Maundy Thursday

(painting by Splho)

Hello friends!
You still have the rest of the day to send in your "Easter" photo.
I hope you'll send one.  We could definitely use quite a few more to expand our collection.

In the meantime, here's the Maundy Thursday sermon from yesterday:

Before gospel reading:

Before I read the gospel lesson for tonight, I’ll first set the scene.  It’s the 13th chapter of John.  We’re with Jesus and his dearest friends.  Everyone is reclined at a large table. Up to this point, it was probably an evening of story- telling and eating.  Time with friends.  Then the tone shifts.  Jesus performs an act of service – and then he shares one thing he really wants his friends to remember.  

Gospel Text: Parts of John, Chapter 13:

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then 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. 

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “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 an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 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.”

Sermon outline:

-TIME TO SLOW DOWN:Tonight we have the opportunity to slow down.  We have time and space to immerse ourselves in these sacred days.  To walk with Jesus during the last days of his earthly life.  We also have time to connect the events of then – with our lives now.  Holy Week is so special….a time to truly listen, absorb, and experience.

-TURMOIL FOR JESUS: It’s hard to imagine the turmoil that Jesus is going through at this point in his journey.  It’s important not to rush right over this detail.  He knows that everything is reaching a boiling point.  It will all soon change.  No more dinners with friends.  No more weddings and changing water to wine.  No more teaching at the temple.  No more sermons on the mountains.  Or feeding of thousands.  There's a turning point up ahead and Jesus knows it.  He's left to consider: "What do I most want these guys to remember?"    

-3 PARTS OF OUR GOSPEL LESSON – and the three parts BUILD on each other.  

#1:  First, Jesus washes their feet.
#2:  Then, Jesus says: “Wash each other’s feet.”

#1:  Washes their feet.  Shocking.  Nearly appalling.  “JESUS, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?!?”  The disciples are confused. Remember: they do not know what is ahead.  They probably thought Jesus was really being stranger - even stranger than usual.

In truth, it’s an act of very humble service.  A gesture of deep kindness and appreciation.  It’s a gift that Jesus gives them.  A really special gift.  It’s an act of service which sets a different tone.

#2:  Right after he washes their feet, he explains why.  “I’m doing this for YOU, so that you will do this for each other.  I’m giving you this present, and then you can share it, too.”  Serve each other.  Jesus frames this instruction not as law – but as Gospel.  Grace.  

We don’t serve because we HAVE to – we serve because he first served us.  Worth noting: Jesus leaves it up to them to interpret HOW.  Service toward neighbor = a universal language.  We are invited to help each other.  Especially in unexpected ways.   

#3:  Jesus knows this is the last time he’s going to be able to be with all his best friends all together.   What a range of emotions!  Many times we imagine Jesus teaching large crowds.  Preaching.  Orderly.  Story teller.  For our text on Maundy Thursday – we hear a more vulnerable side of Jesus.  Imagine it:  he’s speaking RIGHT from the heart. 

Jesus says: “Guys, I have to leave.  And you’re not going to be able to come.  But there is ONE THING I really, really, really want you to remember.  Love each other.  This is the way everyone will know you are my disciples.  By the way that you love each other.” 

Jesus uses this last bit of time with his friends in a really meaningful. simple way. They share a meal.  He washes their feet.  He tells them to love each other.   Jesus keeps the message simple and clear.  I'm sure glad - because that clarity matters just as much today as it did then.

Sometimes life is so complicated.  In our personal lives, we have all kinds of questions and challenges.  In our congregational life and work life, we end up with questions and challenges.  With our families, we have questions and challenges.

Maundy Thursday gets at the CORE of what Jesus spent his earthly life proclaiming.  Jesus makes it very clear what matters most.  If we boil down the stew of the Christian faith for long enough – this is what remains.  Service.  Community.  Love. 

Tonight, we take one step closer to the cross.  But before we get there, we join with the disciples in one last night around the dinner table.  We are reminded that we are loved.  Jesus invited his friends to trust so deeply in that love – that they would freely share it with the world.  May we never forget what Jesus wanted us to remember most.  Love.  


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