The Pas Maundy Thursday
17 April 2014
Exodus 12:1-4, 11-14
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
John 13:1-17, 31b-35
Eternal God, in the sharing of a meal your Son established a new covenant for all people, and in the washing of feet he showed us the dignity of service. Grant that by the power of your Holy Spirit these signs of our life in faith may speak again to our hearts, feed our spirits, and refresh our bodies, through Jesus Christ, our saviour and lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Something new is happening; and it’s happening all around us and within us.
We see this in the lesson from Exodus for tonight. We see this in the lesson from John, and we see this in the lesson from 1 Corinthians, as well.
In Exodus, “The LORD said … This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of year for you.”(Ex 12:1-2)
God is bringing a new experience to the lives of the Hebrew people, to the lives of those who look to God, and ask for God’s guidance.
Something is coming; God is ready, and God urges that we be ready for just about anything, too.
In fact it’s such a departure from what is considered to be tradition, that in the reading from Exodus, the Hebrew people are urged to eat with “your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly.” (Ex 12:11)
God’s message: be ready, for anything.
And this isn’t the only place. In the passage from John, we see the same thing.
“Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” (Jn 13:1)
So, “Jesus got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.” (Jn 13:4-5)
Something new. Something different. Something that breaks us out of the mold of our lives, out of the rut that defines our regular daily round of activity.
Our host has gotten up from the table, and begun to wash the feet of his guests.
But time is short, and because of that Jesus needs to break with tradition. He needs to start something new, something that we can continue to model still today not only for each other, but for and with the world, as well.
Just as God told the Hebrews to eat hurriedly, to eat prepared to leave the house at a moment’s notice, Jesus tells us to love one another and to show that love in unexpected service to each other and for each other.
Jesus sets the example for the disciples, and for each of us. To serve rather than to be served. And he does this by getting down on the floor and washing our feet.
This is a new beginning.
It’s a break from the tradition that the disciples’ have known their whole lives reaching back to the days of Moses when the Hebrew people were slaves in Egypt.
But still, the message is the same: we’re being told to be ready for anything.
And even in the reading from 1 Corinthians. A well-known passage. In fact it’s the focus of one of the Cree panels. The time when Paul shares with the people from Corinth the mystery of the Lord’s Supper, the Holy Communion, the Eucharist.
Something new. A feast, as sacrifice built on love, and on inclusion. Something unexpected found in “do this in memory of me.”
And nowhere in these new twists of tradition, of custom are we invited to stop being prepared for a new experience, serving each other to show the world we are God’s people, that we love each other as brothers and sisters. Nowhere are we invited to stop celebrating the Eucharist, as Jesus said “in memory of me.”
So, then the question we come to is: how do we prepare for a new experience? How do we step out of our comfort zones and do something that we’ve never done before? How do we even anticipate the unexpected?
For the Hebrew people, this ‘something new’ is freedom from the yoke of slavery. God is ready to deliver the decisive blow to Pharaoh that will allow the words of Moses to be fulfilled.
The moment is almost here that will allow them to freely step from their homes and to begin the long awaited trek to the Promised Land, all the while learning what it means to be the people of God.
This is something they’ve been waiting for, for generations and now it’s almost here.
Something new is on the horizon. And God is waiting for each one of us to embrace it, to make it a part of ourselves.
The Hebrew people were told to eat dressed and ready to go out the door. They’re not even invited to sit down.
In the same way, the disciples are being told to be ready at a moment’s notice to show how much we are loved by God by being willing to serve each other, to do what is needed to be done in order to show how much we love each other and desire each other to know God’s love as well.
There are times when we object to what Jesus does because the spontaneity of what he’s doing is outside of our comfort zones. And like Peter, we object to the Messiah, our Lord and Saviour, our host at dinner crouching at our feet to wash the dust of the road from them.
But Jesus says “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” And as we look at what Jesus is doing, we see all of the disciples gathered around the table. Everyone who came into the room to celebrate the Passover has been included in Jesus actions, in Jesus statement; although it’s Peter who raises the objections of what Jesus is doing in the first place, and “the Father had given all things into his hands.” (Jn 13:3)
Even Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed was included in the washing of feet, and was then included with Jesus, with those whom “he loved to the end.”
And still we are loved because of what Jesus did, what Jesus taught and how that teaching is still being carried into the world. What Jesus taught was what the disciples passed along to those who followed them, and then on an on through the generations of faith to us, today.
Paul tells us in the passage from 1 Corinthians, for tonight: “for I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you.” (1 Cor 11:23a)
Although Paul wasn’t in the room with the disciples, that night, he was still included with those whom Jesus washed because he is loved by God, by Jesus. And Paul’s own colourful and varied history is familiar to us, and in many ways, we can relate to his experiences, both before and after he taught what he received from the Lord because it is our own history.
Like the Hebrews in Egypt, like the disciples in the upper room, like Paul spreading the Word of faith across the known world, our association with God, with Jesus, with being included in Jesus love, in Jesus covenant has been an interesting journey full of new experiences, full of things that take us out of our comfort zones.
We live in a world where to be followers of Christ is almost as rare today as it was in the early days of the church. And yet, we are here, tonight. We’ve come together to remember that found in the love of God is service for our brother and sister.
And so we, too, are ready for something new.
We’re ready to eat hurriedly, staff in hand, sandals on our feet. We’re ready to have our host wash the dust of the road from our feet, we’re ready to receive what has been given from our Lord Jesus Christ to include us, to sustain us, to fill us with life.
To have our feet washed is an act filled with trust, with hope, with something new, in and for our lives. But it is Jesus who does the washing, and in that washing, something new begins in and for our lives.
In that washing we are declaring that we are open to Jesus being involved in our lives, to being included in what is to follow the example we are being set. And we are stating that we are with Jesus, that we are included in what he has planned for us and for the world.
We, like the disciples are asked to absorb a new commandment for our lives: to “love one another. Just as Jesus loves us, we also should love one another. By this everyone will know that we are his disciples, if we have love for one another.”
So, how do we love? How do we include? How do we live so that we show that we are willing for the will of God to move in our lives and to ultimately move each one of us?
And we do this by following Jesus example. By being open to serving rather than being served.
I’m reminded of when, in the movie Ghandi, Ghandi was talking with the future leaders of India. In the midst of their conversation he takes the tea tray from the servant, and he pours the tea and serves those with whom he is meeting although he is a guest in the house. He hasn’t replaced the servant, rather he’s said, without saying a word that the role of the servant isn’t an exclusive one.
We want to change the world, we want to embrace Jesus teaching, and so to do that, we must embrace his example, and be willing to do for others what the need to have done.
Also, in the reading from John, Jesus is a guest in the house, and yet, he gets up, takes off his outer robe, wraps a towel around himself and washes our feet. And he says “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord – and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you the example: that you also should do as I have done to you.’” (Jn 13:12b-15)
And so, the example is set, and the next step is up to each one of us to show love to those around us; to show that no one is greater than another, and that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, in Christ’s love for us.