Maundy Thursday Homily By The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Bainbridge, GA
Exodus 12:1-4, (5-10), 11-14; Psalm 116:1, 10-17; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13:1-17, 31b-35
Why is this night so different? On this night Jesus gives us the new commandment – the mandate [in Latin mandatum which gives Maundy Thursday its name]. Jesus shows us what it looks like to live the new commandment to love one another. It looks different. Tonight our worship is different to reflect the differences on this night in Jesus' life.
Our scriptures tonight teach us that God calls us to live and work in community. God creates us in God's image, which is Holy Community. Jesus teaches us to live and work as the Body of Christ – to BE a holy community.
Part of our community work is prayer. As we read in Phoebe Griswold's meditation in Episcopal Relief & Development's 2015 Lenten Meditations:1 “In our prayers we lament, cry, rejoice, plead, rant & rave before coming to a still & quiet mind in God's presence.” She goes on to say, “ We must listen to God's desires for the next steps toward the kingdom. Prayer [is more than a quick nod to God; it's] an intentional turning to the deepest promises of peace and wholeness we can imagine...
"What sustains our prayer & keeps us from losing heart & keeping our faith? Courage to keep praying comes from our capacity to pray with others around the world, not so much praying for but praying with. How does God want us to harness the power of global prayer with each other as we build relationships through prayer & around the world?” And right here?
As Jesus’ disciples, we build relationships right here, where we are Jesus’ Body, Jesus’ hands & feet. Jesus gives us work to do: to love & serve as Jesus does. I am thankful how you love & work together in community so that our love overflows more & more so that we show: God loves you. No exceptions. All are welcome. You/we follow Jesus' new commandment.
This new commandment looks different. It looks like humble service: difficult, menial. In this humble service Jesus demonstrates what we read in Acts 20:35 that quotes Jesus saying “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Jesus gives humble service. The disciples receive humble service to learn humility & see God's grace in action. NOTICE: Jesus says, It is more blessed to give than to receive. He does not say it is not blessed to receive. It is more blessed to give. It is also blessed to receive.
It can be difficult to receive humble service. It is difficult for Peter. Like Peter, we may love Jesus & be confident we will always be loyal when suddenly, Jesus challenges our perspective.
What!? You wash my feet?! Heaven forbid!
It may be difficult for us to receive the gift of grace through foot washing. I find it very difficult. I always have. Remember: It IS blessed to receive. Through this gift we give & receive grace.
Jesus stoops in humble service for us to learn how to serve & how to love all of God's people, including those of us whose lives stink, whose feet stink. My feet stink.
Tonight we stoop to wash feet to remember what Jesus does the night before he washes away our sins with his blood that he sheds on the hard wood of the cross.
Tonight we do more than wash feet. After Communion we strip the altar & enter the time of remembering the stripping away of Jesus from his friends, from his mother/his mama, the stripping away of all that Jesus has: his clothes, his life.
Jesus takes time this night to wash his disciples feet, to share a special meal in a new way, to give us a new commandment, to give us the peace the world cannot give. Jesus does all this in community. He is not alone. Pray that we have the grace to do likewise.
Bacon, Ed. 8 Habits of Love: Open Your Heart, Open Your Mind. Boston: Grand Central Life & Style. Hatchette Book Group. 2012.
The Book of Common Prayer. New York: The Church Hymnal Corp. and The Seabury Press. 1986.
2015 Lenten Meditations. New York: Episcopal Relief & Development. 2014.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers. 1988.
Holy Bible. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
Lectionary Page. http://www.lectionarypage.net/. Accessed: 16 Feb. 2015.
Long, Thomas G. What Shall We Say? Evil, Suppering, and the Crisis of Faith. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 2011.
Michno, Dennis G. A Priest’s Handbook: The Ceremonies of the Church. 3rd Edition. Harrisburg: Morehouse Publishing. 1998.
Mitchell, Leonel L. Lent Holy Week and the Great Fifty Days: A Ceremonial Guide. Lanham, MD: A Cowley Publications Book. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. 2007.
New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha. Eds.: Herbert G. May, Bruce M. Metzger. New York: Oxford University Press, Incorporated, 1977.
1 Griswold. Phoebe. 2015 Lenten Meditations. P. 55. Note: Wife of former Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, Ms.Griswold is a member of the Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross committed to intercessory prayer, thanksgiving, & simplicity of life as the ERD booklet notes P. 5.