Tag Archives: Garden of Gethsemene

Maundy Thursday: Continuing the story

Over the past six years, on Maundy Thursday, I have offered a casual Maundy Thursday service of reflection.  We begin with hand washing rather than foot washing, then with music and scripture walk through the night’s experience.  Scripture, a few comments, quiet, darkness and music carry the experience more than a homily.

Opening with the story:

NLT Chronological Bible Scriptures

John 13:1-20 (to the New Roman Christians)

13 Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end.[a] It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas,[b] son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God.

So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.

When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.”

“No,” Peter protested, “you will never ever wash my feet!”

Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me.”

Simon Peter exclaimed, “Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!

10 Jesus replied, “A person who has bathed all over does not need to wash, except for the feet,[c] to be entirely clean. And you disciples are clean, but not all of you.”

11 For Jesus knew who would betray him. That is what he meant when he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

12 After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? 13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. 14 And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. 16 I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. 17 Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.

18 “I am not saying these things to all of you; I know the ones I have chosen. But this fulfills the Scripture that says, ‘The one who eats my food has turned against me.’[d] 19 I tell you this beforehand, so that when it happens you will believe that I Am the Messiah.[e] 20 I tell you the truth, anyone who welcomes my messenger is welcoming me, and anyone who welcomes me is welcoming the Father who sent me.”

Luke 22:14-16(to Theophilus and new seekers)

14 When the time came, Jesus and the apostles sat down together at the table.[a]

15 Jesus said, “I have been very eager to eat this Passover meal with you before my suffering begins. 16 For I tell you now that I won’t eat this meal again until its meaning is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God.

Mark 14:17-21(to the Gentiles and other non-Christians)

17 In the evening Jesus arrived with the twelve disciples.[a] 18 As they were at the table[b] eating, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, one of you eating with me here will betray me.”

19 Greatly distressed, each one asked in turn, “Am I the one?”

20 He replied, “It is one of you twelve who is eating from this bowl with me. 21 For the Son of Man[c] must die, as the Scriptures declared long ago. But how terrible it will be for the one who betrays him. It would be far better for that man if he had never been born!”

Matthew 26:26-29(to the Jews)

26 As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take this and eat it, for this is my body.”

27 And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them and said, “Each of you drink from it, 28 for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant[a] between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many. 29 Mark my words—I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new with you in my Father’s Kingdom.”

Communion Liturgy:              UMH 15-16

Returning to the story:

The story of the crucifixion begins with the prayer time in the Mount Olives. The story’s chronology takes longer than these few minutes tonight, but the events are set into motion when Jesus and his Apostles go to the garden to pray:

Music: Over the Next Hill We’ll Be Home,

 Matthew 26:36-44

36 Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” 37 He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. 38 He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

39 He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

40 Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? 41 Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!”

42 Then Jesus left them a second time and prayed, “My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away[a] unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 When he returned to them again, he found them sleeping, for they couldn’t keep their eyes open.

44 So he went to pray a third time, saying the same things again.

Luke 22:43-46

43 Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him. 44 He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.[a]

45 At last he stood up again and returned to the disciples, only to find them asleep, exhausted from grief. 46 “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation.”

Mark 14:43-45

43 And immediately, even as Jesus said this, Judas, one of the twelve disciples, arrived with a crowd of men armed with swords and clubs. They had been sent by the leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders.

44 The traitor, Judas, had given them a prearranged signal: “You will know which one to arrest when I greet him with a kiss. Then you can take him away under guard.” 45 As soon as they arrived, Judas walked up to Jesus. “Rabbi!” he exclaimed, and gave him the kiss.

John 18:4-11

Jesus fully realized all that was going to happen to him, so he stepped forward to meet them. “Who are you looking for?” he asked.

“Jesus the Nazarene,”[a] they replied.

“I Am he,”[b] Jesus said. (Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them.)

As Jesus said “I Am he,” they all drew back and fell to the ground! Once more he asked them, “Who are you looking for?”

And again they replied, “Jesus the Nazarene.”

“I told you that I Am he,” Jesus said. “And since I am the one you want, let these others go.” He did this to fulfill his own statement: “I did not lose a single one of those you have given me.”[c]

10 Then Simon Peter drew a sword and slashed off the right ear of Malchus, the high priest’s slave. 11 But Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Shall I not drink from the cup of suffering the Father has given me?”

Pausing in the story until the Resurrection on Sunday:

The events listed in the gospels complete the story of the crucifixion. But tonight, we dwell on the events that led to Judas’ betrayal and Jesus’ human fear of what was to come.

As we prepare to depart this evening, we must remember the human side of Jesus. We suffer from mental and physical pain, but God never leaves us alone. Tonight, let us join in the hymns that share the range of emotions that Holy Week triggers in us.

Join me in the Lord’s Prayer:

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What was I scared of? Faith is the answer.

given on Sunday, March 16, 2014–the second in a series based on Rev. Kemp’s book, The Gospel According to Dr. Seuss.

            List all the things that scare you.  (pause)

            Now remember of all your childhood fears.  (pause)

            How did you learn not to be afraid?  (pause)

            What is different about fears today versus fears as a child?  (pause)

            Today’s scripture, Matthew 26:36-39, creates a familiar picture to those of us who are familiar with the story of Jesus.  Years of reading the Passion Story and sitting through Lenten sermons is tradition to those regularly attending worship service. 

            Stop, clear your mind, and walk the walk of the unchurched.  (pause)

            An open door for the unchurched is a fearful thing.  Not knowing the people on the other side is one thing; but what if you do not know what fills the space on the other side:

                        Well . . .

                        I was walking in the night

                        And I saw nothing scary.

                        For I have never been afraid

                        Of anything.  Not very.


Even the list of things that scare us today may be rather short, but the very root of the fear is the unknown

            Over and over the list of fears changes as the unknown becomes known.  The image of Jesus in the garden, praying to God, is familiar to those of us who are churched.  But reading the scripture after reading about fear in a different context can shift the image.

            Jesus goes to the garden to pray.  He knows what is about to happen; yet the human element within him is afraid.  The disciples who accompanied him to the garden had no idea what was going to happen over the next few days.  They were like children simply following their friend and modeling his behavior.  At least they prayed until they tired and started falling asleep.

            Jesus knew.  The disciples did not.  Nor did the Sneetch know there was anything unknown or scary:

            Then I was deep within the woods

            When, suddenly, I spied them.

            I saw a pair of pale green pants

            With nobody inside!


            I wasn’t scared.  But, yet, I stopped.

            What could those pants be there for?

            What could a pair of pants at night

            Be standing in the air?


            The unknown caused fear for the Sneetch.  Jesus knew what was ahead; and he still was afraid.  Even though he was not physically alone, he was scared.  Even though he was the Son of God, fear gripped him as he cried out to God.  He even stepped away from the disciples, moved deeper into the garden, and continued to pray:

“My Father, if it is possible, take this cup of suffering away from me. But let what you want be done, not what I want.”


            Dr. Kemp, in his book The Gospel According to Dr. Seuss, makes the argument that faith is the answer to fear:

Theologically speaking, the opposite of fear is faith.  The presence of faith does not automatically remove fears.  Rather, faith provides us with the discipline, confidence, and courage to move forward in spite of our fears.  (p.17)


Simply reading Dr. Seuss’s story about the Sneetch who was scared of a pair of empty green pants, triggered a theological thought for Rev. Kemp.  He connected the concept of fear with faith.  If one can turn over a fear to God, then there is no longer anything to be scared of.

            Fear comes in all forms.  Ask a group of people gathered in a huddle and you will find a long list of thing people are scared of.  Maybe it is snakes, mice, rats, or birds.  Sometimes the list includes the word phobia such as hydrophobia, arachnophobia, claustrophobia, and the list grows.  Women talk about being afraid of giving birth.  The fear ranges from the mere pain of delivery to fear of being a parent. 

            Fear freezes one from actions.  Fear can keep us from experiencing life to the fullest.  As Rev. Kemp states, “Our fears are preventing us from accomplishing our full potential.” 

            Think about your own fears for a moment.  (pause) 

            How many times did fear keep you from making a change?  (pause)

            Do you regret fear prevented you from reaching a goal?  (pause) 

Certainly there were the times when we wanted to try riding a bike or driving a car or going on a date or take a class whether in high school, in college, or just for your personal satisfaction.  We all are scared at times, but there is that one key to overcoming fear—faith.

            Even Jesus was afraid and asked God for protection; and if he can do that, so can we.  Consider what a difference letting go of a fear would make in your life.  No fear to keep you frozen into inaction.  No fear that keeps you from enriching your life through a challenge.  No fear to prevent you from doing whatever God asks you to do.

            The Sneetch ran away from the empty green pants.  He did not turn and face them to learn more, he ran:

            So I got out.  I got out fast

            As fast as I could go, sir.

            I wasn’t scared. But pants like that

            I did not care for.  No, sir.

That demonstration of fear is not the same picture as in today’s scripture.    Jesus prayed to God to “let this cup pass from me.”  Rev. Kemp continues to explain how Jesus dealt with his fear:

. . . He did not allow this unspeakable fear to keep him from pressing on to accomplish his earthly mission.  He did not run away from his fears.

            Dr. Seuss also helps us to understand the secret to overcoming our fears.  The secret is not to run faster or farther in the opposite direction.  . . .  The only way to overcome our fears is to face them. . . to make them our friends.”  (pp. 17-18)

            Jesus had to confront Herod’s interrogation, Pharisees accusations and the crowds torment and ridicule, the cruelty of beatings, carrying his cross, and dying by crucifixion.  God did not protect Jesus, his own son; but Jesus had to complete his ministry.  He had to die for the salvation of those who believed in him and accepted the New Covenant.  Even Jesus had to name his fear and then turn it over to God and have faith that God would take care of even him.

            Rev. Kemp read the Sneetch’s story of meeting the empty green pants and could see how important faith is in managing fear. 

He asks, “What might happen in our Christians lives if we, too, faced our fears instead of running from them?  Might it free us to do things that we’ve always wanted to do, but were afraid to try?  Or perhaps something that we once enjoyed doing but are afraid to try again?  (p. 18)

Fear has a way of keeping us from action.  Fear limits our potential.  Whatever our fears, whether personal or as part of a group—even of a church, follow the pattern of Jesus.  Step out in faith.  Come face to face with the fear.  Name the fear.  Then use the disciplines John Wesley taught such as prayer, worship, Bible study and service.  Listen carefully for God’s direction.  And give that fear up to God and have the faith that he will take the lead.

            Rev. Kemp ends his sermon with this final statement:  Faith will win out over fear every time.  If Jesus can demonstrate it at the end of his ministry, then we can too.  Go to God, cry out, share your fear, and then turn it over to him.  Faith defeats fear.

Closing prayer: 

            Dear Faithful Father,

            Fear fills our hearts and minds,

                        both small and large.

            We look at scary experiences or things

                        and freeze from uncertainty.

            At times we hear you share an idea

                        or ask us to do something,

            But we let fear keep us from doing

                        so help us to practice faith.

            Help us build confidence in life

                        as we practice the disciplines of faith.

            Let us continue on through Lent

                        with the faith shown by Jesus.  –Amen


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