Category Archives: Sermon

Asking to See Jesus

**A sermon written by the Rev. Courtenay Reedman Parker (@ReedmanParker on twitter) in collaboration with Rev. Erik Parker and inspired by Rev. Dr. Karoline Lewis’ text study “Freeing Thomas” attended via Zoom Friday April 17, 2020.**

GOSPEL: John 20:19-31
24But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” (Read the whole passage)

Today, we are 7 days on from the morning of the Empty Tomb. Yet, Easter has only just begun. Easter is not just a day, but 50 days. Not just a day, but an entire season of the church year. Fifty days to celebrate the joy of the resurrection of Christ. And each year, on the second Sunday of the season, we hear the same story. The story of the disciples hiding out in a locked room and Jesus appearing to them. The story of Thomas missing the whole thing, refusing to believe it and Jesus returning a second time, a week later to appear to Thomas. 

This morning we momentarily return to the day of the empty tomb. For us the woman ran back to tell their story a week ago for the disciples we encounter in hiding, they have just heard the report of the women, just minutes or hours ago. Yet, even with this news, they are still hiding. Hiding because of grief. Their teacher and friend has died, and like so many of us when on of our loved ones dies, they likely found it hard to summon the courage to go out into the world. 

But also hiding because of legitimate fear. Jesus has been arrested, tried, and put to death by the religious authorities and the empire. The disciples don’t know if they are next, if the soldiers are out looking for them. Jesus wasn’t the first Messianic revolutionary figure to be executed by the Romans, and they wouldn’t be the first group of followers hunted down by the authorities either. 

And so they are hiding, with good reason to do so. 

Maybe until now we didn’t fully understand or appreciate the disciples’ response to their situation. Maybe we couldn’t understand what legitimate reasons to be locked down might look like before this moment. 

But we have a better understanding now. Now that we are also locked behind our doors. Now that we fear for our health and safety. Or following the orders of health and government bodies to stay home in order to stay healthy. Or perhaps begrudgingly following the pleas of grown children to stay inside because of the particular risk to seniors who don’t believe they are seniors that this virus poses. 

And so there in the midst of lockdown, as the disciples hide from the world in fear, Jesus appears. Jesus appears bringing peace and breathing into them the spirit. 

Then Jesus moves on. 

The disciples are left with a split experience. A new reality has been revealed to them, but still one that exists parallel to their current one. On the one side is the grief, danger, suffering and death. On the other surprising new life, a teacher and friend returned to them. 

And Thomas misses the whole thing. Unlike the others, Thomas isn’t hiding away on the day of the empty tomb. Perhaps he was dealing with the experience of crucifixion differently than the others, maybe we had accepted this new reality more quickly than the others. 

So when he returns to the group, and they share with him the news that the women had brought them, and then that they had experienced themselves first hand, Thomas is not on board. Thomas refuses to be pinball back and forth, to accept these two competing realities. 

It must have sounded like the most absurd thing Thomas had ever heard. This alternate reality that doesn’t line up with what he knows to be true: Jesus is dead. That’s the world he is living in. It doesn’t make sense that Jesus would be alive. The disciples, his friends, are living in an alternate universe where Jesus is living, while he, Thomas is living in the world where that is simply not the case.

And we get it. For many of us, this world that we are living in seems unbelievable. It is not normal. 

Earlier in the week, our family called Erik’s grandmother to wish her a happy birthday. She is 96 years old, living in a care home in Saskatoon. “What a strange world this is,” she remarked as the kids ran in and out of the conversation, simultaneously signing happy birthday while showing off ninja moves and Easter dresses. Normal conversations in abnormal times.

Split realities that hardly seem possible at the same time. 

It feels like we are living in an alternate universe. Where what should be, isn’t. What was normal may never be again. We are trying, sometimes desperately so, to keep doing the things we’re used to doing in these new or adapted ways, while at the same time knowing that the world we are living in is not the same. Cannot be the same. 

It is almost as if we be believe that this pandemic moment is like a dream, an exception to reality. That life will soon go back to normal and we will all forget this awful time of forced physical isolation, this time of pandemic.

Maybe rather than doubting that Jesus was alive, Thomas knew something that we haven’t quite figured out yet. 

There is no going back, there is no back to normal waiting for us on the other side. 

“We have seen the Lord,” the disciples exclaim to Thomas.

“But I haven’t,” Thomas must have thought to himself. 

Jesus comes to Mary Magdalene. Her resurrection moment is hearing Jesus call her by name.  Jesus appears before the disciples, behind locked doors, and says to them “Peace be with you”. They see the risen Lord and believe. 

Thomas isn’t asking for anything different than what the others have already experienced for themselves.  

The difference is that Thomas asks. In the midst of a mixed-up, fear and anxiety ridden, grief fuelled world, Thomas asks to see Jesus, just as the others have. 

Remember, that in John’s Gospel believing is synonymous with relationship. Thomas is not expressing doubt so much as desire to be in relationship with Jesus. To have the same experience of Jesus coming to him as he has heard Jesus has done for others. 

And doesn’t Thomas express what we all want and need? To know that our relationship with Jesus doesn’t just go away. That Jesus is with us in the midst of grief and death. In the midst of sickness and job loss, of uncertain and abnormal pandemic times. Just as Jesus is in the midst of the joy of new life, of celebrations and life as we have known it? To know that Jesus is with us even when we can’t be together, gathered in our church home, when we cannot touch one another through the sharing of the peace or the handshakes and hugs that we greet one another with week after week? When we cannot sing together, pray or play together as we are used to. 

That Jesus comes to us. Jesus finds us, no matter where we are, or what roadblocks of walls, or locked doors might be in the way. Jesus meets us where we are and reveals himself to us in ways that we can see, and hear, and identify. Even in the midst of death and grief. Even in the midst of pandemic and the unknown. 

Throughout the 50 days of Easter we encounter stories of the resurrection, of Jesus meeting people where they are and revealing himself, alive, to them. And through these experiences, Jesus’ friends and family, his disciples, come to believe: “I have seen the Lord” they exclaim to others: Mary Magdalene to the disciples, the disciples to Thomas and Thomas to the whole world: Jesus is not dead, but lives.

There is No Going Back to Normal after PanDemic or After Easter

** This sermon is a collaboration with The Rev. Courtenay Reedman Parker, though we each took the second half in a different direction. Her sermon is also posted on this blog**

GOSPEL: John 20:19-31
…24But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”… Read the whole passage

Today, we are 7 days on from the morning of the Empty Tomb. Yet, Easter has only just begun. Easter is not just a day, but 50 days. Not just a day, but an entire season of the church year. 50 days to celebrate the joy of the resurrection of Christ. And each year, on the second Sunday of the season, we hear the same story. The story of the disciples hiding out in a locked room and Jesus appearing to them. The story of Thomas missing the whole thing, refusing to believe it and Jesus returning a second time, a week later to appear to Thomas. 

This morning we momentarily return to the day of the empty tomb. For us the women ran back to tell their story a week ago but for the disciples we encounter in hiding, they have just heard the report of the women, only minutes or hours ago. Yet, even with this news, they are still hiding. Hiding because of grief. Their teacher and friend has died, and like so many of us when on of our loved ones dies, they likely found it hard to summon the courage to go out into the world. 

But also hiding because of legitimate fear. Jesus has been arrested, tried and put to death by the religious authorities and the empire. The disciples don’t know if they are next, if the soldiers are out looking for them too. Jesus wasn’t the first Messianic revolutionary figure to be executed by the Romans, and they wouldn’t be the first group of followers hunted down by the authorities either. 

And so they are hiding, with good reason to do so. 

Maybe until now we didn’t fully understand or appreciate the disciples’ response to their situation. Maybe we couldn’t understand what legitimate reasons to be locked down might look like before this moment. 

But we have a better understanding now. Now that we are also locked behind our doors. Now that we fear for our health and safety, and we are following the orders of health and government bodies to stay home in order to stay healthy.

And so there in the midst of lockdown, as the disciples hide from the world in fear, Jesus appears. Jesus appears bringing peace and breathing on them the spirit. 

Then Jesus moves on. 

The disciples are left with a split experience. A new reality has been revealed to them, but still one that exists parallel to their current one. On the one side is the grief, danger, suffering and death. On the other surprising new life, a teacher and friend returned to them. 

And Thomas misses the whole thing. Unlike the others, Thomas isn’t hiding away on the day of the empty tomb. Perhaps he was dealing with the experience of crucifixion differently than the others, maybe he had accepted this new reality more quickly than the others. 

So when he returns to the group, and they share with him the news that the women had brought them, and then that they had experienced themselves first hand, Thomas is not on board. Thomas refuses to be pinball back and forth, to accept these two competing realities. 

It must have sounded like the most absurd thing Thomas had heard. This alternate reality that doesn’t line up with what he knows to be true: Jesus is dead. That’s the world he is living in. It doesn’t make sense that Jesus would be alive. The disciples, his friends, are living in an alternate universe where Jesus is living, while he, Thomas is living in the world where that is simply not the case.

And we get it. For many of us, this world that we are living in seems unbelievable. It is not normal. 

As most of us are glued to the news on a daily basis, we can feel split between realities. As news producers try to soften the blow of the heavy stuff, we can be ping ponged between tragedy and light hearted stories revealing the human spirit. Case counts and death tolls, documentaries showing terrified hospital staff preparing for protected code blues, example of care homes abandoned by sick, terrified, under supported staff balanced off by stories of pots banging at shift change, rainbows and words of encouragement being pasted to windows, good samaritans braving grocery stores day after day to shop for quarantined seniors.

Split realities that hardly seem possible at the same time. 

It feels like we pulled back and forth between good news and bad news. Where each story we hear seems disconnected from the last. Where what was normal may never be again. We are trying, sometimes desperately so, to keep doing the things we’re used to doing in these new or adapted ways, while at the same time knowing that the world we are living in is not the same. Cannot be the same. 

It is almost as if we be believe that this pandemic moment is like a dream, an exception to reality. That life will soon go back to normal and we will all forget this awful time of forced physical isolation, this time of pandemic. 

Maybe rather than doubting that Jesus was alive, Thomas knew something that we haven’t quite figured out yet. 

There is no going back, there is no back to normal waiting for us on the other side. 

So after the empty tomb, after appearing behind locked doors, Thomas refuses to believe…

And then 7 days later, Jesus shows up again. Jesus shows up and brings again resurrection reality into existence, but this time in front of Thomas. 

Yet, Jesus doesn’t leave the two realities to exist side by side, at opposite ends of the room. Jesus slows down, and stands before Thomas and begins taking both worlds, both stories, both realities into himself. 

“See Thomas, here are my living hands AND the nail marks that they bear. Here is my breathing side AND the hole left by the spear.”

With arms wide and resurrected body on display, Jesus begins the work of tying the two stories together. 

“The suffering, betrayal, and grief that you are experiencing now, the crucifixion that you witnessed on Friday… My body still bears those marks” Jesus says. 

“And yet here I am.” Jesus says to Thomas and the others. “Here I am, in flesh, alive.”

Jesus ties together these experiences that seemed to be so far from each other. The story of crucifixion and death, of hiding behind locked doors in a dangerous world is now the same story as story of resurrection and new life, of empty tombs and impossibly to believe appearances. 

As Jesus stand before Thomas and the others, his resurrected body, scars and all, declares that their story suffering, sin and death is now the same story God’s story of resurrection and new life. 

It is the same way that Jesus stands before us, in the midst of pandemic. When the competing realities ping pong us between grief and hope, despair and release… Jesus reminds us again, that both stories belong to God.

Jesus reminds us that even in pandemic, that death tolls and rainbow window messages, that desperate conditions in care homes and pots banging at shift change, that frightened hospital staff and good samaritan shoppers, that all the good and bad, that all the tragic and hopeful, they all belong to God. 

That when the power of our own spirit is not enough to conquer the darkness, Jesus reminds us that he has gone first through to the other side. That Christ has conquered death, and will bring us through to New Life as well.

God is writing our story anew, and even though we feel like we are bouncing between realities, God is gathering our stories and us into the one story of New Life. The story that began in a manger, seemingly ended on a cross, yet continued on with an empty tomb, and with peace breathed behind locked doors and scars that show us the way to the other side. 

As Jesus stands before us with the scars and wounds of our life on his body, Jesus tells Thomas and us again that our hope lies in the one who makes room for all of creation, our hope lies in the one who brings all of our stories into God, and who brings us to New Life. 

Not Easter as we are used to anyways

*This sermon is a collaboration with my partner in life and ministry, the Rev. Courtenay Reedman Parker. You can find her on twitter @ReedmanParker*

GOSPEL: Matthew 28:1-10

1After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.(Read the whole passage)

While it was still dark.
While it was still night.
While she could not see.
While she thought death held sway.
While she grieved.
While she wept.
While it was still dark, resurrection began


While It Was Still Dark by Jan Richardson

I imagine Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, walking together to the tomb where Jesus had been placed just days earlier. These were not mere acquaintances of Jesus. These were not even his disciples. These were his friends, his family. 

And they were leaving their homes, leaving their loved ones. Leaving in spite of a lockdown to go to the tomb. To complete the burial rite. 

Many of us have walked that walk. To the resting places of our loved ones: public visitations at funeral homes or in the intimacy of someone’s home. It wasn’t that long ago that it was commonplace to hold a wake, a time to offer prayers, to gather in community to mourn our collective loss, and to offer support to one another in our grief. 

For those of us who have walked that walk know the precarious nature of grief. We know that a loved one has died. We know that life will never be the same. That our day-to-day existence, our relationships have all changed. There is an emptiness in the space between where our loved one was, and is no longer. In the liminal time when when we’ve become aware that death has happened, but before the wave of emotion hits us like a tsunami.

This is how I imagine Mary Magdalene and the other Mary leaving their physically isolated homes to go to the tomb where Jesus lay. 

We know that life has changed. We know that life will never be the same again. But we don’t know how… we don’t know the specifics. All we know is that there was then… and there is now… and somehow, someway, there will be a future we can’t yet see or imagine.

This is not how we usually do this.” 

A phrase that we have been repeating over and over again in the past days and weeks. A month into physical distancing measures and the Coronavirus has taken over our lives, even if we are not infected. 

And yet, we have been practicing for this moment as the church, practicing being disrupted by change, practicing muddling along with unfamiliar technology, unwanted changes, disruptions to our tried and true ways to going about our life as a community. 

But today acceptance of these changes has been forced and accelerated.

Because we are forced to stay home, forced to use the 21st century technology that we have been resisting, forced to re-imagine what it means to be community. 

And so there is also something familiar, or maybe original and authentic about this Easter morning. 

The family gatherings and traditions, the easter egg hunts, and roast hams, the colourful spring dresses and ties, the long weekend outdoors… they weren’t part of the first Easter. 

Hiding out in homes, behind locked doors and fearful of the outside world. That is original Easter. 

On the morning of that third day, the disciples were in hiding. After Good Friday, after the crucifixion of their teacher and friend at the hands of empire and religion, they went into lockdown. 

But it isn’t the disciples, the male disciples that we usually think of who at the heart of the easter story. 

It is the women. 

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. 

The disciples are hiding away, but the women go out into the early morning darkness. They go out because they must. Their friend has died and there is no one but them to tend to his body.

They are essential workers. 

The orderlies and respiratory therapists and radiologists who make their way to hospitals in the early morning darkness because they must. 

They are the childcare providers and animal rescue workers and tow truck drivers who are still on the job every day to keep just enough of the world functioning to fight pandemic. 

They are the researchers and epidemiologists and hockey equipment turned PPE manufacturers working round the clock to save lives, flatten curves and keep us safe. 

They are the grocery store mangers, and civic water filtration engineers and steel distributers making sure the systems that need to function keep functioning so as not to add any other crisis to our collective plates in this moment. 

They are the caretakers of ritual and dignity, the ones who make sure that Jesus doesn’t become just another number on a Roman crucifixion accounting ledger, but is still treated as a person, a human being, even in death. 

The women go because they must. 

And so unsure and afraid, they come to the tomb.

I imagine that if there was anything that they knew from Good Friday, if there was anything they could be sure of, it was the expectation of finding Jesus’ body, even if they didn’t quite know how they Ould gain access into the tomb.

These women, like us, didn’t know what the peak crisis moment would be, they didn’t know that you needed to be on the other side to understand. 

They didn’t know what we already know, they found that Good Friday had something new and unexpected to declare. 

Instead of the body of their dear and beloved friend, they find something, someone else entirely. 

A messenger.
A divine messenger.
“Do not be afraid,” the Angel says. 

How is fear not possible in this moment? When nothing is as it should be? When nothing and no one is the same.

“He has been raise from the dead,” The divine messenger declares.

How can this still be the same world that women live in?

“Go quickly and tell his disciples… you will see him.”

How can this be where Good Friday has taken them? Where the cross has taken them?

Where this empty tomb has taken them?

This divine messenger, this angel has changed their world, changed their understanding of everything that came before. 

But still the old world remains.

There is still empire and oppression.
There are still paranoid Kings and cruel imperial governors.
There are still soldiers in the streets and police at the ready.
There is still danger and persecution
There are still locked doors.
There are still incredulous disciples hardly willing to believe the word of a woman. 

Empty tombs, and Angels from heaven and shocking news of resurrection don’t make those things go away. 

Not then.
And not today.

On this Easter morning:
There are still news conferences with case numbers and death tolls.
There are still politicians playing games with our lives.
There are still deniers in the streets and anxious shoppers waiting in line.
There is still fear and anxiety and uncertainty.
There are still our locked doors, and lonely easter meals coupled with seemingly empty hearts.
There are still the empty feelings of our lives, the emotional and spiritual cost that physical distance demands.
There is still the thought of when things go back to normal… back to the before time.

Empty tombs, and Angels from heaven and shocking news of resurrection don’t make those things go away either. 

Sin and suffering and death don’t just go away. 

“Do not be afraid” the Angel said, even in the midst of all these things. 

And if empty tombs, and Angels streaming down from heaven were not enough, 

Jesus greets the women too. 

“Do not be afraid,” Jesus says. 

Because the things of this old world that remain, do not have the final say.
Because the empty tomb changes our world.
Because resurrection transforms all things.
Because new life found is where should only be death
Because the risen Christ has the final say.

Empires and oppression, news conferences and death tolls; cannot put down the Risen One.
Paranoid kings, cruel imperial governors, game playing politicians cannot control New Life
Soldiers and pandemic deniers in the streets cannot keep Jesus from us.
Danger and fear, persecution and anxiety are not more powerful than empty tombs.
Locked doors and lonely meals do not limit Christ’s access.
Unbelieving disciples and the emptiness within are not the story that Christ writes for us.

Today is still Easter, even if the women weren’t expecting it, even if we don’t feel like it.

Not Easter as we are used to anyways. 

Yet, today is the day of Resurrection, the day of New Life, the day of New Beginnings that we need. 

The Easter that the Risen Christ brings to us today. 

Amen. 

Good Friday, Pandemic and the Cross

GOSPEL: John 18:1–19:42

The passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John. (read the passion gospel)

Sermon

The shadow of cross is dark and wide today. 

The presence of death feels closer than ever. 

The cross that is so often depicted standing behind mangers and stables at Advent,

stands tall above beds for the dying rather than for infants

and different makeshift shelters today. 

The cross is spoken of with words that we didn’t even know a few weeks or months ago. 

Novel Coronavirus, Covid-19. 

The cross is revealed with words that we really didn’t understand, and still have yet to grasp. 

Pandemic. 

The cross looms high and mighty over hospitals and temporary field units. 

The cross’s darkness has forced the world forced to stay home. 

The cross disrupts the work of governments, schools, businesses, public services and more. 

The cross demands the sacrifice of those who serve on front lines to risk health and safety.  

The cross is changing the world with numbers. Number that grow arbitrarily, numbers that terrify, numbers that signify entire lives ending while still in the middle of living, families unable to grieve, communities forced to adapt their care and support from afar.

The cross has arrived in a way that it hasn’t arrived in a long time, in a way that few alive today understand or comprehend. 

And Jesus has been nailed to it, left to struggle for breath, left to suffocate unable to bring air into his lungs out of exhaustion. 

Jesus has been nailed to it, unjustly, cruelly and for the gain of those in power, so that human greed and contempt can keep its grip on Godlike power. 

Jesus has been nailed to it at young age, as someone who shouldn’t receive a death sentence, as someone who simply got mixed up in political games beyond his control. 

Jesus has been nailed to the cross today, and it feels like just one more to add to the list of deaths, the list that we know has only begun being written. 

The shadow of the cross is indeed dark and wide. 

But it is not just pandemic and illness that makes the cross seem taller. 

The cross is still our moment of shame, our moment of attempted power, our moment of trying to put ourselves before God. 

The cross is still our human effort to put God to death, even as God keeps coming to us in life. 

We want power, we want security, we want safety. We want to control our world, especially as it spins out of control beyond us. 

We deny the danger, we forget to care for others, we put ourselves first, we try to use the power of death for our own gain. 

Even still the cross has existed in God’s heart since the beginning of creation.  

Even still Jesus goes to the cross knowing that it is God’s beloved creation putting him there. 

Even still God is willing to die because we demand it, because our sin and pride demand it, because our selfishness demands it. 

Yet today is the cross’s final day of power. 

And yet, the cross will become more than our death symbol looming large. 

And yet, the cross is God’s means to change our course and set creation on a new path. 

What has been there since the beginning, Christ bring to its end. 

Today Christ completes the journey towards creation. 

Today Christ completes the journey towards us.

Today Christ joins creation and creator together in fullness, 

undoing the damage of the fall, 

undoing the separation endured since, 

reconciling what was broken between us. 

What has always been the end, Christ now begins as something new. 

Today, Jesus goes where none of us can go and does what none but God can do.  

Jesus goes to all the places where cross is found. 

Jesus goes the hospitals and field units. 

Jesus goes to empty streets and quiet neighbourhoods. 

Jesus goes to the front lines at testings centres, and grocery stores, and public health offices, and nursing home windows, and emergency rooms and intensive care units.

Jesus goes to lonely quarantined people.

Jesus goes to temporary isolation housing for health workers. 

Jesus goes to stressed out, cooped up families. 

Jesus goes to hungry seniors waiting for food drop offs

Jesus goes to worried and anxious people whose hearts can find little peace.

Jesus goes to the grieving and the separated and the brokenhearted. 

Jesus goes to every place where the cross looms large.

Jesus goes to every corner touched by the shadow of the cross.

Jesus goes to death itself. 

And on the cross Jesus will take on our darkness,

take on our shadows and sin,

take on our suffering and trials and tribulations

take on our our illness and disease.

Jesus will take our death and make it God’s. 

And then Jesus will take us and make us God’s own. 

And Jesus will make the ending the beginning.

And Jesus will shake off our power of sin, our power of death, our power of the cross. 

And Jesus will start a new thing. 

A new thing on the cross, a new thing where we thought there was only death. 

Today in the dark and wide shadow, 

Today as the cross seems to stand above hospital beds and quarantine rooms.

Today when we use new words and forgotten words to describe death. 

Today Christ does a new thing.

Christ hangs on the cross, without breath in his lungs, with pandemic in the air

And prepares the world 

For New Life 

Amen.

Maundy Thursday: Washed into New Life

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. (Read the whole passage)

And so tonight we begin the journey of the Three Days, the most important observance of our liturgical year. So important that worship that begins on Thursday continues through Friday and finally concludes with the great feast following the Easter Vigil on Saturday. 

The cheering crowds lining the streets just a few days ago on Palm Sunday, ushering Jesus into Jerusalem have given way over the past days. Their enthusiastic Hosannas have faded from our hearing. No one is shouting ‘Save Now’ thinking that Jesus is the Messiah long hoped for. 

Today, the enemies are plotting. The expectant crowds of Palm Sunday are now frustrated, soon they will be shouting something else, demanding blood.  But tonight a much smaller group gathers around a meal. A group still larger than we can imagine. 1 teacher, 12 disciples, but also servants, perhaps some unnamed women (whom are always there though often forgotten). It is a dinner party that we still cannot quite imagine in our world these days. 

But it isn’t just any dinner party. 

If there is ever a night for us to gather and share in a meal as a community of faith it is on Maundy Thursday. And usually we do. We gather around a table, we worship in the context of a meal, rather than share a meal in the context of worship. 

Yet tonight, there isn’t a meal as we are used to. Instead we continue to fast, not by our choice, but by necessity. We fast as an act of sacrifice. We fast from the meal, because we are fasting from each other. We cannot shared in the Bread that is the Body because we aren’t sharing in the in-person gathering that is the Body. 

And yet despite this being the night of the Last Supper, curiously John’s Gospel doesn’t actually include a description of the meal. Rather, John focuses on water, on washing. 

In John’s Gospel, Jesus begins by washing feet. Not his own, but the disciples’.

He bends down as a house servant would, and washes his the feet of his dear followers and friends. 

What a striking image in the time of Pandemic. 

In the before time, foot washing was often an uncomfortable idea a best, and usual a no-go zone for many of us. Showing our feet to another human being is a step too far. Too private. Too personal. 

And to wash someone’s feet, in our day, is an intimate and up close experience. If you have ever received a pedicure you know that it is, at least at first, an exercise in trust and vulnerability. 

But tonight the feet aren’t really the point. Foot washing wasn’t so intimate in Jesus’ day. It was routine and normal. 

It is the water, the washing, the act of service. 

Because in our time of pandemic, washing has taken on a brand new meaning. 

Not washing someone’s feet, but washing our own hands. 

What was an afterthought for most of us up until a few weeks ago, is now an important act of service. To wash our hands is a lot more like Jesus’ washing the disciples’ feet than we ever imagined it would be. We wash in service of our neighbour, we wash to stop the spread, to flatten the curve, to care for our neighbours. Just as we are physical distancing and staying home. 

And perhaps in a way we have not understood before, Jesus’ act of washing feet in service of his disciples, in sacrifice of his usual status and position in the group becomes a sign of what is to come. 

Washing isn’t just about clean feet and clean hands. 

Jesus is foreshadowing what is to come, in just a matter of hours he will kneel not before his disciples, but before judges and authorities. He will be pushed down and treated as less than a servant. A criminal. A death row inmate. 

And Jesus will give of himself for the sake of others, for the sake of the world.

This act of humble service reveals to us anew where Jesus has been headed this whole time. And not just towards the cross, and not just to death. 

But to us. 

Jesus has been on his way to us since that the Angel visited Mary. Since being baptized and washed in the river. Since preaching and teaching, healing and working miracles all over Galilee. Since riding into Jerusalem just days ago.  

Jesus has been headed towards us, towards humanity. 

Jesus has been coming to bend down to wash our feet. 

Jesus has been coming to wash his hands and self isolate on the cross for our sake. 

Jesus has been coming to assure us that even though we cannot share in the promise of his presence of bread and wine, his promise of presence among gathered bodies in community, that he is present among us now none-the-less. 

He is present in our quiet places, in our homes and among families. 

In our hand washing and isolation for our neighbour.

He is present in hospital rooms and intensive care units.

Behind face masks and personal protective equipment.

Present in much needed packages dropped off on door steps and in mailboxes.

Present behind plexiglass shields showing up all around.

Present in meals for one, and FaceTime being the only source of human contact. 

Present in the fear, anxiety and uncertainty that abounds among us. 

And so on this night of foot washing, and fasting and commandments to love… we witness again the Christ who bends down to serve. To wash us in the waters, to meet our judgement and death, and give us God’s very self for the sake of the world… especially this world that is desperate and needing God’s presence.

Thus begins our journey of the Three Days, our journey to Good Friday and the Vigil of Easter, with the Christ who reveals himself as the one giving himself in service of world, for our sake, washing us into new life.