Maundy Thursday – The Story of Two Lions

MAUNDY THURSDAY 2020 – A Service of Healing

OPENING COMMENTS:

Tonight, since we have all been affected by this virus in one way or another, I thought it would be good for us all to come together and have a service of healing.

This liturgy comes from the United Methodist Book of Worship. I thank them for allowing us to use these liturgies online during this coronavirus tragedy. It’s not the Good Book, but it is a good book.

Here is part of what the Book of Worship tells us about healing.

“All healing is of God. The Church’s healing ministry in no way detracts from the gifts God gives through medicine and psychotherapy. It is no substitute for either medicine or the proper care of one’s health. Rather, it adds to our total resources for wholeness.

Healing is not magic, but underlying it is the great mystery of God’s love.

God does not promise that we shall be spared suffering but does promise to be with us in our suffering. Trusting that promise, we are enabled to recognize God’s sustaining presence in pain, sickness, injury, and estrangement.

Likewise, God does not promise that we will be cured of all illnesses; and we all must face the inevitability of death.

A Service of Healing is not necessarily a service of curing, but it provides an atmosphere in which healing can happen.”

      With these words in mind let us embrace the possibilities of God. Let us ask for the presence         of the Holy Spirit as we meet.

Heavenly God, healer of all illness and iniquity, send forth your Holy Spirit to be with us and guide us tonight. Amen.

SERVICE OF HEALING

Pastor: Are any among you in troubled?

You should call the elders of the church

and have them pray over you in the name of the Lord.

Pastor: We have come to lift up our brothers and sisters before you Lord that they might receive healing.

Let those who seek God’s healing open their hearts to the Spirit of the Lord.

Bless the Lord, O my soul! 

People: All that is within me, bless God’s holy name!

Pastor: Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all

God’s benefits. 

People: The Lord forgives all our iniquity, and heals all our diseases.

Pastor: The Lord redeems our lives from the pit, and crowns us with steadfast love and mercy. 

People: God satisfies us with good as long as we live  so that our youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Pastor: Let us pray: Almighty and everlasting God,  who can banish all affliction both of soul and of body, show forth your power upon those in need, that by your mercy they may be restored to serve you afresh in holiness of living, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

SCRIPTURE READING:

The word of God tonight is from Isaiah 35:1-10

The wilderness and the desert will be glad, and the Arabah will rejoice and blossom; Like the crocus it will blossom profusely and rejoice with rejoicing and shout of joy.

The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, The majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They will see the glory of the Lord,

The majesty of our God. Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble. Say to those with anxious heart,

“Take courage, fear not. Behold, your God will come with vengeance; The recompense of God will come,

But the Lord will save you.”

Then the eyes of the blind will be opened and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute will shout for joy. For waters will break forth in the wilderness

And streams in the Arabah. The scorched land will become a pool And the thirsty ground springs of water; in the haunt of jackals, its resting place, grass becomes reeds and rushes.

A highway will be there, a roadway, and it will be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean will not travel on it, but it will be for those who walk that way, and fools will not wander on it.

No lion will be there, nor will any vicious beast go up on it; these will not be found there. The redeemed will walk there, and the ransomed of the Lord will return and come with joyful shouting to Zion, with everlasting joy upon their heads. They will find gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

SERMON: “The Story of Two Lions”

Are you with me, are you anxiously awaiting the day when sorrow and sighing will flee away? The day when we are in the presence of the Lord? I understand God is with us here in this world, but I mean ‘that day,’ the day Christians know in their hearts is coming. The day in which Jesus returns. What a day that will be.

Maybe its because I have been cooped up in my home for too long but I had this idea about a healing service based on the story of two lions.

In the passage we just read we are reminded that the redeemed will walk on the pathway that leads to Heaven. We hear about my first lion in 1 Peter 5 “that evil prowls around like a lion.” Isaiah, however, reminds us, speaking of that same lion, it will NOT be there.

The lion will not be present on that triumphant day. It would be good for us to remember these words as we continue to live in a world filled a with a deadly virus that some may view as a hungry lion. I won’t argue if you want to call the coronavirus evil, but know this; evil can live in our hearts even when we are perfectly healthy.

I believe the real purpose of evil is to turn the Holiness of God – unholy. To be a corrupting agent, with the ultimate goal of persuading the children of God to act in unholy ways.

Jesus goes to great lengths during the days leading up to that first Holy Week, that evil will never relent. If we recall that story, Jesus instructs the disciples to go prepare the meal. That meal is what we call the Last Supper. During that meal Jesus mentions that the one present at the meal will be the betrayer. The first lion has captured its prey.

Of course, we know that person to be Judas. It could however, be anyone of us. The passage in Luke 22 says that evil entered into Judas. We are given no frame of reference on why Judas was selected, except that evil entered him. The same could be said for any of us.

I think God knew this about the creation, the very reason the creation needed something stronger and more relevant to help it overcome than the law of Moses. Jesus was, Jesus is, and Jesus remains the cure to the effects of evil. Maybe Judas never fully bought into Jesus as Messiah. However Judas was selected, that was him, not us.

We have been given the announcement from Isaiah right down to today’s ministers “Take courage, fear not. Behold, your God will come with vengeance; The recompense of God will come, But the Lord will save you.”

The whole story of the foot washing and the sharing of the Last Meal was God telling us, “My sacrifice will save you.” God tells us that we need courage, I want you to notice the choice of words God gives to Isaiah, God says, “Take courage!”

The Lord does not command us to go out looking for it under a rock, the Lord does not tell us to go to the Wizard of Oz and beg for it, the Lord tells us to take it. Take it from where, from whom? From God, the one who has no need for courage, the one who has plenty to spare, so take it.

This brings us to our second lion, not a ferocious predator but a cowardly one. Don’t you think God knows we are afraid, afraid of so many things. God knows we believe we are in short supply. 

The Cowardly Lion is so convinced that he has no courage he is frozen in fear. Hiding in the bushes, pouncing only when the prey is ten times smaller. The Cowardly Lion hears a story about a wizard who will give him courage. When the lion meets the wizard, what does the Wizard tell the beast, “You’re a victim of disorganized thinking. You are of the unfortunate delusion that simply because you run away from danger that you have no courage. You’re confusing courage with wisdom. ”

This is exactly what evil does to us. It causes us to have disorganized thinking. It makes us stop thinking about Jesus, and the wisdom God offers.

Godly wisdom is revealed in Jesus is a powerful ally. The enemy wants us to believe that our courage has run dry, that there is no more. Turns out the Cowardly Lion had courage all along. We need to trust in something greater than ourselves.

There is nothing wrong with being afraid. The difference is, we cannot allow fear to stop us from taking action. Fear is stagnantatnon of the spirt. Courage is action empowered by the spirit.

So, take it. courage is free, if you are willing to just reach out and take some courage from God.

Judas, as well as the other disciples, were in close physical proximity of Jesus, so why did some take that courage and one did not. Instead of wrestling with why not, let us take the courage and move courageously through the remainder of Holy Week.

Paul tells us about the armor of God in Ephesians 6, “Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” The Word of God is where we find the Heavenly Wisdom to defeat that hungry lion.

We certainly had our share of heartbreaking news in the past 2 months. It seems to just be getting worse. No wonder the courage we muster all on our on is fading. Left on our own we retreat into the dark woods alone. We need God’s courage more than ever. We need that courage that is true, but we also need full doses of grace, love, mercy and forgiveness.

No need to worry about running out. Tonight’s service is a reminder however – – that if you are feeling emotions that you know go beyond your ability and healing seems like a faint dream, that your courage has run dry, that you have retreated – – then let us come together for the last part of our healing service.

CONFESSION AND PARDON

Pastor: Hear the good news: Christ died for us while we were yet sinners; that proves God’s love toward us. In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven!

People: In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.

All: Glory to God. Amen.

Pastor: O God, the giver of health and salvation, we give thanks to you for the gift of oil. As your holy apostles anointed many who were sick and healed them, so pour out your Holy Spirit on us and on this gift, that those who in faith and repentance receive this anointing may be made whole; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

As wondrous as technology is, I cannot share the oil over the internet. It is present with me now as a reminder to you of God’s amazing ability to heal. Along with the oil,  I have a candle here to remind us of the presence of the Holy Spirit. I invite you to light a candle as well.

I will ask that you each take a moment of silence and be in an attitude of quietness as you mention your request to God. Surrender your fear to the Lord and take as much courage as you need.

Please raise you hand with mine and let God fill us with what we need. There will be one full minute of silence.

(SILENCE FOR ONE MINUTE)

Keep your hand raised and your eyes closed as I share with you these words of comfort and healing.

Lord my human hands are unable to reach your people for anointing at this time. I ask that your Holy Spirit reach through the media platforms were are using to allow your people to know that you are here. For those who need healing, for those who fear, for those who doubt, for those who sin, for those who have retreated, for all among us and all the reasons the call you Lord, heal us where we are, but never leave us where we are.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit may the power of God’s indwelling presence relieve you of your current troubles and your fears. Those things that are bothering your body, mind, spirit, and relationships. Lord, we know that this quarantine is not over, welcome to you at this time pleading for a quick end to this virus which is causing so much harm and destruction. We pray now for those gathered before you that you will bless and keep them strong for as many days as we are apart.

When they are afraid, give to them your courage;

when they feel weak, grant them your strength;

when they are afflicted, afford them your patience;

when they are lost, offer them your hope;

when they are alone Lord, move us to know they need a phone call.

Lord be with all of us at this time and all the days and nights going forward. In the name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

(OPEN YOUR EYES)

CLOSING:

May God continue to bless and keep you. I will be back tomorrow with a Good Friday Service.

Good night.