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Maundy Thursday, April 9, 2020
Beneath the cross of Jesus
I fain would take my stand,
the shadow of a mighty rock
within a weary land;
a home within the wilderness,
a rest upon the way,
from the burning of the noontide heat,
and the burden of the day.
Upon the cross of Jesus
mine eye at times can see
the very dying form of One
who suffered there for me;
and from my stricken heart with tears
two wonders I confess:
the wonders of redeeming love
and my unworthiness.
I take, O cross, thy shadow
for my abiding place;
I ask no other sunshine than
the sunshine of his face;
content to let the world go by,
to know no gain or loss,
my sinful self my only shame,
my glory all the cross.
“Beneath the Cross of Jesus” (vv. 1–3) by Elizabeth Cecilia Douglas Clephane
Hymn 216, Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal
Perhaps more than any other day in our church year, Maundy Thursday is a day that is defined by sharp contrasts. This is the day in which we see the true depth of Jesus’ caring for the disciples: washing their feet as a model for service, breaking bread and sharing a common cup in his last supper, and delivering a pastoral address filled with promises about what is to come.
But this is also the day in which we feel the sting of those disciples’ betrayal: not just in Judas giving Jesus over to the authorities, but in the disciples falling asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane, and Peter’s threefold denial of Jesus around a fire. As the disciples slowly abandon Jesus, fearing for their own safety, the depth of Jesus’ self-giving love is made all the more evident: here was a Savior who was willing to die, even for those who would abandon him. This heartbreaking reality is convicting for us as well. As much as we would like to not admit it, all of us have abandoned or denied Jesus at times, whether in word or deed.
But while the hymn “Beneath the Cross of Jesus” reminds us of that fact—“I confess . . . my own unworthiness”—the hymn writer Elizabeth Cecilia Douglas Clephane reminds us of the greater hope that lies underneath this day. Though on this day we stand in the shadow, we remember once more the “wonders of redeeming love” and that “[our] glory [is] all the cross.” Today is certainly a day when we are filled with heavy hearts—but we stand in awe of the self-giving love that Jesus Christ showed.
Wonderful God, I can scarcely comprehend the depth of your love for me—that even when I turn away, your love for me remains steadfast. I can do nothing this day but offer you my gratitude and praise, for you have shown me what it means to love. Amen.
Written by Matt Helms, Associate Pastor for Children and Family Ministry
Reflection and Prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church
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