Feet and Bread and Wine - A Maundy Thursday Reflection
This past Maundy Thursday, we contemplate the "new commandment" that Jesus gave his followers, and us, on the evening of The Last Supper, the night that he was betrayed and handed over to the authorities.
Feet and Bread and Wine
Maundy Thursday Reflection
April 17, 2014
Rev. Leanne Masters
Southern Heights Presbyterian Church
The Term “Maundy Thursday” is one of those phrases that we throw around without much stopping to think about what
In fact, when I was a kid, I often thought that what we were saying was “Monday Thursday”, and couldn’t figure out why we would call it that. I went through a lot of rationale, up to and including that it was Monday Thursday because it was the first day of the... never mind. It was silly.
Since then, I have learned that it is generally understood that the term Maundy is derived from the Latin term mandatum which means “mandate” indicating that this day that we celebrate has to do with a mandate...an order or direction to do something in particular.
Most often the way that we live this out in the life of our worship is by celebrating the meal that tradition tells us that Jesus shared with this disciples that evening...because we take those words that Paul reports to us in 1 Corinthians, that Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me” to be the mandate that Jesus gives and that we live out.
This has been both helpful and unhelpful throughout the history of the church, as people have gotten so caught up in the idea that Jesus mandated that we we do this...well, the conversation often becomes about what, exactly, this is!
Is the bread unleavened, or can I use any bread around? Does it have to be wine, or can it be grape juice. What if we don’t have access to any of these things? How do we “remember” if we can’t do this!?
There’s also a camp out there that believes that what the mandate that Jesus is giving has to do with the washing of the feet of his disciples. That, perhaps, our sacraments should include foot washing, as Jesus both washed his disciples feet and told his disciples that they had to have their feet washed and also wash one another's feet saying, “For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.” (Doing and telling us to do being, at least, the Presbyterian standard for what makes a sacrament).
Great arguing throughout time has been done on this subject...do we, don’t we, why should we...and on and on and on...
But, from where I stand today, when we argue those things...we’re having the wrong conversation.
Because, the mandate, or the commandment, that Jesus gave to his disciples and to us had nothing to do with feet, bread, and wine.
At the end of the reading from the Gospel of John that we shared tonight, Jesus turns to his disciples and says, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”
That is the mandate.
Not wash each others feet.
Love one another.
That is the commandment.
Not eat bread and drink wine.
Love one another.
That is why we celebrate this Maundy, Mandate, Thursday.
Love one another.
Tonight, on the eve of his betrayal, arrest, trial and execution...on the night that begins the long journey to the cross and then to the empty tomb, we gather to remember that Jesus commanded his disciples, and us, to love one another...just as he loved us, so should we love each other.
So, why is it that we gather around this table, weekly, monthly, on special days and seasons such as this evening? Why is it that we set the table and share the meal? Why is it that we, on really special occasions, would ceremoniously wash each others feet?
If it’s about loving each other, and not about the feet, bread, and wine...why do we do those things?
We do them because it’s not about the feet, bread, and wine...but it is about what those symbols of feet, bread, and win mean.
And so, tonight, as we gather together, we remember:
On the night that he was to be betrayed by one of them, Jesus knelt before his disciples, his followers, and he washed their feet.
On the night that he was to be betrayed by one of them, Jesus sat at the table with his disciples, his followers, and he served them.
On the night that he was to be betrayed, in one of his final acts as teacher, he used the everyday and commonplace actions of washing of the feet before sharing a meal and the sharing of the meal itself to show his disciples what he meant when he said, Love one another, as I have loved you....share the bread and the drink that you have...feed the hungry, refresh the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick, comfort the oppressed...serve one another...whenever you do these things, do them in remembrance of me...live out what I have taught you and shown you...by this, the world will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for each other.
We remember this each and every time we share the Lord’s Supper and each and everytime we wash one another's feet, as it reminds us of Christ’s call to us, and strengthens us to go out and live and love and serve in Jesus’ name.
May it always be so.