Wait on the LORD: be of good courage,
and he shall strengthen thine heart;
wait, I say, on the LORD.
- Psalm 27:14
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A Maundy Thursday Meditation
A Maundy Thursday Meditation 2014

Tonight in our congregation we are having a Holy Communion Service and tomorrow night a Good Friday service, both at 7:30 pm. Tonight we commemorate that night in history 2000 years ago when Jesus was betrayed by one of his own disciples, Judas. On that same evening, He celebrated the Passover, which had been a ritualistic practice ever since God had directed them to observe it annually at this specific time. In the 12th chapter of Exodus this ritual is initiated so that through the years they would remember the time when they were delivered out of the bondage of Egypt. We remember that the Pharoah finally let them go after the first born of every living being was killed in the night. That was it for the Pharoah, for after the nine previous plagues that came upon him and his people, this one was the straw that broke the camel's back.

It is difficult for us to put ourselves in the place of the disciples, for they were at a real disadvantage compared to us who live 'after the fact." The Jewish leaders had for their "Bible" the Old Testament and in their interpretations, Jesus was not recognized or accepted. They did not know the outcome of what was going to happen with Jesus, for they lived only in the prophecies of the Old Testament and even though Jesus was the fulfilment of those prophecies, they seemed to not connect the dots.
In addition to that, since the Holy Spirit had not been given yet, the disciples' understanding of what Jesus was saying and doing was not grasped very well at all. They seemed to understand that He was a king, but they were confused as to what kind of a king he was. Their concept of a king was one who would deliver them from the bondage of Roman tyranny and set up His kingdom in Jerusalem, and they were not seeing that in Him or hearing it from Him. But still they were looking for a Deliverer, but the Messiah of prophecy was in their understanding at this point. And this Jesus of Nazareth certainly did not fit their ideas of the Messiah.

As I think of how they charged Jesus as being a blasphemer, it is no wonder, for since they believed God was a mono God, so there was no Three in One as we believe the Scriptures teach. They were standing for what they thought was true and they naturally would think that it would be necessary to kill anyone who stated that they were God. Wow... In their mind, they were protecting the honor of God.

So I wonder what they thought after they had observed the annual Passover meal with all its symbolism which pointed to their deliverance out of slavery from Egypt through the leadership of Moses. I can hear them settling back on their couches after the Passover Meal, having been reminded of the specifics of their deliverance through the different food items, and then maybe even looking at one another, saying, "well, another Passover gone by...we sure thank our God for His deliverance. But yet wondering about who their Master really was....and then a night that was like any other night became the Night of Nights.........He drops one bombshell on them, and then another...

Matthew 26:20 Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve.
21 And as they did eat, he said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.
22 And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I?
23 And he answered and said, He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me.
24 The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born.
25 Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said.
26 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.
27 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;
28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
29 But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.
30 And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives. {hymn: or, psalm}
31 Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.
32 But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee.

Wow, one of us is going to betray you, one of us is going turn you into those who want to get rid of you? What are you saying, Jesus? Of course, they were sorrowful, and everyone of them began to ask Him, 'Is it I, Lord?"
The disciples indicate by their question that they recognized that within them was the capability to do betray a friend, so consequently they asked the question. "Is it I, Lord?"

Jesus then gave an indicator as to which one it was going to be, (only He and Judas understood what it meant by verses 23-24) and even then Judas continued his hypocrisy by asking the question, "Is it I, Master?" Jesus told Judas, something like this: You said it, Judas....In saying that, Jesus indicated that there was still a door of grace open to Judas to repent and to fall upon the mercy of Jesus, but.........

Then Jesus did something that they did not as of yet understand by taking the bread and wine and applying it to the upcoming sacrifice and offering of Himself on the cross, with his body represented by the bread and his blood being represented by the wine. He points to the shedding of His blood for the forgiveness of sins which also was extended to Judas still. How great is grace? It is greater than anyone's sin, including my sins, your sins, Judas' sins, Peter's sin, Apostle Paul's sins, the worst murderers' sins, the worst child molester's sins, the worst hypocrite's sins, the worst adulterer's sins, the worst thief's sins and so on. ...........

So when we come to His table tonight to receive His body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins, to celebrate life and salvation and to have a foretaste of the heavenly and eternal feast, it will be a great time of rejoicing in His great grace for us. His grace is abundantly provided for all those who come to His table.
In His grace,

Pastor Orval
Posted on 17 Apr 2014 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala
Palm Sunday and Holy Week
Dear friend,

Today (Sunday) is called Palm Sunday in the Christian church because of it being the day of the commemoration of entry into Jerusalem by Jesus during which palm branches were waved as Jesus entered the Holy City. It is the beginning of Holy Week which includes Maundy Thursday and Good Friday with the word Maundy pointing to the giving of the new commandment in John 13:34-35. It also marks the evening (Thursday) in which He instituted the Sacrament of Holy Communion.

This entry into the city was on the back of a donkey, precisely as Prophet Zechariah prophesied around the year 500 BC:

ESV Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Those watching Him riding on the donkey, knowing the prophecy, would have grasped the significance of his humble means of transportation as pointing to His Kingship, but they did not understand the nature of His kingdom.

This is always difficult for us, for we have no problem declaring Him as King, but do we understand the nature of the kingdom that He brought with Him? Apostle Paul clearly outlines the attitude of Jesus in a portion of one of our readings for today:

Philippians 2:5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:
10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

What is the nature of the kingdom of God? What were the people expecting the Messiah to do? Well, for the most part, they were looking for a king who would overthrow the Roman authorities through his power of fear and dominance, so that through his life they would be freed of the oppression that they lived under. But how confused they must have been when the events later in the week showed something quite different, in that this their Hope died a terrible death on a Roman cross like any other criminal of their day. What???? How does that make any sense?

Well, those questions are why the church throughout the years has seen the importance and necessity of having a special focus on the events of the Holy Week, which Martin Luther taught as being broken down into six separate categories:

1. Passover/Institution of the Lord's Supper by Jesus
2. Jesus' suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane
3. Jesus before Caiaphas, the High Priest (ecclesiastical authorities)
4. Jesus before Pilate (civil authorities)
5. Jesus on the Cross
6. Jesus in the Tomb

The passion accounts are recorded in Matthew 26-27, Mark 14-15, Luke 22-23 and John 18-19. I have found that it is helpful to keep in mind the different phases of the passion of Jesus as I read and meditate over these scriptures and as I read other writings that are at our convenience to use as a help to give us a deeper understanding, and therefore, a deeper appreciation of the meaning of Jesus' death and burial for us.

Today we are reading three different passages which speak of the events of Palm Sunday (Luke 19: 28-48), an explanation of Christ's humbling of Himself (Philippians 2:1-11), and an account of Jesus before Pilate, His crucifixion and His death (Matthew 27:11-54) Even though we will spend some time on the account of Matthew, a large focus of today's writing will be to encourage us all to devote time to hear from the Lord about His passion for us through His giving of Himself for us.

Martin Luther also wrote that there are two main reasons to meditate on the passion of Christ during this Holy Week. He stated that we need to be reminded that His suffering was greater than any other man ever suffered, further saying that many have died on a cross, but only One has suffered under the entire guilt and condemnation of all the sin of the world, past, present and future.

Secondly, he wrote that we continually need to be reminded that through the cross heaven was opened, hell was closed and eternal life was won. What he is saying here is that we must be reminded and renewed in our knowledge of how Jesus suffered and why He suffered.

One of my mentors who is now absent from the body and present with Christ would read during this time of the year a book entitled The Suffering Saviour which was written by a German Theologian of the past, F.W. Krummacher. In this book is chronicled the events of Holy Week written in a very interesting and gripping manner for the reader. Using this book as a help is a practice that I have also tried to follow as the depth of the man's understanding is great so that there are things that he writes that I have to this day not been able to understand and grasp.

The importance of setting quiet time aside during this week to read and meditate over these scriptures along with other resources that will help us to focus on the love of God as demonstrated through the giving of His Son for us cannot be overestimated. It is important to read and to listen to what God is saying to us today through the scriptures so that our knowledge of Him is gained through the revelation of Himself through His Son, Jesus the Christ.

I pray that you will have a wonderful time during this Holy Week as you spend time with the Lord in His Word, in prayer, in conversation with loved ones about Him and His love and in the various worship services that occur during this time of the year.

Let us remember that Christ died to reveal His kingdom to the world. It was in His dying that He showed the power of God, for in His death, we were made alive. The kings of the world rule and dominate through fear and intimidation, while our King Jesus humbled Himself and allowed Himself to be killed in order to do His Father's will for our salvation.

As we read through these accounts, may we be impacted in our hearts, in our minds and in our lives as His Word sinks deep into us so that we live in this forgiveness that was won for us and live our lives in forgiveness towards others. A forgiveness which is not a burdensome task, but a forgiveness which flows out of a heart that has been so richly forgiven of all our sin through Christ's taking on Himself of all our sin.......................

Matthew 27:11-54

In quietness before Him we wish to be,

Pastor Orval Wirkkala

Posted on 13 Apr 2014 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala

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A Maundy Thursday Meditation
- Posted by Pastor Orval Wirkkala

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The Lawry Kilpela family as they grieve but yet rejoice in Lawry's being called home.