Sermon Maundy Thursday
Text John 13:1-17, 31b-35 – Loving by serving
The last 12 months or so has seen the news dominated by some of the worst terrorist attacks and threats since September 11.
And again we have seen this played out in Brussels.
The reason behind these attacks is supposedly not because of their hate of the people they are attacking but because of their love for God.
And they believe that this is what God would want them to do.
For Christians we see our relationship with God in the same way:
What we do is because we love God.
And what we do is what we believe God would want us to do.
As Jesus reminds us when he is asked what the greatest commandment is – he responds – to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength.
What is significant however, for Christians, is what followed next:
The 2nd commandment is like it – love your neighbour as yourself.
Therefore we could not express our love for God by hurting our neighbour.
No matter how much a person strays from God – even if they are diametrically opposed to God – they are still created by God and bear God’s image and so to hurt them is to hurt God whose image they bear.
And despite what they believe about God, they are still people for whom Christ died.
But there is also a difference in how we see our relationship with God.
As servants of God we are also servants of one another.
And we are given the example tonight as WE are served BY God.
Jesus was sent as an example of a servant of all.
He came, not to be served but to serve.
And Jesus shows that we don’t serve God or our neighbour by hurting them.
Jesus came to show the love of God expressed in the most intimate form:
God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
And now Jesus passes that on to us as he sits down with his disciples and serves them by washing their feet as an act of servanthood.
And then he steps ups and says – a new commandment I give to you – love one another.
As I have loved you so you are to love one another – and by this others will know you’re my disciples.
Not by acts of terrorism, violence or any other form of hurt towards our fellow human beings.
No, by showing unconditional love.
And Jesus will show the extent of that love – not by taking another’s life but by giving his own life.
And then, as St Paul says: what I received from the Lord I now pass on to you.
The giving of one’s life for the serving of God as we see in Holy Communion.
And that’s the big difference – we are servants of God – and servants of our neighbour.
And as servants we serve God and those created in God’s image – our fellow human beings.
Jesus’ model of foot washing exemplifies love and service.
He shows that love is not just an emotion or idea but an action.
And he shows that love is not an action that hurts or excludes.
When Peter wanted to be excluded from Jesus washing his feet he thought he was showing love and respect to Jesus – “You will never wash my feet."
But Jesus shows that love is fully inclusive.
It doesn’t reject anyone – it makes no demands.
So when we come to the table this evening we hear – “take and eat – take and drink” and no more.
Not take and eat if.. or take and drink when…
There are no conditions because God’s gift of salvation and life is available to all through Christ’s victory on the cross.
There is no sin so great that Christ’s death does not cover it – even those who put him to death were offered forgiveness – forgive them Father they don’t know what they are doing (Luke 23:34).
There is no sin so small that we do not bring it to the cross to hear the comfort of Christ’s forgiveness.
This night was a special night – even though just the 12 were present they represent us all, including Judas who too was offered Christ’s body and blood – none were excluded.
So may you go from here knowing that it’s not about being worthy enough but about being included.
We show God how much we love him by showing the same unconditional love to our neighbour.
Washing his disciples’ feet broke all the accepted conventions for a teacher and master.
But then again, God’s love breaks all accepted conventions.
God’s love commands that we love our enemy.
God’s love commands that we eat with sinners.
God’s love loves the unlovable.
God’s love loves unconditionally.
And we thank God for that because you and I fit into all those categories and more for it was while we were yet sinners that Christ died for us for God first loved us.
Jesus washing his disciples’ feet is not how we would use all the power of God if it was available to us.
It isn’t the way power is usually used in our world: nations dominate nations; businesses take over weaker rivals, political leaders call each other names and yell at each other.
And that’s what Peter couldn’t understand when he firstly wanted to take the glory road, when he refused to have Jesus wash his feet, and when he used his sword to cut off the ear of Jesus’ attacker.
Today’s gospel is an example of using power to the benefit and for the good of others.
Jesus’ use of power is an example to us and it begins by loving and serving God and our neighbour.
So may God bless you as you prepare for tomorrow’s Good Friday where you will again witness the greatest act of servanthood as Jesus lays down his life for us and the world.