I’ve now been here at St. Philip’s long enough that you probably know one of the things I emphasize in my teaching, preaching, and our life together is the movement from thinking to experience, the practice of living out of our hearts rather than our heads. My focus on this is as much for me as it is for you. I teach that because I struggle to live that, and I suspect you do to. Most of us do.
Tonight (Maundy Thursday, John 13:1-17, 31-35) is one of the most dramatic nights of the Church’s year; the last supper, the foot washing, the stripping of the altar. Nothing about tonight or the rest of this Holy Week makes sense. So don’t look for explanations or answers. I will not offer you any. The only thing I have to offer this night is an invitation.
Don’t rationalize away this night; its intimacy, its vulnerability, its grief, its darkness. Most of us do that all the time and it gets us nowhere. That’s what Peter is trying to do. “You will never wash my feet,” he tells Jesus. He doesn’t understand how or why Jesus could or would wash his feet. That makes no sense. That not how it’s supposed to be. Ah, but it is. It has to be this way. Otherwise, we “have no share” with Jesus. “You do not know what I am doing,” Jesus tells Peter, “but later you will understand.” To give ourselves to this night is to give ourselves to Jesus.
If we try to think our way through this night we will miss taking our share with Jesus. I don’t want that to happen. I don’t want to do that. I don’t want you to do that. Tonight let’s take our share with Jesus. Isn’t that why we came here tonight? To take our share?
That means we show up to this last supper. We bring with us all the last suppers at which we have eaten; the endings, the losses, and the tears. We all have them. We carry them deep within our hearts. Who are your guests at those tables? Picture their faces. Recall their names. What are the conversations? Hear their voices. Listen to their words. What are you feeling? Don’t turn away. Let the emotions touch your heart and run through your gut. Tonight we eat and drink in remembrance. We let ourselves be fed with a food that will remain even after the table has been cleared.
Taking our share means that we come to the basin. We bare our feet to one another and to the water of Jesus’ love. Strange and familiar feet, young and old feet, healthy and hurting feet, pretty and attractive feet, ugly and deformed feet, feet that have kicked and hurt another, and feet that have been stepped on and hurt by another. Jesus received and washed them all. Will you risk being that vulnerable and intimate? What does that bring up for you? Fear, embarrassment, shame? Hope, forgiveness, healing? Tonight we love one another just as he has loved us. We let ourselves be washed in a love that will remain even after the water has dried.
Finally, taking our share means that we be present to the darkness and the stripping of the altar. We acknowledge and recount the times and ways in which the altar of our life was stripped bare. The light fades and shadows invade: fear, grief, absence, isolation, despair. The darkness testifies to just how real life is. Tonight we cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” We let this stripping hollow out a place in us large enough to hold “the Holy One, enthroned upon the praises of Israel.” (Ps. 22:1, 3)
That’s it. That’s my invitation to you this night. No explanations and no commentary. This is all I have, for you and for me. But I trust and believe it is enough. The mystery of this night is enough. So, what do you say? Will you show up? Come? Be present?
Will you, this night, take your share with Jesus?
Holy Week Sermons