Destined to share

The LORD is your keeper. The LORD is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
Psalm 121:5-6

“Just how can the moon strike you by night? I know about sunstroke, but moonstroke? Come on!” This scornful remark would be a skeptic’s response to this passage. But even believers are often puzzled about its meaning, and others like it.

This is sacred scripture. It is not whimsical poetry, but it is poetry nonetheless. Poetry that makes use of synecdoche, where a word (the part) is used to convey a much larger idea (the whole). The sun by day, the moon by night, all of our seemingly random experiences—the mundane, the unexpected, the delightful, the painful—are in fact marshaled by the LORD Almighty in a way that will ultimately redound to His glory and our good.
This is why the Apostle Paul can say in Romans 8:28, “All things work together for good, to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.”

That all things will ultimately redound to His glory is true even if we live out our days as skeptics. But those who love God, however imperfectly, are destined to share in that glory!

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And a highway shall be there

And a highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not travel on it; but it shall be for the redeemed: for wayfaring men, yea fools; they shall not go astray. Isaiah 35:8

As poignantly expressed by the 19th century Anglican clergyman, John Samuel Bewley Monsell: “Life with its way before us lies. Christ is the path, and Christ the prize.”

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He believed

“Then all this assembly shall know that the LORD does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the LORD’s, and He will give you into our hands.” 1 Samuel 17:47

How could David be so sure? Did he not see and hear the same enemy as his brothers and all the army of Israel? A blood-thirsty Philistine giant, polluting the very air with his pagan cursings!

And yet, David believed the LORD, and His promise to fight for Israel. He believed.

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No less comforting

“Then the high priest rose up, and all those who were with him…and laid their hands on the apostles and put them in the common prison.”
Acts 5:17-18

The comforting words of Psalm 91 (“…no evil shall befall you”) are no less comforting because of difficult circumstances. God is at work in and through even our painful circumstances in a way incomprehensible to us. Even our Lord Jesus, in the days of his flesh, for the joy set before him, endured the cross.

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Let him hear

“Praise Him in His mighty firmament!…Praise Him according to His excellent greatness!” Psalm 1501-2

The heavens declare the glory of God. The rocks would cry out if they were given the liberty. The sacred scriptures speak with a clear voice. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

His excellent greatness! His transcendence. His nearness.

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Truly true

Then David and all the house of Israel played music before the LORD on all kinds of instruments of fir wood, on harps. on stringed instruments, on tambourines, on sistrums, and on cymbals. 2 Samuel 6:5

Our joyful expression in worship is appropriate only because the gospel is truly true.

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Today

The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
This was the Lord’s doing; It is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalm 118:22-24

This is the day. Today. Christ the Lord is risen today.

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What faith says

“Open to me the gates of righteousness; I will go through them.” Psalm 118:19

The promise of the Gospel is for me.

Faith does not make it so but merely recognizes that it is so, a recognition that happens because we dare not call Christ a liar when he tells us, on that one momentous occasion, “I baptize you…”

What faith says, fundamentally, is “God speaks the truth.” Only secondarily, and not fundamentally, faith may also say, “I believe.” But faith may also say, “My faith is weak” or “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief”.

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One could argue

If a man dies, shall he live again? Job 14:14

Kings and peasants, philosophers and factory workers have all asked this question. And what is the answer? Is there an answer?

If there is no God, there is certainly no life after death. And if there is no God, one could argue, can this all too brief experience we all share really be called life?

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A Liturgy for Maundy Thursday

NicaeaIcon

PRELUDE – “Stricken, Smitten and Afflicted”


Congregation standing

The LORD reigns. Let the peoples tremble.

He dwells between the cherubim, let the earth be moved!

The LORD is great in Zion, and He is high above all the peoples.

Exalt the LORD our God, and worship at His holy hill, for the LORD our God is holy.

Who is like the LORD our God, who humbles Himself to behold the heavens and the earth?

Who would not fear You, O King of the nations? For this is Your rightful due….there is none like You.

I saw the Lord, high and lifted up.

And the train of His robe filled the temple.

His garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head was like pure wool. His throne was a fiery flame, Its wheels a burning fire; A fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him. A thousand thousands ministered to Him; Ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him.

And one cried to another and said: Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!

And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the temple was filled with smoke.

And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.

Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened.

And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.

If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?


Congregation seated

Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.

There is none righteous, no, not one. There is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside. They have together become unprofitable.

All we like sheep have gone astray. We have turned, every one, to his own way.

Will the Lord our God be pleased with thousands of rams,
Ten thousand rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

O Lord, You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it. You do not delight in burnt offerings.

Therefore, when He came into the world, He said:
“Sacrifice and offering You did not desire,
But a body You have prepared for Me.
In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin
You had no pleasure.
Behold, I have come—
In the volume of the book it is written of Me—
To do Your will, O God.”

Behold! My Servant whom I uphold,
My Elect One in whom My soul delights!
I have put My Spirit upon Him.
He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles.

My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?
Why are You so far from helping Me,
And from the words of My groaning?
O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear;
And in the night season, and am not silent.

I saw the Lord, high and lifted up.

But I am a worm, and no man;
A reproach of men, and despised by the people.
All those who see Me ridicule Me;

And the train of His robe filled the temple.

They divide My garments among them,
And for My clothing they cast lots.

And one cried to another and said: Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!

They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,
“He trusted in the Lord, let Him rescue Him;
Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!”

Many bulls have surrounded Me;
Strong bulls of Bashan have encircled Me.
They gape at Me with their mouths,
Like a raging and roaring lion.

And having blindfolded Him, they struck Him on the face and asked Him, saying, “Prophesy! Who is the one who struck You?”

Fierce witnesses rise up. They ask me things that I do not know. They repay me evil for good, to the sorrow of my soul.

I am poured out like water,
And all My bones are out of joint;
My heart is like wax;
It has melted within Me.
My strength is dried up like a potsherd,
And My tongue clings to My jaws;
You have brought Me to the dust of death.
For dogs have surrounded Me;

The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me.
They pierced My hands and My feet;
I can count all My bones.
They look and stare at Me.

Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Behold and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow. Which has been brought on me.
Which the Lord has inflicted in the day of his fierce anger.

And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

Then Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them, “Behold the Man!”


Congregation standing

HYMN – “Ah, Holy Jesus”
Ah, holy Jesus, what law hast thou broken
That such sharp sentence should on Thee be spoken?
Of what great crime hast Thou to make confession,
What dark transgression?

They crown Thy head with thorns, they smite, they scourge Thee;
With cruel mockings to the cross they urge Thee;
They give Thee gall to drink, they still decry Thee;
They crucify Thee.

Whence come these sorrows, whence this mortal anguish?
It is my sins for which Thou, Lord, must languish;
Yea, all the wrath, the woe, Thou dost inherit,
This I do merit.

What punishment so strange is suffered yonder!
The Shepherd dies for sheep that loved to wander;
The Master pays the debt His servants owe Him,
Who would not know Him.

O wondrous love, whose depth no heart hath sounded,
That brought Thee here, by foes and thieves surrounded!
All worldly pleasures, heedless, I was trying
While Thou wert dying.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Lord, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy.

O Lord, in wrath, remember mercy.

If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that You may be feared. I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in His word I hope.

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said:

“Behold, this has touched your lips;
Your iniquity is taken away,
And your sin purged.”

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.


Congregation seated

HYMN – “In Silent Pain the Eternal Son”
In silent pain the eternal Son
Hangs derelict and still;
In darkened day His work is done,
Fulfilled, His Father’s will.
Uplifted for the world to see
He hangs in strangest victory,
For in His body on the tree
He carries all our ill.

He died that we might die to sin
And live for righteousness;
The earth is stained to make us clean
And bring us into peace.
For peace He came and met its cost;
He gave Himself to save the lost;
He loved us to the uttermost
And paid for our release.

This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.

But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.


Congregation standing

Peace be with you.

And also with you.

For He Himself is our Peace.

Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be faithless, but believing.

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God,
Begotten of His Father before all worlds,
God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God,
Begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father,
By whom all things were made;
Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven
And was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary
And was made man;
And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate.
He suffered and was buried.
And the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures
And ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father.
And He will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead,
Whose kingdom will have no end.
And I believe in the Holy Spirit,
The Lord and giver of life,
Who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
Who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified,
Who spoke by the prophets.
And I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church,
I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins,
And I look for the resurrection of the dead
And the life of the world to come. Amen.

Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him.

Even so, Amen.

If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed.
O Lord, come!

If anyone does not confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, who was crucified in the flesh
Is true God,
And the Lord of Glory,
And one of the Holy Trinity
Let him be anathema.


Congregation seated

HYMN – “O Sacred Head Now Wounded”
O sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, Thine only crown;
O sacred Head, what glory, what bliss till now was Thine!
Yet, though despised and gory, I joy to call Thee mine.

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.

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.

HOMILY

HYMN – “Jesus Christ, Our Blessed Savior”
Jesus Christ, our blessed Savior
Turned away God’s wrath forever.
By His bitter grief and woe,
He saved us from the evil Foe.

As His pledge of love undying
He, this precious food supplying.
Gives His body with the bread
And with the wine the blood He shed.

Thou shalt hold with faith unshaken
That this food is to be taken
By the sick who are distressed,
By hearts that long for peace and rest.

LORD’S SUPPER
DOXOLOGY
BENEDICTION

With reference to:
Psalm 99:1-2, 9; Psalm 113:5-6; Jeremiah 10:7; Isaiah 6:1-7
Daniel 7:9-10; Revelation 1:17; Revelation 20:11-12
Hebrews 4:13; Psalm 130:3-5; Romans 3:10-12; Isaiah 53:5-6
Micah 6:7; Psalm 51:16; Hebrews 10:5-7; Isaiah 42:1
Psalm 22:1-18; Luke 22:64; Psalm 35:11-12; Lamentations 1:12
Isaiah 53:3; John 19:5; Habakkuk 3:2; 2 Corinthians 5:21
I Timothy 1:15; Ephesians 2:14; John 20:27
Revelation 1:7; 1 Corinthians 16:22

The Nicene Creed (A.D. 325)
The Tenth Capitulum of the Fifth Ecumenical Council (A.D. 553)

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