The Presbyterian Church at Woodbury
April 1, 2021
——— Gathering ———
PRELUDE “When In the Hour of Utmost Need” Bach
CALL TO WORSHIP
What shall we offer for all God’s goodness to us?
Let us lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord.
PRAYER OF THE DAY
Holy God, source and sovereign, you put all power and authority into the hands of Christ— Christ, who washes our feet in humble service. Teach us to love one another as Christ has loved us, so that everyone will know that we are his disciples; through Jesus Christ, our Teacher and Lord, we pray. Amen.
CALL TO CONFESSION
The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth: Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves. If we judged ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we receive discipline so that we may not be condemned along with the world. With confidence in God’s abundant mercy, let us examine ourselves and confess our sin.
CONFESSION OF SIN
Eternal God, whose covenant with us is never broken, we confess that we fail to fulfill your will. Though you have bound yourself to us, we will not bind ourselves to you. In Jesus Christ you serve us freely, but we refuse your love and withhold ourselves from others. We do not love you fully or love one another as you command. In your mercy, forgive and cleanse us. Lead us once again to your table and unite us to Christ, who is the bread of life and the vine from which we grow in grace.
DECLARATION OF FORGIVENESS
After Jesus had washed the disciples’ feet, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 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.” Friends, hear and believe the good news of the gospel: In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven. Thanks be to God!
——— The Word ———
PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION
Gracious God, give us the wisdom of your Spirit to understand and receive the depth and breadth of the love that Christ showers upon us. Bless this reading of your Word that we might be transformed by its grace. Amen.
FIRST READING Exodus 12:1-4 (5-10) 11-14
12 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: 2 This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. 3 Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. 4 If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it. 5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. 6 You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. 7 They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. 8 They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 9 Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over the fire, with its head, legs, and inner organs. 10 You shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. 11 This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the Lord. 12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. 13 The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.
14 This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.
SECOND READING 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
23 For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for[a] you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
GOSPEL READING John 13:31b-35
31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32 If God has been glorified in him,[a] God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33 Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
This is a night on which we remember.
We remember something that happened so long ago, none of us can trace our family trees back that far.
We remember something that happened so far away, most of us have never been there, and never will be.
Nevertheless, we remember.
We remember that on this night, Jesus and his friends were also gathered to remember. They gathered for a Passover meal, which is, exactly, a feast of remembering.
Like us, they were gathered around a table.
Like us, they were telling the story of their faith.
Like us, they were calling to mind the saving acts of God…
They remembered God being with them, in steadfast love,
even as they were treated harshly and enslaved.
They remembered God leading their ancestors in faith out of slavery, and turning their bitter burden into sweet freedom.
And as they dipped the vegetables in salt water, to remind them of their tears, and as they ate the sweet fruit, to remind them of their joys, they were putting it all together.
That’s what “remember” means… to put something back together. We “re-member” something, and what was scattered becomes whole. What was many becomes one.
And so they remembered together, Jesus and his friends, their identity as God’s covenant people. Simon was there (who Jesus had named Peter), and Andrew. John and James, the brothers, sons of Zebedee. Philip. Bartholomew. Thomas and Matthew. Another James, the son of Alphaeus. Thaddeus. Another Simon, the Cananean. And of course, Judas Iscariot. (Also, of course, the women who likely prepared the supper, the ones who are neither named nor mentioned; but who, logic and the fact that, before the end of the story, we will learn their names, tells us, they were surely there.)
They were all there, to remember God’s great and saving acts. They were there, in a sense, to remember who they were.
And then Jesus did something… inexplicable.
While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it, he broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.”
This was not the first time Jesus had taken bread, and blessed it, and broken it, and given it to people to eat. But those other times, he did it for great crowds. Here, in this large upstairs room somewhere in Jerusalem, Jesus did it for his friends. The people he loved.
He did it for a group of people who, from the beginning of their time together, mostly didn’t understand what he was doing and where they were going.
He did it with some level of confidence that this was, in fact, the last supper he would share with them.
On this night, at this meal, the meaning of the bread was pre-determined. Matzoh, the bread eaten at the Passover Seder, is called the “bread of affliction” or adversity. In Isaiah 30 it says,
Though the Lord may give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself any more, but your eyes shall see your Teacher.
The matzoh reminds of the suffering of the slaves in Egypt. But on that night, Jesus tells his friends, he is the bread. He will suffer. He will be broken.
Then, scripture tells us, Jesus took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the [new] covenant…”
Again, Jesus has taken this night of remembering, and done something new and electrifying. Inexplicable.
The meaning of the wine at the Passover meal is consistent. The wine is shared as part of a blessing.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who creates the fruit of the vine, and who gave us, Lord our God, with love, festivals for happiness, holidays and times for joy, this day of Passover, the time of our freedom.
At the Seder, wine is drunk in blessing and celebration and abundance, and the sharing of it is meant to “show freedom and majesty.”
And then Jesus, after passing around the wine, says, “This is my blood.”
Jesus tells his friends, his life will be poured out, in much the same way as the life of the Passover lamb.
Jesus joins with his friends to remember, to celebrate the Passover… a meal that resonates at the heart of their identity as Jews. At the same time, Jesus interprets the bread and wine of that meal in a way that forms the heart of our identity.
That is what we are here to remember, to re-member. We are putting it back together. In re-membering, what was scattered becomes whole. What was many becomes one.
At this table, we remember that Jesus spoke of his body being broken, like a piece of bread; and he spoke of his life being poured out, like a cup of wine.
And now, Jesus is not hidden from us anymore; our eyes can see our Teacher.
We see: in Jesus, God’s love is poured out, like a never-ending cup of wine.
We see: in Jesus, God’s presence comes to us, our daily bread, bread for the journey.
We see: in Jesus, God acts with love and power, and the goal, again, is joy and freedom.
All these things we see, when we re-member. When what was scattered in our history becomes whole. When what was many—that would be us—becomes one.
Like Jesus and his friends, we gather around a table and we tell the story of our faith. and we call to mind the saving acts of God.
Commentary provided by David Lose, Patricia Raube, Troy Toftgruben, Scott Hoezee, Dan Quanstrom, Melinda Quivik, Elizabeth Johnson Martha Moore-Keish, and Thomas Long.
——— The Eucharist ———
INVITATION TO THE LORD’S TABLE
The same people who ate the loaves and fishes followed Jesus the next day, all the way to the other side of the lake. Did they follow him hoping for more signs that he was God? No. Jesus said to them, “I assure you that you are looking for me not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate all the food you wanted. Don’t work for the food that doesn’t last but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”
Friends, we gather at this table not to fill our stomachs but to be fed by spiritual food. Jesus told the people, “The bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said, “Sir, give us this bread all the time!”
Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” Believing in him, we come to this table to share a holy meal.
Let us pray. Lord, we come to you looking to be fed. We remember the stories of miraculous feeding, of manna in the wilderness, and the abundance of loaves and fishes, and the miracle of the wine at the wedding in Cana. We ask your blessing on these ordinary elements, the bread and the juice. We believe you feed us in ways that go far beyond our literal understanding. Through the awesome wonders of creation to the joy of human love and the power found in a group of people working on your behalf, you have blessed us. You became present to us in Jesus and blessed us further with your grace and mercy. You remain present to us in the working of the Holy Spirit. We give thanks for all the ways you show your love for us as pray together using the words Jesus taught us:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever, Amen.
BREAKING OF THE BREAD
Jesus said to them, “I assure you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. My flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in them. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me lives because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. It isn’t like the bread your ancestors ate, and then they died. Whoever eats this bread will live forever.”
COMMUNION OF THE PEOPLE
Instructions for communion.
PRAYER AFTER COMMUNION
Holy and gracious God, for the meal we have shared, for the nourishment of the spirit and for the life of this community, we give you thanks. Help us to see miraculous signs wherever we see you. Help us to work always for the food that endures, in Christ’s name. Amen.
STRIPPING OF THE CHURCH
Worshipers wait in silent prayer as candles are extinguished and paraments, linens, banners, and other symbols are removed from the sanctuary.
Then all depart in silence.