During the events of Holy Week, Thursday is often referred to as Maundy Thursday, Holy Thursday, and it is when the Last Supper takes place. There are several significant events on Thursday. Jesus sent His disciples ahead to gather what they needed for the Passover meal, so this was an event that would have been happening in every Jewish home to remember the faithfulness of God delivering His people from slavery out of Egypt. And, Jesus is the fulfillment of Passover – for all who surrender to Jesus, He has delivered us from the bondage of sin. Jesus gives new meaning to the bread and the wine of the Passover meal: “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 it, for this is my body.’ And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. And he said to them, ‘This is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice for many.’” (Mark 14: 22-24). The final Passover is completed in Jesus – for those who proclaim Jesus as Lord, death will pass over, Jesus holds the victory over sin and death.
Maundy is derived from the Latin word mandatum, which means “mandate” or “command.” Jesus demonstrates a new command for how we are to treat one another. On this same Thursday, after washing the disciples’ feet Jesus says, “Do you understand what I was doing? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.” (John 13: 12-15). How can we still demonstrate this kind of humility and compassion with others? It may not look like actual foot washing, but how can you serve others as a demonstration of the Lord’s love for us?
After supper, Jesus and His disciples walked to an olive grove called Gethsemane. Earlier, Judas left the very sacred Last Supper to meet with the religious leaders who wanted to arrest Jesus and bring Him before the council. In the olive grove, Jesus prays to the Father and expresses His anguish over the events to come on Friday, “‘Abba, Father,’ he cried out, ‘everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.’” (Mark 14: 36). There is so much expressed in this prayer: the plea of a Son to His Father, acknowledging that God can do anything, the knowledge of suffering to come, the petition to be relieved from suffering, yet complete surrender to God’s perfect will. Even in His anguish, the Lord Jesus teaches us to pray. Then Judas comes, and betrays Jesus with a kiss. In the early twilight hours of Friday morning, Jesus is arrested, and at the same time “all his disciples deserted Him and ran away” (Mark 14: 50). It is hard to imagine that after such an intimate evening with the Lord, all His closest friends would abandon Him. But we are like them in many ways. When we need the Lord most, we often turn to our own means and ability, or we don’t seek His presence through prayer, or we have become too busy to make time for the Lord. How will you make room for the Lord today? Being mindful of His great love for you. Won’t you come to the table today?
During this Holy Week today is known as Holy Wednesday. This is the day before Jesus celebrated the Passover with His twelve disciples. On Wednesday Jesus went to Bethany and had dinner with His friends at the house of Simon the leper. That evening a woman took an alabaster jar filled with the finest fragrant oil, and in a worshipful and adoring way she poured the oil out on Jesus. Judas was critical of her actions, but Jesus called Judas down because the woman had done such a beautiful thing. Jesus said “she has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial. Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her” (Mark 14: 3-9). The most notable part of this encounter is that the woman was preparing Jesus for burial by anointing Him as a King with the most expensive and fragrant oil. The holiness of this anointing ritual makes this a Holy Wednesday. This woman is described as having come to Jesus "beforehand" with her offering. We, too, live with beforehand knowledge. We know that Jesus will soon return to gather those who follow Him, so how shall we live in the "beforehand" time? Let us prepare for His return in a similar way as the woman in Bethany: worshipful and adoring Him with all that we have. A final thought: some Biblical commentators remark that the fragrant oils would have remained on Jesus as He was tortured, and the fragrance could have been an encouragement for the purpose set before Him. Our daily offerings to God are a sweet aroma to Him. Spend time today reflecting on the scripture from Mark 14, and also spend time with God worshiping and adoring Him like the woman with the alabaster jar.
Today concludes our journey with the Fruit of the Spirt, but for the next four days I will post brief devotions for each day of the remaining days of Holy Week. But for today we focus on spiritual formation pertaining to self-control. For self-control the best spiritual practice is obedience. In Psalm 119 verse 165, David says “Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble. And in the New Testament Jesus says, “Do not think I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill” (Matthew 5: 17). The law of the 10 commandments, and the greatest commandment to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind are the beautiful ways that God forms us as His children. Yes, we are saved by grace through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus; at the same time God still desires for us to love His Law because it is good for us and keeps us in right relationship with Him.
For today’s spiritual practice of obedience, be mindful of the following scriptures and commit yourself to loving the Law and being obedient.
The 10 Commandments – Exodus 20: 2-17
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
You shall have no other gods before me.
You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
You shall not murder.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
The Greatest Commandment – Matthew 22: 36-40
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
The Ransom – John 3: 16
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
There can be an abundance of gentleness in silence, and that is why the spiritual practice for today is silence and solitude. Spending time in solitude and silence not only makes for a richer relationship with God, but also helps to soothe racing thoughts and reduce anxiety. For many believers this practice of silence and solitude can be a challenge, so here are a few helpful suggestions. First, find a space where you can be alone with God - undistracted, and in silence. Come empty handed. If silence and solitude is a a challenge for you, start small – plan for just 10 minutes. Begin by taking some deep breaths and clear your mind of worries or distractions – this is time for you and your Most Holy God.
Silence and solitude is a practice of “being” and not so much “doing.” However, if this is a new practice for you, here are a few thoughts for your silent time with God: spend time just thinking about God, or spend time listening for His direction through the nudging of the Holy Spirit, or spend time being mindful of His abiding presence, or spend time thinking about a scripture.
Focusing again on faithfulness, we remember that faithfulness is found in devotion and found in promises kept. The faithfulness of God to us is devoted and His promises are good and true. He is perfectly faithful. We practice our faithfulness, too, when we are mindful of whom is worthy to receive our devotion. Where do we place our faith?
The spiritual practice for today is called visio divina – a time of prayer allowing our hearts and minds and imagination to be moved as we reflect on an image, and see what the Holy Spirit might reveal to us. Below is an image of a lamb followed by a few scripture references about the lamb. Spend some time in quiet reflection about the symbolic significance of a single lamb.
“Now go, and remember that I am sending you out as lambs among wolves.”
Luke 10: 3
“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost?”
Matthew 18: 12
“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
“After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ Peter replied, ‘you know I love you.’ ‘Then feed my lambs,’ Jesus told him.”
John 21: 15
“After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands.”
Revelation 7: 9
The creation of the world is recorded in Genesis, and throughout the process of creating God saw that what He created was good: “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. And God saw that the light was good” (Genesis 1: 3-4). We worship an all-powerful and creative God, and one of the ways we can adore God is by finding delight in what He has created. For today’s spiritual practice spend time in nature observing the wonder of what God has created.
Gratitude is a way of communicating kindness. The spiritual practice for today is gratitude. Expressing gratitude draws us closer to the Lord, and also can have the benefit of lightening depressive symptoms. Let’s look at a few ways to express gratitude to God, others, and even to yourself.
Gratitude to God
Express gratitude through written or spoken word to God – specifically for what He has done for you.
Be of service to God, making yourself available and ready to be used by God.
Show gratitude to God by following His commands and delighting in His Word.
Gratitude to others
Write a note or send a text to someone for something about them that you are grateful for.
Be of service to someone: hold a door open, return their shopping cart, share a smile.
Tell someone that you are thankful to see them.
Offer gratitude and accept when a kindness is offered to you.
Gratitude to Yourself
Be grateful for an able body and an able mind.
Be grateful for a soul that yearns to connect with God.
Be grateful for the breath in your lungs that comes from God.
Prayer is our direct line of communication with God. It draws us into deeper relationship with God, prayer reminds us that God is in control, and prayer helps us to be patient. The spiritual practice for today is prayer. There are many different ways to pray, but today I share seven ways to communicate with God through prayer. Select one or two of the following suggestions for praying today.
Writing a letter to God, writing a journal entry to God, writing a poem or hymn to God, drawing an image from scripture like the manger, the cross, or empty tomb.
A great prayer for releasing anxiety, worry, or stress to God. Inhale for 4 seconds, and exhale for 6 seconds. See the following pairings for breathing in God’s presence:
Inhale --->The Lord
Exhale ---> is my Shepherd
Inhale ---> Our Father
Exhale. ---> who is in heaven
Inhale. --> Let go
Exhale. --> Let God
Whether in person, on the phone, or even through text, connect with a friend and include Jesus in the conversation. Be intentional to pray with each other, for each other, and for others. This type of prayer connects us with God as a community of believers.
Read a passage from the Bible then have a conversation with God about it. Tell Him how you connect with it, or how you are thankful for the scripture, or whatever you notice from your reading.
Spending quiet time with God through confessing sins, confessing struggles or heartaches, confessing desires. He already knows what you need to confess, but confessing helps us to grow in our faith walk.
Prayer of Examen
Examen is an Ignatian prayer practice that occurs at the end of the day consisting of giving thanks, asking for help or direction, reflecting on the events of the day, asking for forgiveness, and deciding to change.
The Daily Office
The daily office is a spiritual practice of morning and evening prayers. The practice begins with David in the Old Testament, and later encouraged in monastic orders of the 6th century early church. The daily office consists of scripture reading and morning and evening prayer. It is more formal and reverent in practice. This is a link to the Daily Office in the Northumbria Community in Ireland – a Celtic Christian community:
The spiritual practice for today is praying Scripture. There is a security in the prayers that have been set before us in the Holy Scriptures, and that security can give us peace for each new day. Choose one of the scripture passages below (or you can select both) and make the prayers a personal confession to God. Pray the scripture in the morning, in the afternoon, and before bedtime. Prayer doesn’t always have to sound formal; it can be a tender conversation between you and God the Father. For the Lord’s prayer, you will notice that I changed the first-person pronoun from plural to singular to make the prayer even more personal (“our” becomes “my,” “we” becomes “I/me”).
The Lord’s Prayer
"My Father in heaven,
may your name be kept holy.
May your kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth,
as it is in heaven.
Give me today the food I need,
and forgive me of my sins,
as I forgive those who sin against me.
And don’t let me yield to temptation,
but rescue me from the evil one."
The Shepherd’s Prayer
"The Lord is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
He leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to His name.
Even when I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
for You are close beside me.
Your rod and Your staff
protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely Your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord
In Psalm 30: 11 David says “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,” and in the same chapter, verse 5 David says “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” We may not always feel like dancing or singing, but, in time, God leads us into joy.
The spiritual practice for today is worship through singing. Since the fruit of the Spirit for today is joy, let us rejoice in the day the Lord has made with a grateful heart and praise. Allow this song to fill your mind and heart today as you draw close to the Lord.
This is the Day
This is the day, this is the day
that the Lord has made,
that the Lord has made;
we will rejoice,
we will rejoice and be glad in it,
and be glad in it.
This is the day that the Lord has made;
we will rejoice and be glad in it.
This is the day,
this is the day that the Lord has made.