|The Epiphany, 2016||January 6, 2016||The Epiphany||Isaiah 60:1-6|
|Second Sunday after Christmas, Year C||January 3, 2016||The Second Sunday after Christmas, Year C||Jeremiah 31:7-14, Psalm 84, Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23|
|Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 2015||December 24, 2015||Christmas Eve||Isaiah 9:2-7, Luke 2:1-20|
|Advent 3, Year C||December 13, 2015||Third Sunday of Advent, Year C||Philippians 4:4-7, Luke 3:7-18|
|Advent 2, Year C||December 6, 2015||Second Sunday of Advent, Year C||Malachi 3:1-4|
|Advent 1, Year C||November 29, 2015||First Sunday of Advent||Luke 21:25-36, I Thessalonians 3:9-13|
|Christ the King, Year B||November 22, 2015||Christ the King Sunday, Year B||Revelation 1:4b-8, John 18:33-37|
|Pentecost 25, Year B||November 15, 2015||Proper 28B||Daniel 12:1-3, Hebrews 10:19-25, Mark 13:1-8|
|Pentecost 24, Year B||November 8, 2015||Proper 27, Year B||I Kings 17:8-16, Mark 12:38-44|
|All Saints’ Day||November 1, 2015||All Saints’ Day, Year B||Psalm 137, Psalm 6, Psalm 56, Isaiah 25:6-9, Revelation 21:1-6a, John 11:32-44|
|Pentecost 22, Year B||October 25, 2015||Proper 25, Year B||Jeremiah 31:7-9, Mark 10:46-52|
|Pentecost 21, Year B||October 18, 2015||Proper 24, Year B||Isaiah 53:4-12, Mark 10:35-45|
|The Feast of St Francis||October 4, 2015||The Feast of St Francis||Matthew 11:25-30|
|Pentecost 18, Year B||September 27, 2015||Proper 21, Year B||James 5:13-20|
|Pentecost 17, Year B||September 20, 2015||Proper 20, Year B||Wisdom of Solomon 1:16-2:1, 12-22, Psalm 54, James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a, Mark 9:30-37|
Maundy Thursday, Year A
Sermon Date:April 13, 2017
Scripture: John 13:1-7, 31b-35
Liturgy Calendar: Maundy Thursday, Year A
Why do we call today Maundy Thursday?
Maundy comes from the Latin word mandatum—which means commandment. Our English word “mandate” has this same root.
Before he was brutally killed by being hung on a cross, Jesus and the disciples shared one last supper together.
As they sat around the table, Jesus told them that he would be with them only a little longer.
And that they would look for him, but where he was going they could not come.
And yet, even though they could not physically go with Jesus to be lifted up on his cross, to be placed with him in a tomb, and then to be resurrected with him by God’s almighty power, Jesus tells them how they can be with him forever, even though he won’t be with them physically.
The new commandment—the new mandate—if followed, is what will keep the disciples with Jesus, even when he is no longer with them.
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
When we love one another, Jesus is in our midst, with us as surely as if he were standing here with us in his resurrected body, as he appeared to the disciples after God resurrected him from the dead.
And tonight’s scriptures give us some specific ways of loving one another that help us be the people of God’s active love out in the world.
Everything that happened the night of the last supper took place in a larger context than just this meal. Jesus and the disciples were in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, the most important Jewish festival of the year, in which the people celebrated the fact that when they were slaves in Egypt, they had marked their doorposts with the blood of lambs, and then when God passed through Egypt that night every first-born child and animal in Egypt died. God was showing Pharaoh that he was wrong to keep enslaving the Israelites.
God spared the Israelites whose doors were marked with blood. Right after this horror, Pharaoh let the Israelites go and they began their epic journey through the Red Sea and into the wilderness where they would wander for forty years as they learned how to be God’s people.
The last supper takes place in Jerusalem, now under Roman rule. Jerusalem was packed with Jews who had come from all over the countryside for the Passover celebration. The Romans were on guard, because whenever this many people flooded into the city, the mood could not only be restless, but also downright dangerously violent.
This box represents the events that surrounded Jesus and his disciples that night as they observed a Jewish festival in Jerusalem, which was in turn part of the Roman Empire, an empire that proclaimed the great Pax Romana. But this “peace” was not peace at all, but a restless status quo that was maintained by the Romans through intimidation and the violent squashing of anything that might lead to an uprising against them.
Inside this box is another box that represents the Passover meal that Jesus and the disciples shared together. Jesus knew this was his last chance to be with the people he loved. He chose not to be out in a crowd gathered around platters of roasted lamb, or at a big gathering of the people who had followed him into the city shouting Hosanna, who were also celebrating the Passover on this night. He chose not to put in an appearance at the Temple, where no doubt a big ritualistic show must have been taking place. For Jesus, this time was not about his public ministry.
Instead, Jesus gathered with his most beloved—his disciples, to celebrate the Passover with them and them alone, to share his love with them more deeply than ever before.
Now inside this box is another box.
We know from this gospel reading that Jesus washed the feet of the disciples that night at supper. Foot washing was a sign of hospitality—when people arrived at a home after traveling dusty roads, their feet would be dusty too. And so hosts would make water available so that the guests could wash their feet. Often, the host would have a servant wash the feet of guests.
Gayle R. O’Day, in her commentary on John’s gospel, notes that by washing the feet of the disciples, Jesus is “drawing the disciples into the love that marks God’s and Jesus’ relationship to each other and to the world—summed up in that verse that most of us know by memory—“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son so that those who believe in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
When Jesus washes their feet, he is “welcoming his disciples into his home with God….by entering into an intimate relationship with the disciples that reflects his own intimate relationship with God.”
Even though the disciples cannot go where Jesus is going next, they CAN go with home to him, if they let themselves be drawn into this relationship of love that God and Jesus share—if they let themselves be welcomed into Jesus’ home with God, where they dwell together in love that pours out into the world in the form of hospitality and service.
There’s another box here, and it contains bread and wine.
Not only did Jesus welcome the disciples into this home with God through the foot washing, but in the meal they shared, he said to them that the bread that they shared was his body, and the cup that they shared was the new covenant in his blood.
In other words, this bread and wine that they shared would not only help them to remember this meal they were sharing together, but the bread and wine connected them even more intimately with Jesus—by taking him into themselves, they could in turn become Jesus’ body out in the world through their sacrificial love for one another.
So here are our lessons for today.
In this box, bread and wine. We get fed, so that we can be the body of Christ in the world—we can be God’s hands, God’s feet, God’s eyes, God’s love. When we share this bread and wine, we take God’s love into ourselves so that we can the share it out in the world. “Love one another, as I have loved you.”
And this box, the foot washing. This footwashing is a reminder for us that the hospitality and welcome that Jesus gave to us and that Jesus wants us to give, invites people not just into our homes or into our church, but into our hearts– just as they are, no matter who they are—that not only do we welcome them, but that we love them unconditionally and radically, as God loves us. When we do this for the world, the world gets a glimpse into our eternal home, God’s everlasting love.
Remember, this box represents the Passover meal, the last supper that Jesus and the disciples shared.
Every week when we gather here at church, we are making a conscious and committed decision to come together to worship and gain strength and courage for the journey. And we are also celebrating the great Passover of God when we share bread and wine and God’s sacrificial and radical love around the table. Sometimes we even say “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. Therefore, let us keep the feast.”
Even though we cannot go where Jesus is going, we get to be with him every time we gather with one another to share bread and wine, and God’s love for us, and our love for one another.
And all of this goes into this big box. For Jesus and the disciples, it was Jerusalem, and beyond Jerusalem, the Roman Empire.
Our world is Port Royal, Virginia, the United States, and in this day of instant communication, the whole world.
Bread and wine, sacrificial service and welcome into God’s radical and unconditional love, the lifegiving privilege of sharing together in worship as the Church—loving one another as God has loved us– these are gifts that we Christians bring into the world.
And if we share these gifts as God would have us do, then our eyes and hearts and hands are open. We can see God’s hand at work in the world around us. We can receive God’s radical welcome over and over. And even though we are all imperfect, we can offer God’s radical welcome to others because God has welcomed each one of us. And we can love one another, because God loves us, and will never let us go.
O’Day, Gail R. “John.” The New Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes. Volume IX. The Gospel of Luke. The Gospel of John. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1995.