Throw the towel in? This might be a strange title for a reflection about the day we know as Maundy Thursday. So what is this day all about anyway? In England and Wales, we may know it as the day the Queen hands out ‘Maundy money’ equivalent in pence to the number of years she has lived. Apparently it is not important enough to be a bank holiday, but is still a day that recalls events significant for the Christian faith.
It is the day the Church remembers the Last Supper that Jesus had with his friends, a meal that is recounted every time Holy Communion is celebrated. It is the day the Church remembers Jesus washing the feet of friends—and some Christians still practice this today.
It also remembers the night Jesus and his friends went to the Mount of Olives to pray; the night Jesus is betrayed by one of his own friends, Judas; the night Jesus is arrested by the authorities; and, the night even his best friend, Peter, denies knowing him.
On this night most of all, Jesus is a man alone.
The friends whose feet he had just washed betrayed and denied him.
Rejected by his countrymen, accused of crimes he did not commit.
Blindfolded, mocked and beaten by the men sent to arrest him.
Feeling, at times, even abandoned by God.
Jesus is all alone, and we can certainly see why he might think everything and everyone one is against him. And for many of us right now, this COVID-19 situation must feel the same.
There is a huge amount of uncertainty and worry.
People are losing their jobs.
Businesses are collapsing, from high street giants to small family businesses.
People are not able to visit family and friends or do their regular volunteering.
There are worries our entire economy may not survive this crisis. Our savings decimated.
Worst of all, people have lost their loved ones.
There is a knowledge that things will never quite be the same again.
And we would be forgiven for thinking we too are helpless. There is nothing we can do about this. And indeed certainly it is not our fault.
So how do we respond to this situation? What does this story of the night before Jesus’s death on a cross have to say to us? What can we learn from Jesus’ response?
Well, Jesus remains a man who seems to be in control, and his emotions are under control. When everything is seemingly against him, we believe he is actually the only one in control of events, shaping what is to come. He prays earnestly ('not my will but yours be done') and then goes quietly with those sent to arrest him. Later, in John 18:19-23, we read:
Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. Jesus answered, ‘I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.’ When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, ‘Is that how you answer the high priest?’ Jesus answered, ‘If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?’
Earlier on that same evening, just after Jesus has washed and towelled dry the feet of his friends, he tells them, in John 13:14–17:
So 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. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.
So, when things seemingly out of our control are against us, is it too much to suggest that we should try to be like Christ was that night? Should we throw the towel in? Or stay calm and persevere as best we can, in the knowledge that God is in control? At this time of crisis, we know who to rely on. We live beneath his shadow and in the cloud of His protecting love, as Charles Wesley puts it in the hymn below. And we are reminded in Ephesians 5:1-2:
Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Captain of Israel's host, and guide
of all who seek the land above,
beneath your shadow we abide,
the cloud of your protecting love;
our strength, your grace; our rule, your word:
our end, the glory of the Lord.
By your unerring Spirit led,
we shall not in the desert stray;
we shall not full direction need,
nor miss our providential way;
as far from danger as from fear
while love, almighty love, is near.
Charles Wesley (Singing the Faith 459)
Here is that hymn, sung by the Ghana Young Chorale:
No, not the Two Ronnies Sketch! But here is a video from a few years back also about four candles that some of our members have been really inspired by lately.
Suggested by Andrea Ellams
One of our Local Preachers in the North Cheshire Circuit of the Methodist Church, Professor David Clough, who is also Professor of Theological Ethics at the University of Chester, shares his reflections on the current COVID-19 pandemic and our response as believers. This was recorded live during a service at Wesley Methodist Church, Chester, held recently via Zoom.
To support faith at home during Holy Week, the Methodist Church in Britain have put together a number of resources.
The Children, Youth and Family team of the Methodist Church in Britain has curated and created a whole suite of resources here.
These include a series of activities for families to do together at home throughout the week and a brand new journalling resource A Holy Week Journey for young people. This can also be found below.
There are also resources available online for worship as a wider Church during Holy Week and Easter, including service sheets for worship at home and a poster to print and place in your home windows.
Frodsham Methodist Church Webmaster
Morning Worship for Palm Sunday, Sunday 5th April, will be streamed online and lead by our Minister, the Reverend Andrew Emison. The service will start at 10am.
It can be accessed here: https://tinyurl.com/t95wj9n
Each Sunday morning, BBC Radio 4 broadcasts worship from a church somewhere around the UK. Last Sunday this was a service for Passion Sunday with Methodist theologian Associate Professor Edgardo Colon-Emeric who is Director of the Center for Reconciliation at Duke University in the US and the Rev'd. Canon Dr. Jennifer Smith, Superintendent Minister of Wesley's Chapel, London.
The service reflected theologically on the current world situation in the context of Passion Sunday and the 40th anniversary of the martyrdom of Oscar Romero.
Maybe this is a good time for reconciliation in our own lives? If we have not already, we can use this opportunity to reconnect with someone we had a disagreement with or phone a friend who we have not spoken to for at least a month. Let's keep in touch with the people who are important to us and support each other in these challenging times.
For those who are interested, the Radio 4 service can be found on the BBC website here for 28 days after it was broadcast, and this is also where future broadcasts of Sunday Worship may also be found.
Frodsham Methodist Church Webmaster
I have been constantly amazed over the past couple of weeks of how individuals are using their time and talents in new and created ways to help and support others. From the post man who is dressing up in different costumes each day to cheer up the residents on his round to Jan who lives in Frodsham who is leading a dance in the streets for her neighbours. Both have responded to the need of others.
As Christians, we believe that it is God’s desire to imagine more than ourselves, to look beyond ourselves and the immediate in order to let all life flourish.
This often clashes with the growing ideology in our culture of exceptionalism, entitlement, privilege , building solely our own self-confidence, physical self-improvement and self-congratulation. In turn, our social economic organisation and abuse of the ecosystem is out of sync with God.
In the book we are reading in our life group, Barbara Glasson writes, ‘In the earliest Hebrew creation stories Yahweh makes himself a clay model of a man and breaths on it to give it life. It is the supreme confidence, this translation of forms, the capacity to recognise in one thing the potential of another and the willingness to let this potential realise itself, is the stamp of creativity and the birth right that Yahweh gives to all humans.’
As our rhythm of life has changed over the past couple of weeks, I find myself hoping that this might be a time for us all to reflect on and imagine a world where everyone takes their part in holding fast to that which is good, a constant love of their neighbours, a striving for justice and peace in all humanity and for all of creation to feel held in the loving attention by our God of grace.
One of my favourite A Cappella Christian singers is a guy called David Wesley (do check him out on YouTube!). He sings a song called shoulders and at a time when things are not as we would imagine in this world, I have found the imagery and words in this song particularly comforting. Hope they are of some comfort to you as well.
When confusion’s my companion
When despair holds me to ransom
I will feel no fear, I know that you are near.
When I’m caught deep in the valley
With chaos for my company
I’ll find my comfort here
I know that you are near
My help comes from you
You’re right here pulling me through
You carry my weakness
all on your shoulders.
My help comes from you
You are my rescue
I don’t have to see to believe that
You’re lifting me up on your shoulders.
This evening, Thursday 2nd April, will see the second of the North Cheshire Circuit's streamed weeknight worship services. This week's message is from The Rev'd. Jo Brown.
Please come and join us from 7:30pm at:
Why not subscribe to the channel too while you're there!
What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
And what a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
I heard this hymn, written by Joseph M. Scriven, an Irish poet, being sung during several services that were broadcast last Sunday. It was written in 1855, but how appropriate for the times that we are living through today:
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!
There is a video on YouTube of this hymn being sung on Songs of Praise:
As Rev’d. Andrew Emison reminded us all during this week’s online service, Sunday 29th March was Passion Sunday, an opportunity to pause and to remember the way of the cross taken by Jesus as he begins his final journey to Jerusalem.
An Order of Service, which includes links to songs and prayers, along with some words of reflection is available below. Please feel free to use this as you choose as you prepare for the coming days of this Easter period.
Check out our Calendar for a listing of all events.