that what they faced, they faced alone.
They truly began to feel that God had deserted them, or maybe they had deserted God.
If instead they had taken that moment, and felt the presence of God, maybe they could have seen God’s presence in all the other moments; God’s presence in the trials, God’s presence in the torture, God’s presence in the crucifixion, God’s presence in the empty tomb.
Jesus said the Kingdom of God was here, that if we seek it then we would find what we were looking for; whether that was meaning, or purpose or assurance.
It is an invite to be in the presence of God, to recognize that moment for what that is, and begin to see that every moment is a moment where God’s presence is there.
Let us share in the communion
Let us remember the One that you sent to teach us what we are to do, and how we are to do it.
Help us to remember the grain and the bread, that we are dependent on simple things to live a life which has meaning and purpose.
Help us remember the vine and the branches, of how dependent we are on your strength to live our lives in the way you want.
Remind us of the narrow way we are to follow, to seek only love.
Remind us that we can only gain life in community when we are ready to lose the life of selfishness.
Let us recall the offer of second chances given and received.
Lord Jesus Christ
More than anything else,
As we take this broken bread may we know that you became broken like us, so that we may see that even in brokenness the Father is with us.
As we take the wine, the sign of blood, may we see what lengths Your love will take to save another.
And may we see that your love still seeks us out.
Remind us that we never take this meal alone.
Renew our common life, that with each other we may share the treasures of the scriptures
and feel our hearts burning with the hope that you give us.
Lead us from death to life,
from falsehood to truth,
from despair to hope,
from fear to trust,
Lead us from hate to love,
from turmoil to peace.
Let the understanding, that comes from our experience of you in our lives, fill our hearts.
Sharing the bread and wine
His life was broken, so that our lives may be healed.
Take this bread, the Body of Christ, broken for you.
He accepted death, so that we might be offered life eternal.
Take the wine, this is the Blood of Christ, shed for you.
Let us pray
We have felt your presence, we have realised you are there beside us.
But where do we go from here?
What have you hoped that we have learnt?
What action do you seek us to do?
What temptation do you seek us to resist?
What relationship do you seek us to heal?
What blessing do you seek us to give in your name?
Whatever you seek us to do, wherever you seek us to go, may we seek to live our lives in the way you would want us to, to be the people you call us to be,
to be a light for the world in a time of darkness,
to be a hope for the world at a time of despair,
to be Christ to others; to bring the ways of Christ, into our homes, into our neighbourhood, into our workplaces, into the streets.
Thank you for being with us tonight. And I hope you can share with us tomorrow with John.