Maundy Thursday – John 13:1-17, 31-35
The last couple of days I’ve been thinking of previous Maundy Thursdays and previous foot washings. There are no feet to wash tonight but I think there’s something to be learned from that.
One of the things that struck me as I thought about this night and this liturgy is that Maundy Thursday just might be the original liturgy of social distancing. Even when we are able to gather in person many do not come to this liturgy and of those who do come, only a few will take off their shoes and socks and place their feet in another’s hands. And only a few are willing to take another’s feet into their hands. When it comes to feet we tend to keep our distance.
And that’s not a criticism or judgment of anyone. I don’t think our hesitancy and distancing around Maundy Thursday have anything to do with feet. I think it’s about intimacy and vulnerability. It’s about opening ourselves to receive the life of another. Its about entrusting and giving our life to another. That’s what this night is really about.
Maundy Thursday has never been about feet. Jesus is setting us an example. Washing feet is only a pointer to something else. It’s not the point of this evening. Love is the point, the only point of this evening.
“If I, your Lord and teacher,” Jesus says, “have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.” Substitute the word love where Jesus speaks about washing feet and you have this: “If I, your Lord and teacher have [loved you], you also should [love one another].” Sound familiar? I’ll bet it does. You know those words. You’ve read and heard them before. They are Jesus’ own words:
“Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”
That’s the new commandment – or in Latin the new mandatum – “that you love one another.” It’s what makes Maundy Thursday maundy. So what does this love look like?
- Have you seen the masked faces of doctors and nurses who continue to show up knowing they are putting themselves and their families at risk? Those are faces of love.
- Do you hear a different tone, a deeper sincerity, when someone now asks, “Are you ok? Do you need anything?” That’s a voice of love.
- I continue to see social media posts about people who are sewing masks at home, delivering groceries to neighbors, organizing food distributions for their community, or making funny videos about life today. Every one of those is an act of love.
- Are you noticing and saying thank you more often to the essential and often anonymous workers who keep things going – restaurant cooks and cashiers, police officers, store clerks, utility workers, postal workers, city employees? The eyes of love don’t miss a thing.
- Do you still smile at others even when your face is covered by a mask? “Love never ends.” Even if it’s not seen or recognized it makes a difference.
- I’ve had strangers on the other side of the street stop, turn to me, wave, and yell, “Hi. How are you?” And in that moment I felt loved.
- Have you listened to the news, read the latest statistics, or heard someone’s story about what’s happened, and you just broke down and wept? Love can break your heart.
- And what about those kids, those young women and men, working at the HEB? Their patience and kindness, St. Paul reminds us, is love.
- I can’t count the number of times someone has texted, e-mailed, or said to me, “All shall be well.” I receive every one of those as their testimony that “love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
- Does it feel to you like creation is more beautiful, life is more wonderful, and people are more precious than ever before? It sure does to me. Love changes everything.
Last week for the first time ever Cyndy and I had a Zoom meeting with my parents, sister, two nieces, a nephew-in-law, our son Randy and his wife Rachel. It was so much fun. We laughed. We remembered. We loved. We all said how great it was to be together. And as Randy said at the end, “It only took a pandemic to make it happen.” How sad and how wonderful is that?
Something is happening in the world today. Our lives and our world have changed, and are continuing to change. Yes, it’s COVID-19 but it’s more than that. In the midst of this sadness, illness, and loss, it is Maundy Thursday. There is a new and growing openness and vulnerability toward one another. There is a deepening desire and longing for intimacy with others, ourselves, and God.
All throughout the world, this country, this city, your life and mine, feet are being washed in a thousand different ways. And it only took a pandemic to remind us of what really matters. Let’s never forget again. Let’s never walk away from this night again. Let’s never, ever, stop loving.