The collect and readings for Maundy Thursday may be found here. The following sermon is based on John 13:1-17, 31-35.
One by one, Jesus kneels on the floor in front of each disciple. One by one, the water of his love washes over the feet of each disciple. No one is left out. Judas. Peter. The ones who say nothing. All are washed. All are loved.
Tonight’s liturgy holds before us a choice like no other liturgy in the church year. That choice is about vulnerability, intimacy, and love. It is, in some ways, more challenging, more real, more bodily, than many of us are comfortable with. Most days it is pretty easy to come to church. We sing, we pray, we receive communion, then we go to lunch with family and friends. We can too easily forget the challenge, the risk, the vulnerability, and the intimacy of eating the body and blood of another person, Jesus Christ.
Tonight is different. There will be body and blood but there will also be feet. Maybe tonight, however, is not as different as we think. The risk, vulnerability, and intimacy of eating his body and blood are the same risk, vulnerability, and intimacy of washing feet: humble, self-giving love.
Tonight Jesus offers his life in bread, wine, and washing. By his example and command we are to remove the shoes and socks of another, receive their feet, their life, into our hands, and wash. We are to remove our shoes and socks, place our feet, our life, into the hands of another, and be washed. This is the way of Christ, the way of love. It is a choice not just for tonight but every day and every night, not just in the liturgy but in the world.
Deep intimate love is, I believe, what attracts and draws some to this liturgy. I wonder, though, if it is also what keeps many others away. It is why some will wash and be washed and many will not. Tonight, however, is not simply a choice of whether to wash feet, but a choice to love or not love.
Jesus chose to love. Not some, but all. That is the choice before us. We cannot choose to love only those whom we like, whom we deem deserving, for whom we have good feelings, those who look, think, or act like us. It is all or nothing. If we do not love all, we love none. Love, for Jesus, is not about feelings and emotions but about a choice. In Jesus’ teaching if you have feet you get washed, regardless of where those feet have been or where they are going. That is the example and commandment he sets before his disciples and us.
The first person the disciples will have to choose to love or not love is Judas, the one who turns away, the one who walks in the night, the one who betrays. That, also, is our first choice. Every one of us has at least one Judas in our life. Every one of us has been Judas to someone else. Sometimes we have been Judas to ourselves.
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.
Who is your Judas? Name him or her and then choose. Choose to wash and love as Jesus has washed and loved you.