Thursday, April 01, 2021

Maundy Thursday 2021


Today is Maundy Thursday. The word "Maundy" comes from the Latin "mandare" - to command. Today's Bible passage tells us what Jesus "commanded" his followers to do;  to wash one another's feet, not necessarily literally, but through serving others. The job of washing feet was usually one a slave was expected to do, which is why the disciples are so astonished at what would turn out to be Jesus last meal with them before he was crucified when he took off his outer garments and started to do this for them. It wasn't what they expect, and Peter, probably saying what the rest of them were feeling, makes that clear.

I have only once in my adult life had my feet washed. The bishop who ordained me washed each ordinand's feet (or rather foot - only the one, as it happened!) as part of the ordination service.. I have to say that I had made very sure that it was clean beforehand, and that I wasn't wearing socks with holes in them! It was a lovely gesture, though,  reminding those of us being ordained that service was what it was all about, that being ordained was all about finding ways to love others, rolling up our sleeves and getting our hands dirty.
Jesus Washing Peter's Feet. Ford Madox Ford

John's Gospel doesn't include anything about the breaking and sharing of bread and wine at the Last
Supper - he seems to take that as read - but he does include this story, setting it in the context of the meal they will be sharing. It's a reminder, perhaps, that when we get together, it's not meant to be about social climbing, impressing others, or about what's in it for us, but about loving and serving others. That would have been a radical concept to many of the people of his time - dinner parties were then, just as they often are now, a place where wheeling and dealing were done, where the pecking order was established and reinforced. Who gets invited in the first place? Who gets to sit at the "top table"? Who knows the rules for eating tricky foods without disgracing yourself? Eating peas off your knife is really not going to win you friends in high places...

But Jesus' idea of a proper meal is one where everyone is welcome, even the man who is about to betray him, and no one is too grand to kneel on the floor with a towel around their waist, doing the work of a servant. Peter doesn't get it at first - accepting help can be even harder than giving it - but as Jesus says, if his followers don't understand this basic principle, then they won't understand anything about what it means to be part of the new kingdom he is bringing into being.

John 13.1-29

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. I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But it is to fulfil the scripture, “The one who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.” I tell you this now, before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am he. Very truly, I tell you, whoever receives one whom I send receives me; and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.’

After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, ‘Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.’ The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. One of his disciples—the one whom Jesus loved—was reclining next to him; Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, ‘Lord, who is it?’ Jesus answered, ‘It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.’ So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, ‘Do quickly what you are going to do.’ Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, ‘Buy what we need for the festival’; or, that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.

Questions to ponder
  • Think about dinner parties and special meals you have been to. What has made them good (or not!) What have you enjoyed (or not!) about them?
  •  At this time, we all might need to be helped, as well as helping others. How do you feel about giving and receiving help?
  • Look at the picture above. What do you think Peter and the other disciples are feeling and thinking? 
  • Every meal is, according to Jesus, a time when we can remember his presence with us. How could you make a meal special today? It doesn't have to include fine food, but perhaps you could put some decorations on the table, dress up, use the best china, even if you are alone. 
I use the prayer below every year at our Harvest Communion service, but it isn't really just - or mainly - about the bread of communion. It is a prayer which could be used at any meal as we remember the earth from which the wheat grew, and the people who we should be sharing our bread with. You might like to use it at a meal today.

We break this bread for the great green earth;
We call to mind the forests, fields and flowers which we are destroying,
that one day, with the original blessing,
God’s creation will be restored.
We break this bread for those who have no bread,
the starving, the homeless and the refugees,
that one day this planet may be a home for everyone.            

Donald Reeves

Join us tonight for our podcast service of Compline
There will also be a service of Holy Communion and Tenebrae  in church at 8pm tonight.

You might like to find a candle to light, if you have one. When you get to the end of the service, blow it out, and leave it unlit until Easter Day. At church we will be sharing in the service of Tenebrae, a series of readings after each of  which one of the  twelve candles on the altar are blown out. 
If you want to read the Tenebrae readings yourself, they are here: 
1. Matthew 26:20-25 
2. Luke 22:39-44 
3. Psalm 88. 13-18
4. Matthew 26:40-45 
5. Matthew 26:47-50,55-56 
6. Isaiah 53.1-3
7. Matthew 26:59-67
8. Isaiah 53:7-8a
9. Mark 15:12-20
10. Psalm 69:1-4
11. Luke 23.32-46
12. Ps 22: 1-18

You might also like to listen to the YouTube clip below before you start the podcast, or some other music you have which you like.
Panis Angelicus, by Cesar Franck (Panis Angelicus means "Bread of Angels".)

This video tells the story of Jesus washing the disciples' feet.


Here is a video for children telling the story.

Make a special meal today. The food doesn't have to be posh, but make an event of it. You could decorate the table with flowers (real or made out of paper). You could make paper chains or bunting. You could make some invitations for the rest of the family. You could have some pretend guests there - who would you like to come to your dinner or tea party. You could cook something together - there are some suggestions for simple recipes on today's Pinterest board.

You could wash each other's feet,  and talk about how you can help each other at this time. What would be most helpful to each of you.

You could draw round your feet and make a collage of them, or make some footprint paintings. 

 There are ideas on today's  Pinterest board. 

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