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Maundy Thursday

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Good evening.  I am a fortunate one indeed.  

I get to preach about feet.  Journey worn feet; filthy, tired feet that need to be washed before dinner.  Where do I begin, with a basin of water, towels to dry, perfume to scent, or wishing aloud that ancient times had spas where people could be sent?

Just another manic Maundy!

Tonight, on Maundy Thursday, our mandate is more than the superficiality of the act, our mandate is to love.  Less a mandate, I suppose, more a gift of grace given, to those of us who yearn to follow Christ more deeply.

As we consider this Gospel scene, let me instead begin by talking about love, /beautiful words of love from the poet Kahlil Gibran, /words as pleasing as a scent of incense rising. 

Speak to us of Love.

And he raised his head and looked upon

the people, and there fell a stillness upon


And with a great voice he said:

     When love beckons to you… follow him,

     Though his ways are hard and steep.

And when his wings enfold you… yield to


And when he speaks to you… believe in


Tonight, love beckons…

We are asked to do as he has done.  To wash the feet of the world. There are no feet excluded from love.  Even Judas’ feet were washed.

As part of our hospital end of life training for nurses, my supervisor and I offer a presentation on cultural humility and spiritual sensitivity.  We show a video entitled “If the World was a Village of 100 People.”  Through it we understand the needs of the world on a micro level. Our society has become mutually inter-twined and inter-dependent.  We are global citizens.

If the world was a village of 100 people: 

  • 61 would be Asians, 12 Europeans, 8 North Americans, 5 South Americans and Caribbeans, 13 Africans, and 1 from Oceania.
  • Out of 50 men and woman, 1 would be nonbinary
  • 47 would live in an urban area
  • 9 would be disabled
  • 33 would be Christian
  • 18 Muslim
  • 14 Hindu
  • 6 Buddhist
  • 13 Other
  • 16 non-religious
  • 43 would live without basic sanitation
  • 18 without improved water source
  • 6 people would own 59% of the wealth
  • 14 can’t read
  • 7 are educated at the secondary level
  • 12 have a computer
  • 3 have Internet
  • 1 adult between 15-49 is positive with HIV or has AIDS
  • The Village spends more than 1.2 trillion on military expenditures
  • Only 1 billion on developmental aid
  • If you have food in a refrigerator, keep clothes in a closet, have a bed to sleep in and a roof over your head, you are richer than 75% of the population.
  • If you have a bank account, you are one of the 30 wealthiest people.
  • 18 struggle to live on $1 per day, 53 struggle to live on $2 per day

Think of all the feet that walk the paths of our global community, who pass through our lives in a day, a month, a year, a lifetime.  Many of whom we don’t know, don’t notice, or have no idea how they are living.

So many feet, young and old, tired, lost, angry, hurt, broken, /have we noticed, /have we washed them /have we received them like Christ?

What have we done to care for those feet?  What will we do for them?  Ignore them, step on them, be repulsed by them?  

Whose feet might we be asked to wash?  Feet that have walked through the muck of life.  Feet of different hues, feet that walk a privileged path like mine fresh with my Maundy Thursday Pedicure?  

Truth is we all need to be willing to wash and to be washed, /the action, and the metaphor for serving like Christ served, /for loving like Christ loved.

In this evening’s Gospel, Jesus teaches us that every relationship must be a whole-hearted love relationship, / offering abundant love to all, /especially to the most vulnerable. He gifts us with the Eucharist to nourish this community mission to love.

Nourished by the sacrament, powered by the mystery of the metaphor of washing the feet of others, we move from being spectators or re-enactors of Jesus’ life, to being engaged in Jesus’ ministry, servants ministering to God’s beloved people.

Sometimes “washing the feet of others” is more daunting than we realize.  Yet, when we separate ourselves from washing the feet of others, either knowingly or unknowingly, we reject the heritage bequeathed to us this night, Jesus’ mandate, forgive me, gift to love one another.

Too often though we are blinded, we fail to see who journeys with us.

There is a French Fable:

One night a cobbler dreamed that Jesus was coming to visit him.  The dream seemed so real that he got up very early the next morning and hurried to the woods where he gathered greens to decorate his shop for the arrival of such a great guest.  

He waited all morning, but to his disappointment, his shop remained quiet, except for an old man who limped up to the door asking to come in for some warmth.  While the man was resting the cobbler noticed the old fellow’s shoes were worn.  Touched he took a new pair down from the shelves and saw to it that the stranger was wearing them as he went on his way.  

Throughout the afternoon the cobbler waited, but his only visitor was an elderly woman.  He had seen her struggling under a heavy load of firewood, and he invited her into his shop.  He saw to it that she had a nourishing meal before she went on her way.  

As night began to fall, the cobbler heard a child crying outside his door.  The child was lost and afraid.  The cobbler went out, soothed the youngster’s tears and with the little hand in his, took the child home.  

These three guests, not unlike the worn shoes we see as our Saturday Kitchen guests wait on our food line, on the faces of those in war torn places like Ukraine where they struggle under the heaviness of war, in the tears of our children as they feel unsafe in school, or struggle to make America a new home with their families.

When he returned the cobbler was sad.  He was convinced that he had been away and missed the visit of his Lord.

In his anguish, the cobbler cried out – “Why is it Lord that Your feet delay?  Have you forgotten that this was YOUR day?  Then, soft in the silence he heard a gentle voice, “Lift up your heart for I kept my word.  

Three times I came to your welcoming door; three times my shadow was on your floor.

I was the man with the bruised feet. 

I was the woman you fed.

I was the child on the street.”

Ah yes, “Speak to us of Love.

     And he raised his head and looked upon

the people, and there fell a stillness upon


And with a great voice he said:

     When love beckons to you… follow him,

     (Though his ways are hard and steep.)


And when his wings enfold you… yield to


And when he speaks to you… believe in


Tonight, as we end this service, as the altar is stripped, and the lights are dimmed, we go deeper into the dark place of emptiness.

In the stillness, love beckons us to be light.

 “By this everyone will know that we are disciples, if we have love for one another.”

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