Niles Discovery Church Daily – Maundy Thursday, April 9, 2020

Today’s Prayer

Though we are scattered in homes, apartments, and households,
still we can gather in your heart, O God.
We can gather as your scattered household, your deployed church.
And in doing so, we can find ourselves together in your heart and your love.
And perhaps this year – alone, with family, with just our pets, with just ourselves –
we begin to understand the weariness, the uncertainty, the questions
that lingered in the hearts and minds of Jesus and his friends.
And so we remind ourselves that we are still your beloved,
we are still the followers of Jesus,
we are still comforted by the Spirit,
Amen.

Inspiration

Today’s Scripture Reading

John 13:1-10a, 12-16, 31b-35

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father.  Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.  The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him.  And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself.  Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.”

Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!”

Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean.”

After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you?  You call me Teacher and Lord – and you are right, for that is what I am.  So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.  Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them.”

Then Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him.  If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.  Little children, I am with you only a little longer.  You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’  I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.  Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

A Pastoral Word

The story of the Last Supper in John’s gospel is markedly different from the stories in the other three gospels. John’s story focuses on Jesus washing the disciples’ feet and then talking about it. When we look at the description that John gives us of what Jesus did, we see Jesus acting like a slave. He stripped down to what is essentially his underwear, to the simplest garment, the garment of the slave. And then he kneels to wash his disciples’ feet. He takes the posture of a slave, tending to the needs of a master.

Peter’s reaction is completely appropriate for his culture. It was absurd to have a teacher washing his students’ feet. This simply would not be done. And if Jesus felt it was somehow appropriate for him to wash his students’ feet, then perhaps he should wash his students’ entire body. Peter doesn’t understand what Jesus is doing. Peter doesn’t realize that Jesus is acting out what he is going to tell his disciples to do.

Jesus acts out a servant-love. Then he calls his disciples to servant-love. He gives them what he calls a new commandment. The word “maundy” is a shortened form of mandatum (Latin), which means “command.” Jesus gives his disciples a new command, a new commandment:  to love one another, to love the way he loves.

In this strange time, in this time when we must keep physical distance from one another, we cannot wash each other’s feet. So, what does it mean to embody servant-love? What does it mean to love each other the way Jesus loved his disciples, to love each other the way Jesus loves us?

That is your assignment for today. Your assignment, if you’re willing to undertake it, is to find some way to live out servant-love before 7:00 tonight. We invite you to come to this evening’s Zoom gathering at 7:00 p.m. and to report on how you managed to embody servant love, or to report on what got in the way.

You also get a bonus assignment: to celebrate communion at home. Here is a resource to help you do that.

Closing Prayer

God of unfailing hope, guide us this day. Fill us with your hope, fill us with your grace, fill us with a desire to serve one another and opportunities to live your love in action. Amen.

Smile

About Jeffrey Spencer

A lover of God and puns, Jeff Spencer is a pastor in the United Church of Christ (with standing in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)) and the author of a curriculum on the Death Penalty for adults (and older youth) in churches. More information at http://deathpenaltycurriculum.com. He serves as Senior Pastor at Niles Discovery Church in Fremont, CA.
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