Moravian churches have been celebrating this service for more than 250 years and singing the same hymns for at least the last hundred years (see p. 2). This entire service, including music, is found in the Moravian Book of Worship, edited by Nola Knouse, director of the Moravian Music Foundation in Winston-Salem, North Carolina (www.moravianmusic.org).
[Two people dressed in black stand silently beside a table with a folded white sheet in the center. To the right of the table stands a bench. To the left of the table, and slightly behind it, stands a wooden cross. Two readers, also dressed in black, stand on one side of the stage area; a third reader stands on the opposite side of the stage area. Performance time: 30 minutes.]
Reader 1: Praise the Lord, O my soul. O Lord my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty. (Ps. 104:1)
Our congregation meets for a communion service every year on Maundy Thursday. Sometimes we meet in our fellowship hall and share a simple meal of soup, salad, bread, and water. The food is on each table before the service begins; one person at each table serves the soup to the others. Sometimes we also include footwashing as part of the service. This particular service included both.
Winter can sap the life out of anyone. The forlorn landscape causes hearts to contract, shrinking inward until it’s safe to come out again. Broken branches, shriveled foliage, and rasping dry winds—all discourage any hope of life, either in plants or in our own dispirited hearts.
The Solemn Reproaches is an ancient text of Western Christendom associated with the ending of a Good Friday service. The reproaches follow the pattern of Psalm 78, which rehearses God’s continuing acts of faithfulness and Israel’s repeated rebellion.
Old Testament: Isaiah 63:7-9
Psalter: Psalm 148
Epistle: Hebrews 2:10-18
Gospel: Matthew 2:13-23
Isaiah remembers, and as he does, the prophet begins to stammer. His reason yields to praise, and remembered history turns to worship. There are times, however rare, when words, concepts, and systems are not grandiose enough to be the cradle of the gift.
Old Testament: Isaiah 9:2-7
Psalter: Psalm 96
Epistle: Titus 2:11-14
Gospel: Luke 2:1-14
Isaiah concludes the eighth chapter by describing a darkness so deep that people who experience it will have no dawn. Everywhere they look they will see distress and the gloom of anguish; and they will be thrust into deep darkness.
Old Testament: Isaiah 7:10-16
Psalter: Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19
Epistle: Romans 1:1-7
Gospel: Matthew 1:18-25
God is a sign painter! One of God's favorite hobbies is putting up signs in places obvious and hidden, clear and oblique, that reveal the "outskirts of his ways." The signs tell people that God is present with us.
Old Testament: Isaiah 35
Psalter: Psalm 146:5-10
Epistle: James 5:7-10
Gospel: Matthew 11:2-ll
A merry Christmas in the Mojave Desert seemed to be a contradiction in terms to me! My favorite aunt repeatedly assured me of the beauties and the positive benefits that could be gained from hving in the desert. But I left the desert decidedly unconvinced.
Old Testament: Isaiah 11:1-10
Psalter: Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19
Epistle: Romans 15:4-13
Gospel: Matthew 2:1-12
Two years ago a freak tornado whirled its way through Wyckoff, New Jersey. "This never happens here; this isn't Oklahoma," said the old-timers. Many of us shared that sentiment. What can you count on anymore when even weather patterns, that normally don't produce such destructive entities, prove unreliable?