Friday, April 14, 2017

Where is Our Focus Tonight?

Maundy Thursday Homily By The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. Francis Episcopal Church, Goldsboro, NC, 14 April 2017
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 do we wash our feet tonight before we share Bread & Wine & then
strip the Altar & have no dismissal?

We have no dismissal tonight because we start our Liturgy, which we continue tomorrow & conclude at our Easter Vigil – the great celebration of Jesus’ Resurrection.
After we share our Holy Meal, something with which we are familiar, we will take the reserved Sacrament from here to the Altar of Repose in the Parish Hall for our Communion here tomorrow & strip the Altar to remind us of the stripping away of Jesus from his friends, from his mother/his mama, the stripping away of all Jesus has: his clothes, his life.

Notice: Before his arrest & guards strip away his clothes, Jesus himself removes his outer garment, ties a towel around himself & stoops in humble service, washing the disciples' feet.
Jesus gives us the new commandment, which we read in Corinthians, giving new meaning to sharing bread & wine. This new mandate, in Latin mandatum, gives Maundy Thursday its name.
Jesus shows us what it looks like
to love one another.
It looks different.
Tonight our worship reflects the differences on this night in Jesus' life which our scriptures describe. Our scriptures point us to God's calling us to live & work in community. God creates us in God's image of Holy Community. Jesus teaches us how to live & work as the Body of Christ – to BE a holy community.

Tonight we hear Jesus command us to love each other as Jesus loves us. This love is strong enough to bend down & wash the feet of others. Jesus takes on a menial task to show us clearly how strong God’s Love is for us. Jesus takes on a menial task to show us how to serve each other, to give us courage to serve the least among us, courage to let ourselves be served.
As Jesus’ disciples, we are Jesus' Body, his hands & feet. Jesus gives us work to do: to love & serve as Jesus does, to build relationships right here. I am thankful how you love & work together in community, following 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:
Jesus says “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. We see how difficult this is for Peter.
Like Peter, we may love Jesus & be confident we will always be loyal when suddenly, Jesus challenges our perspective. . . . What a blessing it is to have Peter to remind us, we don't always get it right, yet Jesus loves us through our protests & confusion.
It may be difficult for us to receive the gift of grace through foot washing. I find it 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.

Tonight we stoop to wash feet to remember what Jesus does the night before he washes away our sins with his blood.
Jesus takes time this night to wash his disciples feet, to share familiar food 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.
May we have the grace to stoop & bend,
to wash & be washed.

Bacon, Ed. 8 Habits of Love: Open Your Heart, Open Your Mind. Boston: Grand Central Life & Style. Hatchette Book Group. 2012.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers. 1988.
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.
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.

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