Maundy Thursday Worship-Sermon

Who's Washing Your Feet?

 Sermon: Reverend Kim A. Stover, Pastor, All Saints Lutheran Church, Lilburn, GA

Sermon PDF

Grace to you and Peace from Jesus of the Table.

Jesus taught many things.     To a great extent, the church is a classroom in which we learn the teachings of Jesus, and also the validity of Jesus as a teacher of wisdom, way of life, and mental posturing for living in the world.  I’m not sure clergy generally have taught well the notion of mental posturing for daily living.

In the teaching we hear this night, we review and re-teach Jesus' command to love.  With this teaching is a real-time example.  Jesus washes the disciples’ feet. 

The story could have gone in a different direction. The LEADER in this story could have spoken about love expressed as loyalty,  after which the LEADER would have commanded the disciples to take on this humble servant’s role of washing the LEADER’s feet, to prove their love/loyalty.  But that is not what Jesus does.

Jesus’ teaching is not original to him. It appears in Leviticus of all places, the same book of the Bible we have use in recent years to condemn some believers in Jesus.  

Christians ascribe this teaching to Jesus because we are Gentiles. Gentiles were the object of Paul’s evangelism and church building.  Paul, like Jesus, was a Jew and had encounters with Jews, but his primary goal of mission was that of including Gentiles into the kingdom of God, into the promises of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 

This is why we have this night, that wonderful reading from 1 Corinthians 11.   In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul explains that in his ministry he is passing onto others that which he had received from the Lord.  “For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you…”.   As Lutheran Christians, we would commune this night in sanctuary because Paul passed on to the Corinthians, and all those he served, what he had received from “the Lord.”

Here, Paul does not adapt what he “received from the Lord,” but hands it off, passes it on.  And he does so without comment. He does not say, “For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, though it doesn’t seem like it’s all that meaningful.” 

It’s kind of wonderfully odd!  Today, there is so much opinion expressed about everything.  I think this has happened because of the invention of the microphone and its wide distribution everywhere in our culture, accelerated all the more through the invention of the video camera and development of social media.  Anyone who wants to express an opinion can do so, affirmed in the principle of Freedom of Speech.   Paul just hands to us that which he received from the Lord, from Jesus, born of the Mary who was also a Jew.

The story told for so long by the Jews is the story of Passover, a story in which they, as a people, were spared death and delivered into freedom from slavery. In this story, blood from a slaughter, roasted, and consumed lamb was painted over the doors of slave houses, a signal to the Angel of Death to pass over and move on to another house.  Oh, that it were this easy to escape death and find freedom from COVID-19, today!

So, tonight, love is the subject matter of our teaching.  And the sermon illustration of this love is of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet.  But with this washing comes confusion and resistance.  From the disciples’ point of view, it just isn’t right that their teacher should wash their feet.  They wonder, “Who am I that Jesus should wash my feet?”  But no object lesson is beneath this teacher’s dignity.

Matthew, in chapter 20 verse 28 cites Jesus saying, “the Son of Man came to serve, not to be served.” How easily we turn that teaching on its head, choosing to serve Jesus at every turn; building whole ministry efforts around the notion that we are serving Jesus.  It is not we who serve Jesus, but it is Jesus who has come to serve us.  This teaching is often met with confusion and resistance.  Yes! That Jesus serves us, washing our feet, is the uncomfortable act in which his love, and the Father’s love, is really real.

Let me see if I can make this washing a bit more real for you or someone you love.

  • Coming to serve, Jesus washes your feet as you sit at home sick with COVID-19.
  • Coming to serve, Jesus washes your feet as you grow impatient with family and friends.
  • Coming to serve, Jesus washes your feet as you drink more than you should, breaking trust in your household.
  • Coming to serve, Jesus washes your feet as you lay motionless in a drug overdose.
  • Coming to serve, Jesus washes your feet as you take property that is not yours.
  • Coming to serve, Jesus washes your feet as you submit to your impulse to watch a little up a pornography.
  • Coming to serve, Jesus washes your feet as you lie to your spouse about where you have been.
  • Coming to serve, Jesus washes your feet even as you put down others whom you might have lifted up.
  • Coming to serve, Jesus washes your feet, as your memory fades and you grow weary of life.
  • Coming to serve, Jesus…you fill in the blank, the blank that describes you at your worst, failed, un-Christlike self.  Jesus is washing your feet, not in judgement, but in love. 

St. Paul wrote, in that same letter to the Corinthians, “Though I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am nothing but the clanging of cymbals.”

    I might say it this way, “Though I wash 100,000 feet but have not love, I am little more than a soiled basin of dirty water.”

    You see, I am not Jesus, and the washing of feet that I might do amounts to nothing without love.

    You are not Jesus, and any washing of feet you do, thinking yourself to be Jesus, amounts to nothing without love. 

Jesus also taught, as reported by St. Luke (6:32-35) “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.  If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.  If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return…Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

I am reminded here of the old joke about the little Boy Scout who came home looking rather roughed up.  His mother asked what had happened. He replied, “I helped a little old lady across the street.”  His mother, surprised, said, “But how did you get roughed up?” Her son replied, “She didn’t want to go.”

As you attempt to wash the feet of others, especially the feet of your enemies and irritants, be sure your gesture expresses your love for them such that if they do not want to have their feet washed,  you might take the opportunity to learn from them how your love, best expresses the love of the one who washes your feet this night.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to my Father in Heaven and to you too, you disciples of the Great Foot Washer Jesus.  Amen.

 

Thinking Aloud

Notes and thoughts from Pastor Kim Stover based on daily experiences that seem to stay in his mind. Read More


Recent

First Reading, Easter 3

Wednesday, April 22, 2020
First Reading: Acts 2:14a, 36-41 Today’s reading is the conclusion of Peter’s sermon preached following the giving of the Holy Spirit... Read More

Maundy Thursday Worship-Sermon

Saturday, April 11, 2020
 Sermon: Reverend Kim A. Stover, Pastor, All Saints Lutheran Church, Lilburn, GA Sermon PDF Grace to you and Peace from Jesus of the... Read More

Before Palm Sunday 2

Wednesday, April 1, 2020
The week prior to  Holy Week and Easter 2020 Though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death The attached readings and notes... Read More

Before Palm Sunday (1)

Tuesday, March 31, 2020
The week prior to  Holy Week and Easter 2020 Though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death The attached readings and notes... Read More

Sermon: It is Lent

Friday, March 27, 2020
Sermon for the Lent 5, March 29, 2020 John 11:1-45  Pastor Kim Stover All Saints Lutheran Church, ELCA UNEDITED Grace to you and peace.... Read More

COVID-19 and the Flesh

Wednesday, March 25, 2020
Second Reading: Romans 8:6-11 For Paul, Christian spirituality entails living in the reality of the Holy Spirit. The driving force behind our... Read More