“This Is What It Looks Like”

[Our guest preacher was Natalie Marionneaux, our seminarian from Drew University, who is currently discerning ordination to the diaconate in the United Methodist Church.  Natalie is from Baton Rouge, LA] April 13, 2017 – Maundy Thursday: Did you know that the foot washing is only found in the Gospel of John? And that today, that which we call Maundy Thursday – Maundy comes from the Latin word mandatum, which means mandate or commandment.

What is the mandate or commandment of this Gospel story?

It is pretty plainly stated.

Love one another; do it like this; this is what it looks like!

But I digress for a moment…

Do you remember how John’s gospel begins?

(this is actually, one of my favorite scriptures)

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all humankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness shall not overcome it.

Who is the Word, the light that has been with God since the beginning? IT IS JESUS. Jesus is the Word made flesh, made human, likeyou&me.

Now in the gospel today, we have moved to the end or the beginning of the end of Jesus’ life on earth. Jesus is giving his disciples his farewell. He knew his time was coming to a close and this is the last time/meal he is spending with his disciples who are not only his community but really have come to be his family also, right?

If you knew you were going to die, not be with your friends, family and community again? If this was your last meal, your last chance to say something, do something – what would it be?

It would probably not be washing people’s feet.

But this is Jesus we are talking about and in typical Jesus-style of doing things – Jesus turns the table, turns things around and upside down. He upends what we think would/could happen – perhaps a nice parting speech to say thanks and good-bye.

Nope. That’s not the Jesus’ way, is it?

This night is transformational. Why? Because Jesus changes the order of the world: Leaders become servants. Slaves and masters are equal. Those without a share now have a full share. A light shines in the darkness.

So in John’s gospel, it is the night before Jewish Passover. Remember what Passover is for the Jewish people then and still now – it is the commemoration of their liberation, their freedom, their exodus from bondage and slavery in Egypt.

Consider that Jesus is our Passover meal.

Our freedom, our liberation from sin and death.

That we, then and now, are no longer slaves to empire, to that which is not of God. That we are free and we are worthy.

Until this night, this last meal Jesus has with his beloved disciples –  Jesus is whole and consecrated to God.

But going forward in the story,

we know that Jesus is to be broken upon the altar of our sins.

Yet, Jesus has a message for us. It’s not a what, or who or even why. He shows us HOW!!! What loves looks like in action.

So what message does he want to leave with them/ with us;

how does he want to be remembered; what will be his last words/his last act to these people/ this community who have journeyed with him?

Love one another; do it like this; this is what it looks like.

Jesus offers us a different nourishment in this Gospel

  • breaks himself, lowers himself
  • taking a water bowl and towel
  • to perform a lowly act of comfort (but I don’t think of it as lowly – it is an intimate act, one of vulnerability on both sides. It is lowly in the sense of how humble it is!)

He is giving life to the words he has spoken – Do this in remembrance of me. Just as God became human, took on human form in Jesus the Christ, to show God’s love, so Jesus lowers himself even more to kneel at our feet to embrace us still…

What does Jesus do: he washes his apostles feet. How odd, right?

Jesus putting his hands of their feet? Makes me uncomfortable. Mother Diana putting her hands on my feet? Makes me uncomfortable.

Do we want to allow Jesus to touch our feet b/c in touching our feet we allow/ we give consent to him to touch us – physically and spiritually – to touch our will/desire – where fear and doubt live. This is a scary and vulnerable space. It is our choice. Do you consent? To be touched, cleansed and renewed by our Christ, our Savior, who came to serve and show us the way?

Our feet are how we put our decisions in motion in the world – to go places and do things we have decided, right? We decide, we step forward or back or sideways or not at all, right?

To allow Jesus to touch our feet, to be vulnerable, to embrace us where we are uncomfortable – do you know what it does for us?

To have our feet washed, cleanses us –

It removes that which prevents us from using our feet to follow him.

I ask you to allow what this humble gesture can do for you…

Allow it to wash away our insecurities

Allow it to wash away our weariness

Allow it to buff out our bitterness.

And then our feet (and our spirit) are refreshed to do what feet (and spirits) in scripture were meant to do – to follow God!

When we don’t allow Jesus to serve us, cleanse our feet, to refresh our souls, our story stops right here, right now. We have chosen darkness over light out of fear of being vulnerable.

“It is emptying ourselves in love and modesty to be filled with the spirit of God in service to our neighbor.”

“It is emptying ourselves in love and modesty to be filled with the spirit of God in service to our neighbor.”

This resonates for both the giver and the receiver – this simple and humble act of comfort for another.

Consider the Son of God taking off his outer robe, tying a towel around himself and now kneels before you, requesting the honor to wash your feet in the hopes that, this year, in this moment, right now he will not have to walk the hard, uphill road that lies before him all by himself.

Remember me; love one another; do it like this; this is what it looks like. Amen.

For the audio, click here:

Citations: Clean Feet: A Maundy Thursday Meditation on John, 4/17/11 by Alyce M. McKenzie, Perkins, SMU and Our mandate for this day: Love one another, Maundy Thursday, 4/17/2014 by Rev. Machrina Blasdell, Park University