John 13:1-17, 31b-35
A sermon offered by The Reverend Ann Edwards
Maundy Thursday, 2021
During Jesus’s last supper, he stands to wash the feet of his friends.
The washing happens at an unexpected time – not before the meal, as was customary, but during it.
The Disciples were invited to the table as they were. They didn’t come spruced and completely clean. They arrived with tired and dusty feet from their journey. Invited to their Lord’s table, first, they were fed, and then the feet that carried them in their work were tended to by the one that led them.
We don’t approach the Lord’s table without blemish, there’s no requirement to be scrupulously clean. Instead, we are invited to meet our Lord, and leave nourished and restored. How often do we think we need to do something, to be something more, to be good enough for a place at the table?
The host, Jesus, takes on the role of a servant, but remains Lord, Teacher. He assures his friends that these titles they use for him are good, proper, and true. And this Lord and Teacher continues on to deliver the care most frequently offered by servants, to fulfil a task that often belonged to women.
Jesus is not diminished in the action. In taking on the servant’s role, Jesus does not become enslaved, but rather shows the depth of his devotion and affection. A love so complete that every need is seen and met. A love so complete that practices that wield power and diminish the other are upended. Christ’s authority is so encompassing that in taking on the role of service, the power of the servant’s care is displayed. As the woman anointed the feet of Christ with tears and precious oil, Christ tends to the feet of those he loves in humility, and calls us all to do the same.
Jesus shows how far God’s love goes – teaching, feeding, and even tending to weary feet. Nothing is out of bounds for Jesus’ love. And Jesus demands that this love is accepted in its fullness. There is no share in Christ for those that do not accept that they also need the love, tenderness and care that are the foundations of godly authority and leadership.
Leadership doesn’t need power. Leadership rejects the need for the prime place. Leadership doesn’t look to win. Leadership doesn’t elevate itself above the concerns of the everyday. Leadership is to guide, teach, nurture, empower, and restore the other. Leadership is to speak and face truth. To see the bruises and wear in lives, the frayed, the need for repair, and to respond to that need in love for one another. To accept the same care for ourselves, knowing that no one is above the need for love and community, not even Christ.
In God’s kingdom, Christ offers the care we long for but for which we dare not ask.
The care that is in our world is disregarded as too tiresome, too burdensome, too belittling to be freely offered.
That is what Christ offers.
That is what we are called to give.