Sermon delivered on Maundy Thursday, April 9, 2020 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.
If you prefer to listen to the audio podcast of tonight’s sermon, usually somewhat different from the text below, click here.
Lectionary texts: Exodus 12.1-14; Psalm 116.1, 10-17; 1 Corinthians 11.23-26; St. John 13.1-17, 31b-35.
The word “maundy” comes from a Latin word: mandatum. And mandatum means “mandate” or a “commandment”. And when we talk about “Maundy Thursday” we’re talking about “mandate Thursday”. We’re talking about the night that Christ told his disciples exactly what he expected of them and so is telling us too today.
The world is in crisis now. With the report we receive every day of the impact of COVID19; the rising numbers of the confirmed cases and deaths, the fall of the economy, many losing jobs, people quarantined in hospitals, cities lockdown, people being home against their wish, others putting their lives on the line, risking for the sake of others, this is real crisis. As christians what should we do during such times as these?
Jesus on the Maundy Thursday found himself in crisis, he knew he was going to be betrayed, he knew he was going to be abandoned, he knew he was going to be denied, he knew he was going to die, this is a real crisis.
On this Maundy Thursday let me ask you all a question. What would you do if you knew you would die in about twelve hours? Would you want to be alone in prayer? Would you record some final thoughts? Would you spend time with those you loved? What would you want to emphasize? Would you go to the farm or garden or would you focus on what’s most important in your life?
Jesus knew the time had come for him to leave this world and he took off his cloak, put a towel around his waist, and washed the feet of his disciples. Who’s going to waste time on that when the end is so near? Jesus did. Why? Because he wanted to show them how important it is to humbly serve one another
Jesus showed by his own actions that serving others, demonstrating our love in tangible ways, is of critical importance. Jesus considered it a priority and so should we.
It is said that Mother Teresa visited Phoenix in 1989 to open a home for the poor. During that brief visit, she was interviewed by the largest radio station in town. In a private moment, the announcer asked Mother Teresa if there was anything he could do for her. I guess the announcer was expecting her to request a contribution or media attention to help to raise money for the new home for the needy in Phoenix. Instead, she replied, “Yes, there is. Find somebody nobody else loves, and love them.” my friends this is what we are called to.
If anyone didn’t have to humble himself to wash the feet of others especially his juniors, it was Jesus.
But because he knew he was Lord of the universe and because he was not worried about his self-image he was able to show his love in humble service. He took up the towel and basin and stooped to serve. What an example for us all.
Let me share this other example; The late Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy’s hamburger chain, was known for his humble service within the multibillion dollar empire he founded. When asked what made him so successful, he replied, “my MBA.” But he didn’t mean a graduate degree in business education he meant “a mop-and-bucket attitude.” In other words, no task was too insignificant for him to tackle; he simply jumped in and got the job done.
On this special night it is also important that we try to discover our need to be in Jesus’ presence and the additional need of being served by Jesus himself. Sometimes that is a hard idea to come to grips with. Look again at the exchange between Peter and Jesus, When he came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, why are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now why I am doing it; someday you will.” “No,” Peter protested, “you will never wash my feet!” Jesus replied, “But if I don’t wash you, you won’t belong to me.” Simon Peter exclaimed, “Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!”
Jesus has shown us by word and deed that you cannot call yourself a Christian if you are unwilling to serve in humility.
You see, foot washing isn’t about foot washing, it’s about serving others at personal sacrifice, humbling ourselves when we don’t have to because we don’t have to. It’s somebody watching the children of a neighbor who has good reasons for needing to get out of the house. It is people checking on neighbors and friends to know how they are doing, it is offering to go shopping for those who can not go to the store because of fear; it is about clearing someone’s driveway of snow because you know they are not healthy enough to do it themselves. It’s listening to a neighbor who needs to talk when you don’t have time to listen. It’s giving ourselves when we don’t have to. It is about sharing a meal. It is about communing with Christ and being diligent in waiting with him as the world becomes a dark place. It is about standing at the foot of the cross and in faithfulness standing by an empty tomb as the darkness is lifted and life becomes hopeful once again. It is about serving and loving even in times of crisis.
It is my prayer that in this time of crisis we will be the light of Christ through our service and love by word and deed.
In the name of God: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit Amen.