Bach’s “Passion” as online meditation

Bach is among the very greatest of Christian artists, and his “St. Matthew Passion” is considered one of his greatest works.  It is an oratorio, something like an opera, that sets to music Matthew’s account of the crucifixion of Christ (Chapters 26-27), with soloists singing the lines of the various characters and magnificent choral music, all punctuated with Bach’s rendition of Lenten hymns (many of which we still sing today) and remarkable verse by Bach himself responding to Christ’s sacrifice.

My colleague Steve McCollum alerted me to an online resource that makes this masterpiece of musical devotion accessible online:  Oregon Bach Festival » Digital Bach Project » St. Matthew Passion.  It gives the English translation, as well as the Biblical sources and the dramatic script, for each line as the oratorio unfolds.  Click the link, then when you see the painting of St. Matthew, hit the play button.  It’s divided into five 30-minute segments, which makes it an excellent Holy Week devotion.  [Read more...]

He made Himself nothing

What a sermon we had on Palm Sunday to introduce Holy Week!  Pastor Douthwaite preached on Philippians 2:5-8:  “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

He made Himself nothing.

The word used there is the word ekenosen, which means He emptied Himself. Some Bibles translate it that way, and so its important to know what that means, and what it doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean that the Son of God left His godness behind in heaven when He became a man. It doesn’t mean He left His power and glory in heaven when He became a man. It doesn’t mean that when He was arrested and manhandled by the Roman soldiers, when He stood before Pilate, and when He hung on the cross, He was helpless and couldn’t do anything about it. He could have. Easily. The same Son of God who healed folks of every disease and sickness, who knew the thoughts and hearts of men, who could command all creation by His Word, whose glory shone in His transfiguration, and who had power over death – that is the Jesus of the Passion. The Son of God who willingly didn’t use all that power when it came time to save Himself. He made Himself nothing.

Yet perhaps we could go even farther than that, if that’s possible – He made Himself less than nothing. Taking upon Himself the sin of the world, He was the greatest sinner ever. Whoever you usually think has that title, the most evilest person you can think of, you’re wrong – it’s Jesus. He is the worst idolater, the worst unbeliever, the worst hater, the worst scoundrel, the worst murderer, the worst adulterer, the worst thief, the worst liar, the worst cheat, the worst everything . . . because He’s got all your sins and all my sins and all the sin of all the people out there, on Him.

Unfair? No. He took them. He wanted them. So that they would be on Him and not on you. So that they would be held against Him and not against you. So that He would be forsaken for them and die for them and not you.

He made Himself nothing.

The king becomes a servant. God becomes man. The One subject to none makes Himself subject to all. The author of life dies. The glory of God is hung on a cross.

Why? For you.

That’s what this day, and all this week, is all about. With all that you hear today, all that you hear this week, the thought to put in your mind is this: He did all this for me. For me. Not just for the world. For me. He made Himself nothing, to make you something. To make you a child of God. And that was worth it. For the Father, that was worth sending His Son. For Jesus, that was worth all the pain and agony and death. You were worth it. You may not be anything in anybody’s eyes; maybe not even in your own eyes. But you are in God’s eyes.

Maybe you think you’re nothing and that’s why you spend so much time trying to make yourself something. But there is simply nothing greater you can do or make yourself than what Jesus has made you: a child of God. That gives you more value than anything else in this world. And God has done that. He said it to you when you were baptized: You are now My beloved Son.

via St. Athanasius Lutheran Church: Palmarum/Passion Sunday Sermon.

Holy Week radio

The talk radio show Issues, Etc., has a great line-up for Holy Week.  This would be a good time to check it out and to see what the big deal is about that program.  It airs live from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Central Time and can be heard on the web, as well as a number of radio stations across the country.  (Go to the website for a list of stations that carry it.)  The daily programs are archived on the website, so you can listen to them at your leisure.  (And check out the iPhone and Android apps, the latter of which is a creation of Michael O’Connor, who goes to our church.)

Here are the topics and guests for each day of Holy Week:

Monday, April 2–The Events of Holy Week.  Dr. Paul Maier of Western Michigan University

Tuesday, April 3–The Last Supper According to Luke’s Gospel.  Dr. Arthur Just of Concordia Theological Seminary

Wednesday, April 4–The Last Words of Jesus from the Cross.  Pr. Bill Cwirla of Holy Trinity Lutheran-Hacienda Heights, CA

Thursday, April 5–The Passion of Christ.  Dr. Norman Nagel of Concordia Seminary

Friday, April 6–The Hymn, “O Sacred Head Now Wounded.”  Pr. Will Weedon of St. Paul Lutheran-Hamel, IL

Saturday, April 7–Luther on the Passion of Christ.  Pr. Paul McCain of Concordia Publishing House

via Steadfast Lutherans » Issues Etc. — Talk Radio for Holy Week.

For those of you who are fans, what would you say is so special about Issues, Etc.?  What would you say to convince someone–say, who is not a Lutheran–to tune in?

The Bible readings for Holy Week

Pastor William Weedon explains about the appointed readings for Holy Week:

Why did we read about BOTH the triumphal entry and the Passion and death of our Lord in the Palm Sunday liturgy. First, remember that the observance of “this happening” on “the same day” is a rather late convention in the Church’s liturgical life. The foundational mystery is celebrated each and every Lord’s Day: Christ crucified is raised from the dead. Even on Palm Sunday that remains the focus. And come Holy Week the Church delights to hear the Passion story told from each Evangelist’s perspective. Palm Sunday belongs to Matthew; Monday we begin some of John’s story (actually continued from the processional Gospel on Palm Sunday); Tuesday is Mark’s and Wednesday is Luke’s. Come Thursday we go back to John and hear of some events on Maundy Thursday. Friday is given over wholly to John’s Passion. So rather than thinking of it as a progression from this to that, in the Western liturgy we hear the whole story as it is told all four times during Holy Week, so that nothing of what Scripture gives us about our Lord’s passion, death, and burial is lost.

via Weedon’s Blog: So Katie and Sandy.

So even if you aren’t going to church every day this week, as a discipline for the week, read each of the passion narratives in each of the four Gospels.

Does anyone have any other customs, practices, or recommendations for Holy Week?

Why Holy Week is holy

“For we call this Holy Week not just because of the holy things that happened,or because of the Holy One they happened to –but because this is the week that makes you holy.”

Rev. James Douthwaite.


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