Everyone Will Know—A Maundy Thursday Dialogue (Tenebrae) Sermon
Needs: 1 Speaker, 7 lit candles, Congregation (Disciples)
Option: Extinguish lights in the sanctuary as candles are extinguished -- making arrangements for the safe exit of worshipers at the end of the service.
Speaker: This past Sunday, we met Jesus in the Garden -- in the Garden with his own agonizing realization that human death, the most degredating form of torture, the crucifixion of his age, awaited him. In the twelfth chapter of the Gospel according to John, hear this:
Nevertheless many, even of the authorities, believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they did not confess it; for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved human glory more than the glory that comes from God. (John 12:42-43, NRSV)
Disciples: How will the world know me, by my loving confession of faith that Jesus is Lord, or by my desire for the human glory that at times I love more than my own salvation?
First candle is extinguished.
Speaker: As told by Matthew in the 26th chapter: Peter said to him, "Though all become deserters because of you, I will never desert you." Jesus said to him, "Truly I tell you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times." Peter said to him, "Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you." And so said all the disciples. (Matthew 26:33-35)
Disciples: How fragile is my love for my Lord; how many times have I denied what I know to be true in order to save myself from being found out, from being ostracized, from being criticized, from being harmed?
Second candle is extinguished.
Speaker: There are friends we have had who are no longer our friends. There are some we loved as intimates and family whom we no longer call beloved. We hear Judas speak: "Greetings, Rabbi!" and he kisses him, and those who are with him lay hands on Jesus and arrest him.
Disciples: Have I ever betrayed a friend, a family member, a member of my church family? Is my stomach churning as I remember it? Am I beginning to sweat; is my face red; does anyone know?
Third candle is extinguished.
Speaker: Jesus did not call his followers to lead in the same way that others led, by lording over them. He called those who would come after him to lead through their service to others. Jesus called those who would follow him to love as he had loved, with more concern for the other person than for ones' self.
John 13:14-15: So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.
Disciples: What is it about humility that is so distasteful? Is it that I think about humiliation and not about humility? How embarrassed would I be even if someone else came to me right now and offered to wash my feet? Would I allow it?
Fourth candle is extinguished.
Speaker: Keeping watch is an act of love, isn't it? We keep watch over infants when they are ill. We keep watch at the shallow breathing of parent or spouse and wait for the end. We keep watch for the arrival of loved ones who are traveling to us from a distance.
Mark 14:34: And [Jesus] said to them, "I am deeply grieved, even to death: remain here, and keep awake."
Disciples: When has it been difficult for me to keep watch over the things of God that have been given to me with mercy and grace? How faithfully do I keep watch with Jesus, through prayer and supplication, as he agonizes for my broken and sinful world?
Fifth candle is extinguished.
Speaker: The cross is a symbol of divine love that human beings can hardly fathom. We might gladly die for our children, those close to us, for honor or personal glory; but would we do so for an enemy, for someone who had betrayed us, for someone who had slandered us, for someone who had taken advantage of our love, lied and abandoned us?
John 13:34-35: I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
Disciples: How do I treat people who think differently from me, who look different from me, who speak a different language than I, who worship differently than I? Did Christ die for them? How do others see me behave in the face of difference?
Sixth candle is extinguished.
Speaker: We say things like, "I found Christ. . .," or "When I got saved. . .," or "I try to be a good person. . ."
John 15:16-17: You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.
Disciples: Isn't my ultimate purpose in life to try to have a good life, by being good? Shouldn't I try to share with others what I know is the right way to think about God? Is everything that God gives me meant to be offered to the world in Jesus' name and not my name? When a tree bears fruit, it isn't for the tree to eat, is it? And the tree doesn't really have any say in who is nourished by the fruit, does it?
John 19:14: Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. [Pilate] said to the Jews, "Here is your King!" They cried out, "Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!"
Extinguish the seventh candle.
Optional: Exit sanctuary in silence.