April 9, 2020

Maundy Thursday

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Preaching Minister: Andrew Beers | We gather this evening apart from our sanctuary, our traditions, and our normal way of participating in Maundy Thursday. We are separated this evening from the Lords table, from each other, but never from the one whom we celebrate this evening, and every moment of our lives, our Lord Jesus Christ.
While we as a congregation find this isolation novel and unsettling, this is a reality for so many Christians throughout our history and in our world today. Today marks the 75th anniversary of the martyrdom of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The German Pastor and theologian who returned to his homeland, to Nazi Germany, to be with his people in there hour of struggle. 75 years ago today he was hanged at the gallows of Flossenberg Concentration camp. 
What parallels we might draw from the final hours of the lives of both Bonhoeffer and Jesus. Both knew the danger of returning to a hostile people, to a hostile mission. Both were committed to loving others with all their being. Both knew of their condemnation before their executions. Both prayed fervently to God the Father. Both were stripped and humiliated before being executed. Both submitted to the will of God the Father. One friend of Bonhoeffer’s, Eberhard Bethge recounts  the story of a man who saw the execution: “I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer… kneeling on the floor praying fervently to God. I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer. At the place of execution, he again said a short prayer and then climbed the few steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued after a few seconds. In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.”
Tonight as we gather together around digital screens, and not around the Lords table, may we be ever mindful of the sacrifice made by Jesus for our sake. 
May we be mindful of fellow Christians, who due to The threat of the coronavirus, join us in our isolation together. To be mindful of the Christians of this era, and every span of history, that have been persecuted and forced into hiding to remain true in their faith in Jesus Christ. 
I must admit I am a little selfish, wanting to open the church, welcome the congregation in, and put an end to the isolation and loneliness. I look to the Saints like Bonhoeffer, Who sacrificed their very lives for the sake of others. In this reflection, I can not open up our sanctuary just yet. We are not called to lay down our life for others during this pandemic, ours is as simple as staying home, so others may live. In comparison with the commitment of the martyrs, it seems as such a small sacrifice for the good of gods creation. It seems good, but still is difficult for us. 
Dear church, please know this, that the same Jesus Christ that dined with his disciples, prayed in the garden, that was led away from his disciples, condemned, stripped, crucified; Is the same Jesus Christ that will raise from the dead, and ascend to God the father. The same Jesus who is with you right now, the same Jesus that walked alongside Dietrich Bonhoeffer as he was condemned, stripped, and lead to his execution. 
Jesus Christ was crucified for you, for me, for all. Jesus, the gift of God’s salvation, the promise for us all. The one in whom we have faith, in whose power we can look disease, condemnation, and death straight in the eyes and proclaim, you are weak and powerless, for in Christ I have victory. For Christ so loved you, the real you, the you that no one but God knows so intimately, that he suffered, died and rose again, for you. To give you the power to dismiss deaths sting, to give you everlasting life.
So let us rejoice in our current sacrifice of self distancing. Let us boldly and joyfully stay home from the church building, let us focus on loving God, and loving our neighbors more deeply in our isolation. In comparison with the dedication of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and the martyrs of our faith, staying at home seems like a simple and easy way to live out the gospel, and our live Into our baptismal promises. 

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