I invite you to remove your shoes and notice our feet. Maybe you are barefoot. Maybe you have socks on. Either way, just take a moment to let your feet receive the attention of your mind. Wiggle your toes. Rub them on the carpet or together.
Notice how your toes interact with each other. How the soles of your feet react to the different textures. As you experience these sensations, try to imagine God’s hands touching you and creating those different feelings.
As we will see from our reading tonight, ours is a God who comes to meet us not only from on high but also kneeling at our feet. It is to this God that we are invited to give our burdens to. A God who has loved us and cared for us, even when we have failed to notice.
Ours is a God who came to us to heal us and restore us who has given for us a simple commandment – to love one another as he has loved us.
I remember the morning I called my father to tell him I had decided to quit advertising to become a minister. It was on Maundy Thursday in 2010. I remember it well because when I asked him to hand the phone to mom so I could tell her, he informed me that she was in the upper room. By that he meant The Upper Room. Yes, the very room where Jesus shared his final meal with his disciples.
Having been a tourist in many ancient cities, I suspect it wasn’t the exact room. But still my parents were there, in Jerusalem, at the table, on this very holy night when our Lord and King removed his royal cloak and became a lowly servant. Listen to how John tells the story.
John 13:1-17 (The Message)
...Then he said, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You address me as ‘Teacher’ and ‘Master,’ and rightly so. That is what I am. So if I, the Master and Teacher, washed your feet, you must now wash each other’s feet. I’ve laid down a pattern for you. What I’ve done, you do. I’m only pointing out the obvious. A servant is not ranked above his master; an employee doesn’t give orders to the employer. If you understand what I’m telling you, act like it—and live a blessed life.
There in a stranger’s humble home Jesus bent down to wash the dirty feet of twelve men who quit their jobs to live out the rest of their days in self-emptying love for the world. With nothing more than basin of water and a simple towel, Christ held their tired, aching feet, and began to wash each one of them clean.
Many of us don’t like having our feet touched. It’s gross. Or it tickles. Or whatever. But this story isn’t about feet. It’s about ministry, and community, and sharing the Gospel.
In this intimate gesture we learn what it means to serve and to love one another. We discover it requires a willingness to be vulnerable, to move beyond our comfort zone, and to give fully and fearlessly of our self for God’s glory and not our own. On his knees Jesus humbled himself to guide us towards a new way of living.
Through his example of self-giving love and servitude, Jesus invites us into an intimate relationship where we are more than just simple followers; we are friends and companions. Partners in his ministry of reconciliation. In the same way, we are to humble ourselves before each other, to share in the intimacy of life where friendships are made and communities of trust are created.
Our world, our nation, our churches are divided almost beyond repair. There are wars raging in Europe, Africa, and on our own streets and neighborhoods. As we confessed in prayer, we have not been very good at doing what God has asked of us. We have not been very good at serving others. But instead have increasingly succeeded at become a people who want and take, not offer and give.
To be a friend of Christ, to bear the name Christian, means we are called to stand in that space between Jesus’ humility and his humbleness, to be the visible presence of God’s love – washing the dirt and grim, tending to a broken and wounded world.
Through us, God continues to send Christ into our communities to share his Divine love with our neighbors. A love that is inclusive, all-giving, and never-ending. With Christ at our side, we can move beyond our comfort zones and love as wildly and generously as God first loved us.
In a quiet sanctuary, in the solemnness of that Maundy Thursday back in 2010, I sat in an empty church pew and saw this story from a new perspective. Not as a spectator, but as one who accepted the call to follow Christ. I had no idea where the journey would take me.
Yet here I am tonight. In this room, at this table, to serve and share this remembrance meal with you. For it was on this night that our Lord humbled himself; giving us his body and blood to bring us back in a covenant relationship with God and with one another.
Let us all dare to be with He who knew no sin. The Holy One who rose from the table, walked out into the world, and stretched out his sacred arms – joining heaven to earth, and you to me. In his name, we gather together to remember what God has done for us, and for the world.
(break for communion)
Jesus chose to use his final hours to establish intimate and profound physical connections with his friends. In the midst of this connection, he offered us a new commandment: to love others as he loves us. This is not an abstract, sentimental love. This is bread-breaking, foot-washing, messy love, offered to all.
We have visited the font. We have been nourished at the Table. And now we go out into the world to live out Jesus’s commandment with humility and humble heart.
May the presence of the Creator, the Redeemer, and the Sustainer fill the nooks and crannies of our lives as we go now into the night to make love grow. Amen.
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”