Maundy Thursday 04/09/20—Highland—Meute
“Love One Another”
Exodus 12: 1-4, 11-14; Psalm 116: 1-2, 12-19; John 13: 1-17, 31b-35
Pearl: The love of God for you and the love you are to have for one another is as real and physical as if you were to wash another’s feet.
Function: To move listeners to put the love of Christ into real and concrete action simply and profoundly as in the washing of feet.
In typical fashion Jesus shocked and surprised the disciples once again. After the meal at the Last Supper he got up from the table, took off his outer garment, wrapped a towel around himself, and taking a basin began to wash and dry each of the disciple’s feet.
did Jesus wash the feet of his disciples on that climactic night of a Last
Supper with them?
- There could be several answers to that question. All profound.
I want to focus on the fact that it was a deeply personal, and physically real
way in which to demonstrate love for another person.
- In a time of dictates of social distancing and stay-at-home orders, maybe we will understand it better than ever before!
washing the disciple’s feet was a way of making real something that is usually
said in words. It is a way of enacting that love.
- For Jesus our Lord, this was important.
I have known people who want to practice this ritual of foot-washing and even look for churches which do it.
have not practiced it in any church services which I have led or joined in on.
But some of the folks in my circles have describe it as being so meaningful and
longed for us to do it. It is a part of our Book of Worship so you cannot argue
that it is not a “Presbyterian” practice.
some Maundy Thursdays we have substituted “hand-washing” in place of
foot-washing. The thing is that hand-washing doesn’t really stir the emotions
as much as foot-washing does.
- And that is the point of it. To enact and make real in a radical way, love for one another.
reason we don’t practice it widely is likely because we are not comfortable
with it. And that is just the point. It humbles you. And most of us are not
comfortable with our feet, let alone to have someone we know wash them with their
hands. It is embarrassing. It is a jab to our pride.
- But when practiced it has the power to move us deeply.
- Currently the Pope chooses 12 people for a Maundy Thursday ceremony in which he washes their feet. This was not always done by all Popes but has been in place since the 1950s.
- The Moravians of the 16th century made foot-washing one of their main practices and maintain it to this day.
- On some Maundy Thursdays we have substituted “hand-washing” in place of foot-washing. The thing is that hand-washing doesn’t really stir the emotions as much as foot-washing does.
Frykholm, a Sr. Editor for The Christian Century magazine describes foot-washing
as “…essential for our theology of
hospitality and incarnation; it is a concrete way that we live out our mission
to ‘seek and serve Christ in all persons’” (03/25/20, CC).
then shared a couple of stories of how it transformed people into devoted
- Take the story of Brian. Brian arrived for his first Maundy Thursday service straight from the woods, where he had been camping for the better part of the winter. He was hungry and dirty and quite anxious about how his feet and his whole body would be received. He apologized as he sat next to her at the meal that was spread out through the sanctuary but he ate gratefully.
- After supper, he said no to the foot washing but sat on the side to watch the proceedings. He became intrigued and decided that foot washing might actually feel pretty good on his tired and aching feet.
- That day began Brian’s life in the community. He became a regular volunteer at the community meal the church serves. He became the person to grab the church laundry and bring it back clean. He made food deliveries. His life began to echo the words of Jesus, “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” The knowing began with warm water and a personal risk, and it grew from there (CC, 03/25/20).
- She then shared a couple of stories of how it transformed people into devoted disciples.
On that night just before his Passion our Lord Jesus told his disciples to love one another and then he washed their feet as a way to demonstrate that love. His point being; love each other for real!
simply and powerfully it makes more real, love for one another, and almost
magically God’s love transforms people’s souls.
- One year, a homeless man named Kenny joined Amy’s Episcopal Church for the rituals of Holy Week. Even though he was still drinking heavily (and would soon die of liver failure), he had started to attend church with a quality of faithfulness that was no longer about his seeking their help.
- At the foot washing, he ended up seated next to the priest’s tiny sprite of a daughter, who was about five years old. Amy felt some anxiety when she saw it because it meant that as they went around the circle, young Lara would wash Kenny’s feet. Amy worried for both of them. Would she refuse to wash Kenny’s feet? That would be completely understandable, but potentially humiliating for Kenny. Would he refuse to have his feet washed?
- But when it was Lara’s turn, she knelt down at Kenny’s feet as if it were the most natural thing in the world. She lifted Kenny’s feet into the basin of warm water, put soap on her hands, and washed his feet. Kenny laughed nervously and then began to cry. Then everyone began to cry, except Lara, who continued her work in a businesslike manner with deliberate movements. She spread lotion on his feet with interest and attention, as if painting with finger paints.
- Kenny understood and felt profoundly the love of God made real as this young child washed his feet.
one another was Jesus’ final message to his disciples before his Passion.
for others is what motivated God to die for the world. Before his Passion
Christ demonstrated God’s love for his followers by washing their feet.
- They had a choice to accept his love. Peter initially refused saying, “You will never wash my feet.”
- Jesus responded, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Refusing Jesus’ demonstration of God’s love was to cut oneself off from God.
- Having your feet washed is awkward and uncomfortable. It is even scandalous. But that is the point. God’s love is that way. It is awkward, uncomfortable, and even scandalous.
- Love for others is what motivated God to die for the world. Before his Passion Christ demonstrated God’s love for his followers by washing their feet.
than any other year before, as we are isolated in our homes, we know better
than ever before how much physical presence and proximity to each other means.
- Yes, we can still be connected virtually, but we cannot go on like this forever!
- We need physical presence and physical demonstrations of love for one another as much as we need oxygen to breathe.
after Jesus was raised from the dead he appeared to his disciples. In Matthew’s
Gospel it reads strangely that “…they came to him, took hold of his feet,
and worshiped him” (Matthew 28: 9b).
- Why did they “take hold of his feet?”
- The love of God was still so profoundly all over them from a few days before when he washed their feet that it was a natural, reflexive action to reach out to take hold of his feet.
The love of God for us and that we have for one another is real.
- It is awkward, uncomfortable, and even scandalous.
- Such is God’s intent. He insisted that his disciples receive his love or they would have no part of him.
- Then he insisted that they do as he did to them.
it is all about sharing the love of God which is for real and which is tangible.
- And it is what our Lord commanded on that final night with his disciples.