On the table, under the table...

Image source

Homily for Holy Thursday
(Scriptures for tonight's liturgy)

Audio for homily


How fitting that we begin the celebration of the Triduum,
our celebration of Christ our Passover,
by remembering Jesus gathered with his friends for that meal
in which he gave himself to us in the bread and cup of the Eucharist.

And yet, how odd that the gospel for this night, from John,
should tell  the story of the Lord’s Supper
with nary a mention of "bread and cup,"
not a word devoted to “body and blood,”
not so much as a hint of "food for everlasting life."

John devotes a whole chapter of his gospel
to Christ’s flesh as real food, his blood as real drink:
but in telling of the last supper,
he mentions not a word about the Eucharist.
While Matthew, Mark, Luke and Paul
all write of food blessed, broken, poured out and shared,
John alone, writes about – FEET!

In writing of the Last Supper
John is not much concerned at all about what’s ON the table,
but rather, focuses totally on what’s UNDER the table: feet!
Tired feet, dirty feet,
road-worn, calloused, dusty, muddy, smelly feet:
feet needing to be washed…

Down through the centuries,
Christians have debated about the Eucharist:
what it is, and what it isn’t;
how it happens, and who can make it happen;
what it is, and WHO it is; is it real, or just a sign,
who may receive it, and who may not receive.
About such concerns positions are argued, books are written,
and, sadly – Christendom is divided.

But not so with feet! Not so with feet…
No arguments, disagreements or theological distinctions about feet!
No denominations splintered off by a question like:
“Were the feet at the last supper real - or merely symbolic?”

It’s certainly clear in John’s gospel that for Jesus
- dirty feet were very real.
In both images, of course
(in bread and cup, and in the washing of feet)
Jesus gives himself to us as our servant
and calls us to serve one another.
In the bread and cup of the Eucharist he shows us
that his body will be broken and his blood shed for us,
so that we might have life, and have it to the full.

In handing over his whole self for us,
he calls us to hand over our selves:
our lives, our desires, our time, our possessions,
our “things,” our money, our contentment,
our ambition, our power, our prestige, our status –
he calls us to offer what we have
that it might be broken, poured out, and shared,
in service of our neighbor.

We can’t wash our neighbors’ feet
until we stop what we’re doing and pay attention to others’ needs.
We can’t wash our neighbors’ feet
until we free our hands of all the things we cling to for ourselves.
We cannot wash our neighbors’ feet
until we learn to do precisely those things
we’d much rather avoid -
things like washing others’ feet.
Washing feet is not nearly as sophisticated
as breaking bread and sharing a goblet of wine,
but it certainly makes the point
- and with no room for argument or ambiguity.

And even though John doesn’t write about it,
we can be sure that bread was broken and a cup blessed
after Jesus washed his friends’ feet.
It is not as though we can pick one image of service or the other
(it’s not bread and cup –or- washing feet):
it must be both, we need both.
We need the reality, the feel of feet in our hands, over a basin,
to remind us that we are servants of one another.
And we need the nourishment of the Lord’s Supper
to feed us, strengthen us, to lift our spirits,
to remind us that mutual service in Jesus’ name
brings us into the holiest of all holy communions.

In a few moments, we will prepare the Lord’s Table
for the supper he gave us on this night before he died.
We will offer, bless and pour the cup;
we will feast on the simple meal and promise Jesus gives
in the most holy sacrament of the altar.

But before all of that, we shall take a few moments
to “look under the table”  -  for feet to be washed.
I can pretty much assure you
that no one’s feet here tonight really need to be washed.

But I can guarantee you that we, you and I,
need to wash each other’s feet - whether they need it or not –
because we need the practice.

Everyone, watch what we do here tonight:
watch what we do with water, basin, towel and feet…
and watch what we do with bread and wine,
with the meal of this table.

Watch for the connection between what happens
UNDER the table and what happens ON the table
and in the connection,
see the life that we are called to live BEYOND this altar.

(We invite all to come forward tonight
to have their feet washed, and to wash feet.
If you wish to participate in the foot washing,
please remove your shoes and socks (both feet)
before leaving your pew.
Once your have had your feet washed,
you will wash the feet of the next person in line.)

As the Last supper Jesus took off his outer garment
and washed his friends’ feet and he said:
“If I, your master and teacher, have washed your feet,
you ought to wash one another’s feet.
I have given you a model to follow,
so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”


Subscribe to A Concord Pastor Comments

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please THINK before you write
and PRAY before you think!