In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Tonight, we continue the journey to and through the cross that we started in Lent. 

The next three days are three of my favorite services and some of the most symbolic that we have in the church year. 

I don’t know about you, but sometimes what we do in liturgy has more effect on me than what we say. Sometimes a tangible demonstration is far more powerful than the words that we speak.

Walking the walk rather than talking the talk.

 Looking at these three services and working backwards…

On Saturday night we will hold the Easter Vigil and light the Pascal candle to proclaim the Good News of the resurrected Christ.

On Friday, we will stand watch and mourn over the tomb of our fallen Lord.

And tonight, Maundy Thursday, we have another of those schizoid services, as Kathy referred to Palm Sunday.

In just a few moments, we start with the touching ritual of foot washing, a demonstration of God’s love for us and our love for each other,

But then we conclude the service with the stripping of the altar, the preparation of the tomb for our Lord, which will end with Kathy silently washing the altar and turning out the lights.

If you look at these three days, it is all about incarnation and death and resurrection, with this odd little ritual of foot washing sticking out like that bunion on my right foot.

John’s Gospel doesn’t discuss the Passover meal, the Last Supper, other than that they are having it.  But the author emphasizes the foot washing scene, so clearly there is something significant going on here.

In 1st Century Palestine, foot washing upon entering the house at the end of the day was the standard practice.

People wore sandals and, considering the dusty dirt and stone roads and large number of animals that would be transiting (and leaving deposits) on the road, one’s feet were dirty at the end of the day.

When a guest arrived, in the case of ordinary people, the host furnished a basin of water, and the guests washed their own feet, but in the richer houses, a slave did the washing, and it was considered the lowliest of all services. [1]       

So think about Jesus’ actions in this Gospel passage.

During the Passover meal, he removes his outer robe and is left with a loose fitting inner robe (an oversized t-shirt, his only undergarment),[2]

So he was stripping down to his 1st century skivvies and taking on the role of the lowliest of servants.


He humbles himself, strips himself and serves his disciples. 

One of my deacon school classmates noted:

·       Jesus washed Thomas’ feet, who would doubt him.

·       He washed Peter’s feet, who would deny him.

·       He washed Judas’ feet, who would betray him.[3]

He denies himself.  He empties himself in a manner that foreshadows how he will empty himself the next day. 

What an amazing act of God’s grace!

And he tells us, that we are to model our lives after him, “So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.[4]

In other words, we should, like He did, strip ourselves down to our barest self (I’m talking figuratively here, OK…we don’t need to be wandering around in our skivvies up here). 

We need to strip ourselves down from our pretenses and airs and titles and self-importance and serve others.

I always thought that the “Maundy” in Maundy Thursday referred to foot-washing, but it actually comes from that Latin word “mandatum” that translates mandate or commandment.

This references, Jesus saying, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.[5]

Once again, Jesus isn’t telling us what to believe, he’s telling us how to live.  To live a life of service and love to others.

And this is where washing of the feet ties into incarnation, death and resurrection. 

You see, it’s all about love and service.

God’s unending, immeasurable love, brought God incarnate into the world, in the form of Jesus, the Christ, the anointed one.

In service to us, Jesus washed feet, loved others, and then died on the cross, as a sacrifice in our names.

And, God’s love, resurrected the Christ.

You see the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus are like the actions I like so much in this liturgy.  Sure, he tells us he loves us, but these are tangible demonstrations of God’s limitless love.

Walking the walk.

So as you wash the feet of others and have your feet washed, I want you to look at the hands doing the washing and meditate on:

·       How God’s love has turned flawed, unworthy, sinners, like you and I, into God incarnate, the Body of Christ in the world, and how those hands, these hands,  truly are the hands of Christ.

·       Meditate on how God’s love, reflected in the service those hands do, can reach into the graves that we dig for ourselves and pull each other out of those graves[6] and

·       Meditate how God’s love offers both us, and those we serve, the resurrection of life in Christ.

Now let us strip ourselves down and make a tangible demonstration our love and service to God and to one another by the washing of feet.   

Let us walk the walk.


[1] “Washing of Feet”, Bible Study Tools website, , retrieved March 24, 2018

[2] Msgr. Charles Pope, What Sort of Clothing Did People in Jesus’ Time Wear?, Community in Mission website, , March 29, 2017, retrieved March 24, 2018    

[3] Rev. Katherine Ferguson, Maundy Thursday Sermon, March 29, 2018.

[4] John 13:14

[5] John 13:34

[6] This concept is one I first heard from Nadia Bolz-Weber.  I love the imagery.