Sermons 2007
Maundy Thursday 5 April 2007

Home | In the Beginning was the Word, Christmas Day, 25 December 2007, John 1:1-14 | What's Missing? Christmas Eve, 24 December 2007, Luke 2:1-20 | Joseph, the Forgotten One, Advent 4A, 23 December 2007, Matthew 1:18-25 | Come with Joy, Advent 3A, 16 December 2007, Matthew 11:2-11 | Darkness or Light? Advent 1A, 2 December 2007, Matthew 24:37-44 | What Kind of King is He? Proper 29C, 25 November 2007, Luke 23:35-43 | Predictions and the Horseman of the Apocalypse, Proper 28C, 18 Nov 2007, Luke 31:5-19 | Just passing through? Proper 27C , 11 November 2007, Luke 20:20-38 | Not like others? Proper 25C, 28 October 2007, Luke 18:9-14 | "We are bold to say", Proper 24C, 21 October 2007, Luke 18:1-8a | "The ten lepers", Proper 23C, 14 October 2007, Luke 17:11-19 | Proper 22C and Holy Baptism, 7 October 2007 | A taste of cool water, Proper 21C, 30 September 2007, Luke 16:19-31 | We hear what we want to hear, Proper 20C, 23 September 2007, Luke 16:1-13 | "Lost -- but found!" Proper 19C, 16 September 2007, Luke 15:1-10 | "Who is coming to dinner?" Proper 17C, 2 September 2007, Luke 14:1, 7-14 | Doors and narrow gates, Proper 16C, 26 August 2007, Luke 13:22-30 | "Fire to the earth", Proper 15C, 19 August 2007, Luke 12:49-56 | "Do not be afraid, little flock', Proper 14C, 12 August 2007, Luke 12:32-40 | "How much is enough?" Proper 13C , 5 August 2007, Luke 12:13-21 | "Lord, teach us to pray" Proper 12C, 29 July 2007, Luke 11:1-13 | "The Better Part?" Proper 11C, 22 July 2007, Luke 10:38-42 | The Good Samaritan -- the Summary of the Law" Proper 10C, 15 July 2007, Luke 10:25-37 | "Travel Light!" Proper 9C, 8 July 2007, Luke 10:1-12, 16-20 | "Independence Day" Proper 8C, 1 July 2007, Luke 9:51-62 | "Three Questions", Proper 7C, 24 Jun 2007, Luke 9:18-24 | "In or Out?" Proper 6C, 17 June 2007, Luke 7:36-50 | "On Grace", Proper 5C, 10 June 2007, Luke 7:11-17 | Trinity C, 3 June 2007 | Pentecost C, 27 May 2007 | "Unity and Diversity" Easter 7C, 20 May 2007, John 17:20-26 | "Come, Holy Spirit, Come" Easter 6C, 13 May 2007, John 14:23-29 | "What is this thing called love?" Easter 5C, 6 May 2007, John 13:31-35 | "Numbers and Sheep", Easter 4C, 29 April 2007, John 10:22-30 | Virginia Tech, Easter 3C, 22 April 2007 Revelation 6:8-10 | Thomas Doubter and Believer, Easter 2C, 15 April 2007. John 20: 19-31 | ""Why do you look for the living among the dead?" Easter Sunday, 8 April 2007, Luke 24:1-10 | Good Friday 6 April 2007 | Maundy Thursday 5 April 2007 | Why are we not surprised? Palm/Passion Sunday C, 1 April 2007, Luke 22:39-23:50 | Party or Pout? Lent 4C, 18 March 2007, Luke 15:11-32 | To Stand on the Mountaintop, Lent 3C, 11 March 2007, Exodus 3:1-15 | "Ways Not Taken", Lent 2C, 4 March 2007. Luke 13:22-35 | "Liminal Thresholds and Lintels", Lent 1C, 25 February 2007, Luke 4:1-13 | Ash Wednesday Meditation 2007 | "Transfiguration and Transformation, Epiphany Last C, 18 February 2007, Luke 9:28-36 | "Weal and Woe", Epiphany 6C, 11 February 2007, Luke 6:17-26 | "Who, me?" Epiphany 5C, 4 February 2007, Luke 5:1-11 | "Filled with rage!" Epiphany 4C, 28 January 2007, Luke 4:21-32 | "The Spirit of the Lord is upon us," Epiphany 3C, 21 January 2007, Luke 4:14-21 | "Weddings and Miracles," Epiphany 2C, 14 January 2007, John 2:1-11 | Schism and Epiphany, Epiphany 1C, 7 Dec 2007, Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

Sometimes it is a good thing to remind ourselves about the origin of Maundy Thursday. It comes from the passage in Saint John’s Gospel, John 13:34: ” I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”

Commandment, “Mandatum,” in the Latin Vulgate of the Medieval bibles of the western church. Our words “man-date” and “mandatory” come from it. In the vernacular Eng-lish the Latin mandatum was corrupted to “Maundy” for the day on which this passage was read in Holy Week. We will return to it when we begin to use the Revised Common Lec-tionary in December.

To love one another strikes two characteristics of Christian life and especially for Maundy Thursday. One is the growing popularity of foot washing on Maundy Thursday in many churches.

When we think about it, we realize that our feet are among the most sensitive parts of our bodies. If you are ticklish, the soles of your feet are the most ticklish. And since we have been old enough, we have been in charge of washing our own feet, unless we were too ill to do so.

In recent years, there has been a growing movement in the Church to turn Maundy Thursday into a Passover Se-der Meal, followed by Holy Communion and the liturgy of the washing of feet. We have had something of a Passover Seder several years ago in the ECW and just a few weeks ago a Jewish friend came to the ECW and talked about her family’s Seder dinner and the special plates and foods they us. It is of course derived from our Exodus passage for Maundy Thursday.

And about a decade ago, we had foot washing as part of the Maundy Thursday liturgy. We were a little – more than a little -- uncomfortable with it, because after the initial curiosity wore off, only a few were interested in continuing, most were indifferent, and some were adamantly opposed. So we haven’t done it for a while.

Nevertheless, it is good to remember that Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and the things he said around it. And it took place during the night when he estab-lished our Sacrament of Holy Communion.

One of my favorite stories about the washing of feet is this one from the historical novel, “Ah, But Your Land is Beautiful, “ by Alan Paton. He retells the story – the true story – of a white South African judge, Jan Christiaan Oliver, who sat on the South African bench at the height (or depth) of apartheid.

It seems a black pastor invited the judge to attend his black church on Maundy Thursday. The judge knew that, given the state of affairs under apartheid, his career might well be placed in jeopardy if he went. But Jan Christiaan Oliver was a Christian who meant to do as much good as he could under the circumstances. So he agreed to go to the black township to the church for Maundy Thursday.

He learned on his arrival that it was to be a service of foot washing and he was urged to participate. Despite his misgivings he did participate. He was called forward to wash the feet of a woman named Martha Fortuin, who, as it hap-pened, had been a servant in his own house for over thirty years.

When he knelt at her feet, he was struck by how worn, tired, and weary her feet looked from so many years of serving him and his family. He was greatly moved. He held Martha’s gnarled black feet in his hands and washed them gently. And then he bent over them and kissed them.
Martha began to weep, joined in her weeping by many oth-ers in the room.

The newspapers got word of it and published it widely. Jan Christaan Oliver lost his judicial career – but he just might have found his soul.

When we enter into the Gospels, how often we find Jesus at table sharing a meal with all sorts and conditions of people. When we come to this place, we rarely gather without finding ourselves sharing food and drink -- whether in Holy Communion, at coffee hour, or at any of the many shared dinners of our common life.

Table fellowship is a marked feature of Christ's minis-try and of Christian life. In Jesus' day, it mattered terribly what and with whom you ate, the methods and rituals of preparation of food and self. There were no restaurants or drive-thrus, not even the supermarket deli counter or micro-wave dinners. Sharing food was serious social interaction.

It’s still true at times that the innate sacramentality of a shared meal persists. We may have been at table sometimes and been taken over by something far greater than the food before us or the friends around us – or simply the joy of it. We may have experienced the numinous Holy, the very presence of God as we conversed and sipped and tasted, as we laughed or fell silent, bathed in candlelight and camaraderie. When we want to get to know someone better, we invite them to share a meal with us. Holy Communion does not require a high holy table or the majestic cadences of liturgy. It always occurs when we remember the new commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you.”