Maundy Thursday 2018 Sermon
The term mandatum (maundy), literally means “Commandment”,we read tonight that Christ gives us a new commandment to love one another and it was applied to the rite of foot–washing on this day of Holy Week called Maundy Thursday. And as with most of the gifts of God we turn the concept of loving each other into another rule that has to be followed and beat people up with it if they don’t measure up to our kind of loving. Like, if you can live up to this new law we’ll get a better seat on the bus. Not! We often forget the 10 commandments start out with a promise. “I am the Lord your God.” Now…here are commandments to live by and help you in your life with me and each other. Jesus commandment is meant to do the same. Here is something to live by and help you in your life with God and each other.
Let’s look at the history of this commandment for a moment. In Biblical times shoes were made from animal skins, and these were difficult to clean. This may explain why shoes in the Old Testament, an agricultural society (hint) came to represent all that was unclean. The emblems of filth were left outside homes and considered quite unsuitable for holy places. Feet encased in footwear required to be purified and this responsibility usually fell to the lowest house servant. Foot washing signified the status of an honored guest and put them at ease and comfort. It also kept the floors, clean. Foot washing was viewed as an honor or service and became a common Jewish custom at formal banquets and took place either on arrival or before the feast.
Foot washing, when undertaken by anyone other than the lowest servant in the household, took on significant symbolic importance. See… Jesus was not the first! Most authorities recognize this humble action as deliberate act of humility, a mark of respect or deliberate self-humiliation. Ceremonial foot washing often involved marking the toe with blood or oil to symbolize either consecration or the cleansing of the entire person. This type of ritual was considered important before entering God’s house. Bathing feet in oil was also taken as a prospect of wealth. When Mary Magdalene washed the feet of Jesus with her tears and dried them with her hair, she also anointed them with expensive ointment. Christ forgave her sins then proceeded to remind his host that he had not been extended the same courtesy. Jesus then used the symbolism by washing the feet of his disciple’s feet at the Last Supper.
Despite their protest he reminded his disciples the significance of foot washing, which is celebrated to this day. ‘I have done this to give you an example of something that you should do.’ This action prepared his disciples (and their converts) to walk in the path of righteousness. Christians adopted the Hebrew foot washing ceremony and in some religious faiths this is still considered as one of the three ordinances (sacrament) i.e. baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and foot washing.
I am not sure that is what Jesus intended. Then I am not sure a lot of what the Church does Jesus intended.
Whatever the intention…Jesus was to show this act as act of humility and love that we are to follow and do. The point is that Jesus isn’t asking us to do great acts of love. Just the simple and mundane acts of everyday life in love and humility.
“Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much.
Martin Luther used to clean the Privy. The Outhouse. His fellow monks were glad to let him have that honor.
Mahatma Gandhi made his own clothes.
Booker T. Washington, the renowned black educator, was an outstanding example of this truth. Shortly after he took over the presidency of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, he was walking in an exclusive section of town when he was stopped by a wealthy white woman. Not knowing the famous Mr. Washington by sight, she asked if he would like to earn a few dollars by chopping wood for her. Because he had no pressing business at the moment, Professor Washington smiled, rolled up his sleeves, and proceeded to do the humble chore she had requested. When he was finished, he carried the logs into the house and stacked them by the fireplace.
The Apostle Paul understood this type of humility too when he said:
I am the least of the apostles. 1 Corinthians 15:9
I am the very least of all the saints. Ephesians 3:8
I am the foremost of sinners. 1 Timothy 1:15
Question: Where does that kind of humility come from? Is it within me to work out my salvation through good works? Not according to what we believe. That we are made right with God by grace through faith and not works of the law.
When I worked at the mission in Columbus People used to ask me how I could work with the drug addicts and alcoholics with all the AIDS victims and other diseases.
Because everyone who came in the door and some were carried in…was Jesus. I believe it literally was my Lord… it wasn’t the 2.00 per hour I was being paid. Here is something to live by and help you in your life with God and each other.
Jesus isn’t just setting the example. He is giving us the strength to do it.
Because this night isn’t just about foot washing. It is the celebration of the institution of the Holy Eucharist or Holy Communion. The Last Supper is a meal that calls us together as the Body of Christ to support and sustain each other. Again, in this simple act of bread and wine in a meal Jesus gives us his body and blood which gives us the strength and forgiveness to face the days ahead and also a message to share. Here is something to live by and help you in your life with me and each other. We have a God who loves us and will never abandon us who does sustain us in the weariest of times. Even when it seems as we are all alone God is there. We have the privilege to tell each other and others the story of our Lord Jesus who knows our sins and knows our weakness and took it on himself. He did this to restore our relationship with God and each other, because we could not and cannot our own. Jesus said, Here is something to live by and help you in your life with God and each other… it’s me! Amen.