I like church celebrations and festivals, and would feel cheated if I had to miss worship on those days. My favorite holy day is Maundy Thursday. All other holy days or festivals come and go, and when all the rituals and exclamations are over, we go back to life pretty much as it was before. But Maundy Thursday rivets my attention day after day, one season after another, year in and year out, giving me a challenge which I never measure up to.
A particular sound made that night in the upper room which illustrates, and indicates, and even commands how we should live. Long after Holy Week, or Easter or Christmas, long after we’ve forgotten who went where, there is a sound from Maundy Thursday that keeps echoing.
A sound never made quite that way before challenges us every day. The sound was created when Jesus, the host for this Passover meal, left the table. Jesus was about to become the servant for his disciples by washing their feet.
Some disciples might not have noticed his departure from the table. But when they heard the sound of water being poured into a basin, they knew something was about to happen. That sound of water being poured to wash feet is closer to where we live than any other religious holiday.
What Jesus did was an example of how we should live if we wish to imitate our Lord. The account of the Last Supper in Luke’s gospel says that the disciples argued among themselves about who was the greatest. Jesus told them the greatest or the leader among them must be like a servant. It was to give an example, that he became their servant. When he was finished, he said, “you will do just what I have done for you.” That is what Maundy Thursday is all about.
And in a confusing upside down world of counterfeit values and false priorities, I don’t believe a single day goes by without an opportunity to follow the example of our Lord. Jesus looked on himself as a suffering servant. He didn’t just go through the motion of service — he gave himself. He knew that he had come from God and was going to God. He left the table, poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciple’s’ feet. Precisely because he was in complete communication with God, he was not afraid to become the servant.
Jesus and his closest companions were meeting in secret. They had no servant for the customary washing of feet. The disciples were so hung up on preserving their personal status that not a single one of them would volunteer for the task. If you’ve ever walked a long way on a warm day, it feels so good to get your shoes off and wiggle your toes and wouldn’t you like to put your feet into a pan of water? How could Jesus do it so easily? Because he came into the world to demonstrate God’s love for his people. He knew he had come from God and was going to God and with such godly power; he was willing to pour water into a basin.
Learning that lesson will take us a whole lifetime, and my experience says we’ll never get it right. But we cannot give up trying. Of course there are injustices everywhere. People are out of work, forced to retire, or life becomes one pain after another. There are injustices in family relations, especially if someone we love is treating us poorly. Sometimes we become alienated from close friends. There are so many ways we can feel unloved, so many ways that other people question our love for them. We’ve all observed that the more you love someone, anyone, the greater the hurt if and when that person disappoints your expectations.
Husbands and wives disappoint each other. Children are disappointed with their parents. Parents are disappointed their children won’t take their advice. And when we’re angry enough to lash out because the world is not giving us what we want, we need to stop and hear the sound of water being poured into a basin.
We need to ask whether it’s time to wash someone’s feet. This is not to say we must become a doormat that anybody can walk on, but could we look for a way to love an enemy? Could we try making a sacrifice, a suffering sacrifice? When we would be catty, or sarcastic, when we’d give just anything to have the last word in a head-on argument, when jealousy begs us to do something foolish, when we start thinking the principle of the thing demands such and such a solution which may be just another way of asking for revenge,
THEN we must hear water being poured into a basin. When suffering is the only response in a crisis, when everything comes unglued and you’re got to start all over, it is time to ask what course of action is suggested by the sound of Maundy Thursday.
This is the struggle to which we were committed at baptism. God’s forgiveness continues with us because of his love for us.
Within the community of his Church, God never wearies of giving peace and new life. We firmly believe that our sins are forgiven in the name of our Lord.
We who received God’s love in Jesus Christ are called to love one another, to be servants to each other as Jesus became our savior.
We are called to follow the spirit of his example on the night before his death. Remembering our Lord’s last supper with his disciples, we eat the bread and share the cup of this meal.
Together we receive the Lord’s gift of himself and in doing so, we become one in him. Now, like him, we look for ways to wash one another’s feet.
May the Spirit of Jesus be with you all.