April 13, 2017 Maundy Thursday
This evening we remember Jesus’ last evening with his disciples. We celebrate the same Holy Supper that Jesus shared with his disciples, as recorded in the earliest source, Paul’s letter to the Corinthians 11: 23-26 and in the later three gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke.
It’s a simple meal. It’s just bread and wine, or in our case, grape juice. We share this meal because Jesus commanded us to do it. We will hear those familiar words: Take, eat. This is my body for you. Do this in remembrance of me. And of the cup, “this cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”
There’s always a lot of discussion about how often we should celebrate the Lord’s Supper. In the Catholic Church, it happens on each occasion of worship. When you think about Jesus’ words, it sounds very appropriate. “Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
Jesus wants us to remember him all the time, and this is one of the ways in which we do it.
The Gospel according to John gives another account of what happened. That’s the account we read this evening. A very different act of service, a very different example that we are called to follow.
Most of us engage in many different types of service to others. Perhaps we help people in their homes, doing chores or shopping or cooking or just keeping them company. Maybe we give rides to people who need them. Perhaps we are serving the youth who come to The Depot, or we are tutoring the children in our schools. Maybe we do yard work or shovel snow for others. Maybe we pay expenses for other people. Perhaps we give generously to this church or to specific charitable organizations so that others can serve, too. Maybe we pray unceasingly.
I would guess, however, that footwashing isn’t among the ways we generally serve others. When I was serving at the Mungere School in Tanzania earlier this year, when we set out each day across dusty roads, we’d return home covered in dirt.
So I can just imagine the shape Jesus’ disciples were in after a busy day outside.
You have come here this evening with your own burdens, your own pressures. You didn’t have to come, but you did. And here you are to participate in one aspect of the mystery of our faith: that our Lord Jesus wants us to experience what it’s like to be his servant people in this world.
The last thing Jesus’ disciples expected him to do was to get up from the table and start washing their feet. In fact, John tells us that Peter ended up arguing with Jesus about it. His Lord and his God was not going to wash his feet if he had anything to say about it.
Oh no. You’re not washing my feet, says Peter. But once Peter hears the purpose, he wants to be drenched. The feet won’t be enough for him.
Jesus tells him it’s enough. And then he explains why he’s done it. Yes, he’s the teacher and he’s the Lord. But what a Lord! A servant Lord!
Wow! That’s what Christ’s glory looks like, he tells us. Not the expected kind of glory, but a very special kind of glory.
It’s the example we’re to follow. That’s what he says. “For I have set you an example, that you should also do as I have done to you.” To humble ourselves as Jesus did. He has promised us, “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them…”
Another word for “blessed” is “happy.” Jesus wants you and me to be happy. Complaining may sound easier, but believe me, it isn’t.
With our stressed-out, hurry-up lives, we too often forget to just stop and think about losing ourselves in Jesus’ love.
Tonight is Jesus’ lovefest to us and our lovefest to one another. Thinking about Jesus’ greatest commandment: to love one another.
How do you and I want to be known? Do we want fame, or fortune? That’s what the world tells us to seek. But not Jesus.
What he says is in vs. 35: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
That’s what we want everyone to know about us, right? It’s not just that we’re members of this congregation. It’s that we love each other and God’s whole creation. We’re here to spread that love. Amen.