Why are y’all calling Thursday “Monday” and going to church?

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Holy Week for Newbies

Several friends have asked this. I think they suspect Christians of being so out of touch with reality that we are intentionally self-trolling. “Maundy,” however, is the English-ification of “mandatum” (as in “mandate”). Latin for “command,” it comes from John 13:34, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another.”

Christians head to church on Maundy Thursday for services commemorating the events of Jesus’ final night on earth – the “Last Supper.” It was essentially a going away party in which Jesus hosted a passover dinner for his disciples and altered and reinterpreted the traditional Jewish seder by saying that the bread is his body, the wine is his blood, and that his followers should continue sharing that meal until he returns. No one present came anywhere close to understanding what he was talking about. (The event is recorded in great detail in John’s gospel, chapters 13-17, five chapters worth of text!)

Two events happen at Maundy Thursday services: A foot washing (Jesus washed the disciples feet in John 13:1-20), and after the Lord’s Supper (communion), the altar area is stripped of all ornamentation, greenery, books, symbols, and linen. The lights are then extinguished and the congregation exits in quietly. The uglification of the church in silence is a stark reminder of Jesus’ death. Jesus’ death was portrayed by each New Testament writer as a self-sacrificial act explained using a variety of analogies, among them; a substitution (not unlike that of Arnaud Beltrame this week), a great moral example, a ransom paid to redeem humans, and the victorious king over death and the grave. The scriptures use each of these analogies. Together they seem to me to be the many facets of a gemstone; take one away and the brilliance ceases, add them all together and beauty shines forth.

The question my non-church friends usually ask at this point is: “So, how are you guys doing with that new commandment Jesus gave you to love one another? It is a fair question. Are we washing one another’s feet?

And are we allowing God to strip bare the altars of our lives of all of the idolatrous stuff, inclinations, and ideas that we fill our hearts with?

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What’s so “Good” about Good Friday? A lot of truth in one little word

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What’s so “good” about Jesus Christ’s death? Why would we commemorate such a thing?

Here is what one of Jesus’ first and closest followers, Peter, wrote about his death several years later:  “Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God.” (Peter 3:18, NRSV) Consider the implications of that one little pronoun, “for” in this single sentence. “For” occurs in our English translation 3 times. In the Greek New Testament, however, these are three different words.

  • “FOR sins” is “peri” – “concerning” or “about” – We get “perimeter” from this world. This is “about” in terms of “encircling.”
  • “once FOR all” is a single Greek word: “hapax” which is, “a single occurrence that won’t happen again.”
  • “the righteous FOR the unrighteous” – “huper” – for the sake of, on behalf of.”

There is a lot of theology in those three little prepositions: Jesus suffered to “encircle” our sins, in a “one time act”, a righteous replacement “for your sake.”

All of which is pretty darn “good.”