The Church is Beginning – A Maundy Thursday Sermon

GOSPEL: John 13:1-17, 31b-35
And during supper 3Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5Then 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.

*Note: Sermons are posted in the manuscript draft that they were preached in, and may contain typos or other errors that were resolved in my delivery. See the Sherwood Park Lutheran Facebook Page for video

Tonight is the beginning. Tonight the church begins the 3 days. Tonight the church begins. 

“You will never wash my feet.”

As Jesus kneels  before Peter, towel in hand, the moment between Teacher and follower feels like a moments that we have been rehearsing in our own ways over the past few years. 

There is a part of us that wants to just tell Peter, “Stop being so stubborn, brother! If Jesus wants to wash your feet, let him do it!” 

It is the part of us that knows better, that knows that if Jesus is offering, the best we can do is open our hands, our hearts, our ears and eyes to receive. 

But there is the other part of us that has lived versions of this moment before. 

“You will never get me to do that again.” Has been a refrain during this pandemic. 

Peter’s visceral reaction is one we have felt in so many different ways. Things that we once never thought about we now have strong feelings over. 

So when Peter arrives for dinner and sees Jesus kneeling on the floor washing feet, his reaction isn’t so foreign anymore. 

4 Maundy Thursdays into the pandemic, and we are finally back around the table of the Last Supper… and how changed we are. The experiences we bring to this table maybe help us to understand Peter a little better… they maybe help to us to understand all the disciples a little better. 

We now get what it feels like to wander with uncertainty for years, following and trying to trust that Jesus will show us the way. Amazed by the miracles, but confused by where this journey might take us. 

Tonight is the first night of the Triduum, the Three Days, of Jesus Passover from death to life. The stage and setting starts small tonight, or at least it feels that way.

A small group gathered for dinner and worship, Peter and his strong feelings about having his feet washed by his teacher, and lessons on community, advice on how to live with one another given by a teacher to his followers. 

Maundy Thursday, this first night of the 3 Days is meant to draw us in. To pick us up from the Hosannas of Palm Sunday and remind us that the shouts of crucify are coming. 

And yet, we also know this table from our Sunday gatherings. We know that this table isn’t just a dinner party hidden away from the world, but something more. 

The foot washing, and the new commandment bookend the beginning of something that will grow beyond our imagination. The Lord’s table is revealed tonight, table where bread and wine are shared, the table where Body and Blood is given, the table where the Body of Christ gathers – gathers across time and space. The table that brings the Church into being. 

Because it is to the Lord’s Table, to this table tonight, to this table from the first Maundy Thursday, that the Church will continually return to, week after week after week. 

Because it is at the Lord’s table, where the assembly, where believers in faith, gathers to hear the word and to receive God’s promise given in bread and wine. 

Because it is tonight that God’s promises are given for the sake of the world, where the promises that death on Friday and life on Sunday are forever interwoven. 

Even as Peter protests having his feet washed, even as we have own strong feelings. Even as Jesus proclaims a new commandment, that we ought to love one another… and we fail to uphold and keep that commandment…

This night is still the moment that church continually returns to. The moment just before the chaos erupts into the world, a moment of respite and reprieve… the where faithful and flawed and opinionated followers find themselves at the table with Jesus… and there Jesus passes on the things of God, food that transforms us for life, a body of Christ that turns us into the Body of Christ. 

Tonight we begin these three days at the Lord’s table, and here God begins the church. The church that will go to cross tomorrow and the empty tomb on Sunday. The church that proclaims the mystery of faith each time it gathers at the table again – Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again. 

Tonight is the beginning. Tonight the church begins the 3 days. Tonight the church begins.


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