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Maundy Thursday - April 6, 2023

Updated: May 8, 2023



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In the Gospel of John, Jesus uses the time during the Last Supper to begin to prepare the disciples for His departure from the world.


We find as we read or hear this particular section of John, that the opening words are breathtaking…these words gather up a number of themes that have preceded this particular time with Jesus… This time as the Gospel writer understands it to be…


And sets the stage for what is to follow…


Jesus knows “that His hour has come when He would be taken out of this world to the Father “


And “that the Father has given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God”


Jesus,“Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end” and Jesus begins in this section of the Gospel to deliberately show the Disciples the great and uncompromising love that He has for them.


He rises from the supper table , takes off His outer garment, girds His loins with a towel, and washes the disciples feet.


This ancient act of foot washing is strange to us…It often embarrasses us to have someone even see our feet, much less touch, to hold them in their hands, and wash them…


However, in the first century Israel, foot washing was a hospitable amenity and was extended to guests upon their arrival at the home of their host. The streets were dusty, people wore sandals, and their feet took a beating.


Upon entering the house, a servant or in a poor home, the wife, greeted the guests at the door and washed their feet.


The very thought of Jesus washing their feet must have stunned the disciples… What does it mean?


After all most likely their feet would have been washed as they entered the place where the dinner was to take place… so what is Jesus doing?


Really… The response of Peter is so appropriate for one who does not understand and has the personality of Peter… While the other disciples are most likely equally in shock, they are obviously stunned into silence…


Not Peter… His boldness is refreshing and at the same time, one might want to tell him to be quiet…wait and listen, but Peter says no, you must not wash my feet…


Then Jesus lovingly tells him that He, Peter, must allow this so that the mission of Jesus and the work of the disciples can continue…


It is only in reflecting that the disciples and those of us willing to listen to the story that one will be able to contemplate the power of God’s humility… the power of accepting and putting on the garment of humility so that healing and life can occur…


That is a hard lesson to be offered to the twelve who have followed Jesus and have not and could not yet grasp what they are seeing and are being called to do…


The love that Jesus has demonstrated to them in the Gospel of John is revealed to us in Chapter One of the Gospel… we know what to look for…


We know that Jesus was the Word and was in the beginning of all things and was the Voice…the Voice… that spoke the words of creation…


We know that the greatest gift of God… that Grace of God… was from the beginning…


We know from John that as soon as Jesus at His baptism was anointed for this powerful ministry to reveal to the world the love of God; the Grace of God; the nature of God…His ministry on earth began…


The disciples did not know… they were, as John states, in the world but they did not know Him…How could they? How could they possibly wrap their minds around what they had witnessed; around what they had heard; around what they had perhaps only considered in the deep recesses of their minds…


And here it was… set before them… in an act so simple and yet so very very complicated and meaningful…


Jesus, the one who would overcome and change their world…knelt down before them and washed their feet…


Humbled Himself to servitude…the one who had healed the sick; who had raised Lazarus from the dead; the one who had loved and cared for them as they had never experienced…humbled Himself to servitude…


Jesus makes it clear…although the Disciples could not understand… that they could not now follow Him…


That His leaving would leave them on their own and that their behavior; their love for one another; their extending of grace upon grace to one another; their ability to forgive…all of their qualities would be necessary if the message of Jesus the Christ was to be spread to the world…


They were to be more than they had been before…they were to live lives that bore out the truth of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ… they were to be God’s messenger’s on earth…


The disciples were heart broken…they were frightened; confused; and panicked…


Jesus hoping to give them the gift that would sustain them gives them a new commandment…you are to love one another as I have loved you and by this all will know that you are my disciples…


The disciples’ panic and confusion will only grow during the next few days…the trial and what follows will leave them devastated, horrified, and briefly without hope…without the remembrance of the foot washing; the new commandment…


But that is for another day; another liturgy; another story…


Tonight we are challenged by the ministry of Jesus to look at our own ministry…our ministry to our families; to our neighbors; to our children…


The very name of this liturgy challenges us: Maundy Thursday…what in the world does that mean and why do liturgical churches name things with such odd names?


Maundy…means a new commandment


That night we hear of Jesus demonstrating to Peter and the others the act of humility and in responding to their confusion and horror that they are to love one another as Jesus loves them


As Jesus has shown in a myriad of ways…the humility; the grace; the healing; the intense and unshakable love of God…


The disciples are to do likewise…Maundy: a new commandment…


This liturgy is unique in that we are given the opportunity to wash each others feet…luckily the clergy or other lay leaders do that so others do not have to be challenged or embarrassed…


But tonight I want to challenge you…gently challenge you to come forward and wash the feet of your loved ones or your neighbor in the pew or a member that has blessed you or a neighbor that you have wronged or has wronged you and seek with all your heart…humility, forgiveness and reconciliation…


It may feel strange but you are welcomed to come forward, kneel , and wash each others feet…If you choose and want the clergy to wash your feet, we will be here to do so…the choice is yours…


Humility is a beautiful practice… it washes away so much tension, so much fear… humility invites us to live in forgiveness, grace, and above all love…


Jesus knew that He had loved the ones God had given to Him and had loved them to the end…and through that knowledge and understanding we are invited to seek God’s love and grace…


A New Commandment I give you: You are to love one another as God loves us….


Amen




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