In many ways our world has never been more divided.
Frustration, fear, and anger are casting shadows all over the world
Governments are dropping chemical bombs on their own children
Tribes are refusing humanitarian aid for their starving people in order to maintain power and control
Even in our own country, families are being divided and communities are falling apart all because of differences of opinion
Watching or reading the news has almost become an unbearable task as we are bombarded with headlines and stories of division, anger, and hate.
It’s easy to feel powerless, isn’t it?
Things weren’t so different in the ancient world.
At the time of Jesus, the Roman Empire was exercising ruthless domination
leaving the people of Israel desperate for hope and salvation
Like many of us today, the people felt hopeless in the face of so much suffering and pain.
They too were looking for a new path forward
In the Gospel reading tonight, Jesus startles his disciples when in the middle of supper, he gets up, removes his outer clothing, and begins to wash their feet.
None of them quite know what to do as this action is such a countercultural move
They’re not even sure what it means
It’s a reversal of everything they’ve ever known
Leaders do not serve like this, they are served!
But Jesus is demonstrating for them a different form of leadership
It’s a symbolic gesture, but a powerful one.
By washing their feet, Jesus isn’t just showing hospitality
He’s demonstrating for them an entirely new way to live.
Jesus is showing them that in God’s Kingdom humble service is the ultimate power.
It is love that dismantles oppressive forces and unites people.
It is love that liberates.
We spend so much of our time and energy searching for these miracle solutions to the world’s problems
We exhaust ourselves, debating and arguing in an attempt to find that silver bullet
when the Bible shows us that the solution is right in front of us-
it’s the power of love
In the interest of pragmatism, we are quick to dismiss the power of love as whimsical folly when Jesus is telling us just the opposite.
that yes, love is the ultimate power.
It is love that will ultimately have the final say.
But loving isn’t always easy is it?
Just like the disciples in that day, we build all these barriers between one another
The color of our skin
how much money we make
how much education we’ve had
our political affiliations
even our religious affiliations
Pretty soon, we’ve created for ourselves so many barriers that can we no longer
see each other
or hear each other
let alone love each other.
But Jesus is showing us that
True love requires mutuality
True love requires vulnerability.
True love requires humility
And only when we open ourselves to these elements can the power of love truly be harnessed.
Jesus shows us all of this when he gets on his knees and washes the feet of his disciples.
Loving is not always easy, that’s for sure.
It often requires us to move past ourselves and our own needs in the service to the other.
It sometimes asks us to place ourselves in uncomfortable situations
It sometimes asks us to love someone we don’t want to love.
When Jesus commands us to love our enemies, he knows its a difficult task indeed.
But we must remember that sitting at the table of the disciples was also Judas.
And Jesus knew good and well that Judas was going to betray him.
And it pained him deeply.
But in spite of this,
Jesus washed his feet, too.
Perhaps that is what is asked of us as well.
Maybe- just maybe- in the washing of feet Jesus is modeling for us true Christian community
commanding us to serve one another in love
to cast aside any notions of superiority
to humbly care for one another’s needs.
To break down those barriers that are keeping us from loving one another fully.
Jesus is setting up a pattern of service, of humility, of bearing one another’s burdens.
He says, “If I, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you too must wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example: just as I have done, you also must do”
This is radical love.
Putting yourself out there when maybe you really don’t want to.
Offering yourself in service when maybe you feel like it is you who should be served.
This is servant leadership.
Knowing that the hour was near that he would no longer be with them, Jesus offers a final commandment or in Latin a “mandatum” which is where we get the name, Maundy Thursday
It is one that is to be the shaping motive for all of Christian community:
He says, “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.”
And when we do this, we are living in to the promise of ushering in the the kingdom of heaven.
So equipped with the power of love
and motivated by the promise
we can be Christ to one another
we can make true progress in healing some of the wounds which plague us.
We can begin to dismantle some of these barriers.
No longer will the color of our skin keep us apart
No longer will how much money we make divide us
How much education we have and don’t have will no longer be a factor in our relationships
our political affiliations
our religious affiliations
none of these will continue to divide us
none of these will stand a chance against the power of love
But we can’t do this on our own.
Quite frankly, left to our own devices, none of this really is possible.
Left to our own devices, we stay mired in our own selfishness,
paralyzed by our fears
To be liberated from these forces it will take an event bigger and stronger and more powerful
than anything we could ever imagine.
Friends, that is why we are here tonight
That is why we are walking together through the holiest of weeks
We know this big event is just around the corner
It is the event that will offer us the power of new life.
But for tonight, as a community and as the church we stand together in hopeful anticipation
locking arms in support
holding one another in love
knowing that we must get through the pain and sadness of Good Friday
to get to the glorious liberation and freedom of Sunday.
It’s just around the corner.
and for that we say,