Maundy Thursday Year A, St. Clement’s, 2014
For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
Jesus knelt before each of them, cradling each calloused heel in his hands. Cool water poured over each foot and the dirt of their travels sloughed off into the basin. The dust, settling out into the water as one by one they lifted their feet, one by one they acquiesced to the care of their beloved friend.
He showed no partiality and no concern beyond this simple act of love. An action made radical by the very nature of the one who performed it. The Son of Man, handling the very water and dirt of creation. The disciples, rending themselves vulnerable as they presented themselves for cleansing.
Intimate and awkward.
They accepted the ministration of Jesus the Christ--and like so many of us they longed for more. Not just my feet, but my hands and my head! But, the feet prove sufficient.
In that intimate and awkward moment.
In that moment colored by shame and doubt, “not all of you are clean”.
Who, who was it to be? Who placed his foot in the hands of Christ, all the while knowing that his next action was to be one of betrayal?
I am sure the disciples wondered--how could they not. Had they not left all they knew behind to follow this man into the city? Had they not left father, mother, brother, sister, friend in order to walk with this man who now knelt at their feet? How could one of this number betray him?
They thought they knew each other. They thought they knew themselves.
But, who was to know what was to come? Who was to know?
One of the reasons I value the repetition of our liturgy--the cyclical year in which we celebrate birth, walk through the desert, mourn death, and celebrate new life--is that we don’t know.
We don’t know what forces will confront and confound us. We don’t know what temptations will come and what choices we might make. We couldn’t possibly.
But again and again we are invited to the altar, again and again we are invited to forgiveness, again and again. And, in that invitation we live into the truth that we are part of God’s unending promise and in that promise is healing and in that promise is love--and with that promise comes an assurance of God’s help. And, that help is unstinting, and that offer is ongoing. And so, tonight, each foot is lifted and each is washed in an offering of love freely given. For the righteous and the unrighteous alike, for the sinner and the saint alike, for Judas and Peter, for each and every one of us.
Participants in the offer of love freely given.
The mandate of Maundy Thursday is a mandate of love--a mandate of love that includes all.
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
John’s Gospel presents to us an image of a community drawn together by love. Earlier this Lent I preached using the image of tapestry making. The Warp to the Weft, I repeated again and again. As a brief reminder, since I do not presume that any of you were there or even remember..
From the Metropolitan Museum of Art website
“A tapestry is made by repeatedly weaving the horizontal (weft) threads over and under the vertical (warp) threads...Although you cannot see them in a finished tapestry, the vertical warp threads are vital components of each piece—they are the backbone of every tapestry, and provide the support for the weft threads.”
It is what is unseen, the warp, that holds everything together.
And, when I reflect on what the nature of the warp might be, in the nature of what unites and binds into a community of Christ.
I am left with the answer of love.
Love, the warp to our weft.
Love that holds together a community.
Love freely given.
Love, never withheld.
So tonight we bare our feet, not as participants in some play or script, but so that we may be reminded of this call to love. The love that binds us together into the body of Christ.
The love that calls us to the humble service of others.
This washing is a remembering and in the remembering we are called to doing.
But, we miss the point if we stop there in the place of washing the feet of our friends--if we stop in this place of providing loving care only to the people in this room.
Because the body of Christ is comprised not just of our pew mates. The body of Christ is comprised not just of those who proudly proclaim their allegiance to this communion or that communion, this denomination or that denomination, this building or that building.
The body of Christ encompasses those who have been, those who are now, and those who will be. The Body of Christ transcends our imaginations and impulses and it is in our imaginings of Christ’s unconditional and uncompromising inclusion that we can see the vastness of the love to which we are called.
With the washing is the remembering and with the remembering comes the doing. We are called to serve others because the love we express here is just the beginning of love and we are called to ever more.
In The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky writes
Love people even in their sin, for that is the semblance of Divine Love and is the highest love on earth. Love all of God’s creation, the whole and every grain of sand of it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love.
All embracing love. Love for the sinner, love for the saint. Love for those who have betrayed us and those we’ve betrayed.
It is the love that makes us disciples and it is in living that love that our discipleship is made manifest.
The dismissal that frequently concludes our services is that of “Go in peace to LOVE and SERVE the world”
Love is the command.
Service is the love made manifest.