HOLY WEEK – Wednesday
(Holy Week – Maundy Thursday follows “Just Checking In”)

“Just Checking In”

We’ve come to Wednesday in Holy Week.

Not an easy week, any year, but somehow, this year with COVID19 self-isolation and quarantining, fear and loneliness, even more difficult for many. Some people of deep faith are asking the ‘Where is God?’ questions and beginning to question Jesus’ presence in their lives.

There is good news: Jesus is with us. God cares. Spirit gives courage to get through each moment of each difficult day.

While the following isn’t a COVID19 story, it is a story I’ve adapted (author unknown) and retitled. It has a gentle reminder that no matter what, God is with us … Jesus is present, “just checking in.”


“Just Checking In”

A minister passing through the old church at noon, noticed a man coming down the aisle. The man hadn’t shaved in a while; his shirt was torn and shabby; his coat was worn and frayed. He knelt, bowed his head, then rose and silently walked away.

In the days that followed, the minister noticed this man kneeling, just for a moment, a lunch pail in his lap. The minister’s curiosity grew. He introduced himself and then asked “What are you doing here?”

The old man said he was a factory worker. Lunch was only half an hour and lunchtime was his prayer time for finding strength and power. “I stay only a moment because the factory’s far away.As I kneel here talking to the Lord, this is kinda what I say:I just came by to tell you, God, how happy I have been since we found each other’s friendship and you took away my sin.I don’t know much of how to pray, but I think about you every day. So, Jesus, this is Ben, just checking in today.”

The minister told Ben that he was welcome to pray there anytime. “It’s time to go, and thanks,” Ben said, as he hurried to the door. The minister knelt at the altar.

His heart warmed with love, and as the tears flowed down his cheeks, the minister repeated old Ben’s prayer: “I just came by to tell you, God, how happy I have been since we found each other’s friendship and you took away my sin. I don’t know much of how to pray, but I think about you every day. So, Jesus, this is just me, just checking in today.”

One day, the minister noticed that old Ben hadn’t come to the church in several days. As more days passed and still no Ben, he began to worry. He asked about him at the factor and learned that Ben was ill and in hospital. He learned that the week Ben was with there, changes happened in the ward. His smiles and joy were contagious.

The head nurse couldn’t understand why Ben could be so glad when no flowers, calls or cards came, not even one visitor until the minister appeared.

The minister stayed by Ben’s bed, voicing the nurse’s concern.

Looking surprised, old Ben spoke up and with a winsome smile “The nurse is wrong. She couldn’t know, He’s been here all the while and every day at noon, sits right down, takes my hand, leans over and says to me:‘I just came by to tell you, Ben, how happy I have been since we found this friendship. I think about you always, and I love to hear you pray,And so Ben, this is Jesus, just checking in today.’ *****************

On this Wednesday of Holy Week, as we take a moment to pray, may we pray for a “Ben-Faith”
… a faith that is simple and profound
… a faith that is trusting and hope-filled
… a faith that is filled with joy and gratitude for God’s unconditional love of all and because each day,
… Jesus is “just checking in” with us.

© June Maffin
Image: Vincent van Gogh sketch

HOLY WEEK – Maundy Thursday

Betrayal and …

Maundy Thursday. It’s today.

It is a day that shocks us in its intensity. Jesus, the beloved rabbi is about to be betrayed. Not by an enemy, but betrayed by a follower, a friend, a disciple, someone who said he loved Jesus.

If the word from our Canadian Prime Minister this morning wasn’t sombre enough news, this Maundy Thursday is. It is a sombre day of recollection for Christians.

Even though we recoil at the word ‘betrayal,’ if we were honest, betrayal by Judas of his friend, his mentor, his rabbi, betrayal didn’t end “back then.”

When we allow fondness for wealth or fame to overwhelm our call to be persons of justice and mercy

If we name ourselves Christian, yet think unloving thoughts about another

When we are selfish and put our wants before the needs of others

Have we betrayed God?

When we refuse to be uplifted, enabled, and transformed by the wisdom or experience of another

When we only see how right we are and ignore the learning that comes in acknowledging that we have made a mistake

Have we betrayed God?

When we will not accept God’s support and grace, strengthening us for the tasks we have been asked to undertake, or the new ministry roles we are challenged to experience

Have we betrayed the beloved rabbi?

When we who say we love God have answered ‘yes’ to any of the above
Is our connection to Judas tangible?

Today is a day to feel the pain and shock of Judas’ betrayal.
It can also be a day to take from it, a redemptive blessing when we are willing to name our own betrayals.

As disciples of Jesus, this day offers an opportunity to honestly look at the betrayals that emerge from within us and confront within ourselves
those moments when we have betrayed God
those moments when we
have not forgiven another
dislike another
speak or think unkindly of another

On this day/night, with less than twenty-four hours left on earth, Jesus gathers the disciples away from the crowds in a ritual of gathering for a meal so familiar to them yet this time, is so very different.

As Jesus rises from his place, ties a towel around his waist, surely the disciples looked at each other and asked themselves “What is he doing?”

And then they see and understand.
He washes their feet.
He gives them his final teaching:
the commandment (mandatum) to love one another Maundy Thursday.

Jesus gave a way of remembering Him with a simple ritual:
Sit at table. Take bread. Break it. Share it.
Pour out wine. Share it.
Feed one another.
Love one another.
When you do that, you remember me.
When I’m gone and you feel lost, uncertain of my presence
Do this
And remember me.

If our churches weren’t closed because of COVID 19, many this day/evening would gather for a simple yet special service of worship that might include foot washing, sharing of bread and wine, and even stripping of the Altar as a reminder that living the Life of Love Jesus lived, led him to be stripped and taken away.

Loving one another as Jesus loved long ago, and as Jesus loves today, leads us to be ‘stripped’ of the unimportant things in life and bring us closer to the One who loves us unconditionally.

On this holy Maundy Thursday, may we receive the story of Jesus in a spirit of humility and draw closer to one another and to the One who loves, unconditionally. Amen.

© June Maffin
Image: June Maffin