Friday, April 14

Maundy Thursday Sermon

I preached this sermon last night at the joint service of Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Chruch St Elias Christian Church and Church of Jesus Christ Reconciler.
Exodus 12;1-4, 11-14
Psalm 116;1, 10-17
1 Corinthians11:23-26
John 13:1-17, 31b-35
As we enter this time of the Three Great Days, the Holiest days of the Church year, I want to begin by saying on behalf of Church of Jesus Christ, Reconciler and the Community of the Holy Trinity, that it is with great joy that we join Immanuel in worship as we commemorate the passion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Church of Jesus Christ, Reconciler is deeply grateful for the hospitality and love of Christ that has been shown to us these several short months we have been worshiping in your side chapel. As a pastor of Reconciler I am honored to have been asked to preach on this the Passover of our Lord.

Tonight is the night that our Lord Jesus Christ celebrated the Passover with his disciples instituting the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, and giving us the new commandment to love one another. The name of this day, Maundy, comes from the Latin for command, “mandatum”. Jesus had gathered his disciples knowing he was on the way to the cross. So, today we begin the walk of the passion of our Lord. We begin with communion and a command to love one another. These two things are among the last things Jesus does and says and are the beginning of what turns the world upside down.

The Gospel of John is not concerned directly with the meal itself. As is John’s tendency we are given the deep and mystical meaning of the Last Supper. So John tells us that on the night the Eucharist was instituted by Jesus giving bread and wine to his disciples saying they were his flesh and blood and to repeat this meal whenever they gathered in remembrance of him, on that night Jesus performed a symbolic and prophetic act of God’s sacrificial love, washing his disciples feet. Jesus demonstrates the meaning of it all: of the Eucharist, of the Cross, of his coming, and of his resurrection from the dead through the washing of feet.

When we think of washing feet we may feel embarrassed or it may feel oddly intimate to have someone else wash our feet. Our feet are generally encased in shoes and socks. We see people’s feet rarely, in the summertime mainly and not always even then.

While some of our issues may have been at work in the time of Jesus, there are other issues, which were more prominent. At the time of Jesus in Palestine shoes were open sandals, and roads being largely unpaved were dusty and in rain muddy. Feet got very dirty. When you entered a house it was customary either to have a basin of water for the purpose of washing feet or if the household had a servant or servants it was the servants job to wash guests feet. This was seen as a lowly task for lowly servants.

When Jesus Takes up a towel and offers to wash the feet of his disciples he is placing himself as their Rabbi, leader and as God incarnate in the place of the lowliest of servants. This is not something a great Rabbi would do. The prophetic act over turns the classification and order of the world, for love. We should not be surprised that brash Peter tries to refuse and keep Jesus from doing this, until Jesus makes it quite clear that accepting this act of reversal is essential for his disciples. In this act Jesus demonstrates that God’s sacrificial love cares for the other without concern for rank, class, or privilege. The Son, God incarnate, Jesus Christ takes up a towel like a common slave and washes his disciples feet out of love.

Jesus then to reinforce the meaning of this washing of the feet leaves his disciples and us the commandment to love one another. It is significant that on this night we come together from different congregations representing differing denominations as we commemorate the night on which Christ promised himself to us in the Eucharist and commanded that we his disciples should love one another. He did so as he submitted to the way of the Cross and suffered for us. In his suffering death and resurrection the great reversal was effected as he passed through death becoming our Passover.

On this night as we begin to walk again the path of Christ’s passion we have heard our Lords commandment to love one another as he loved us. We are called to show God’s love and love one another, to be servants to each other as Jesus became our servant. We follow or Lord’s example signifying the great reversal of loving service through the washing of feet.