Maundy Thursday 2017
Rev. Deacon Ethel LeResche
Let’s start by defining some terms: Maundy comes from the Latin “mandatum”—commandment
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” John 13:34
What is service?
Actually, let’s look at what service is Not:
Pew dusting on Sunday morning at the “Service” while you watch people up front serving
Or serving with a Grudging heart (alright, if no one else will do it, I guess I’ll have to.)
Volunteering for selfish reasons
Any taint of self in the sacrifice pollutes it—and none of us is taint-less. We are so full of our own selves! We “serve” others because we want something:
I give so people will see how successful I am!
I am kind so they will like me!
Look at me—I am holy!
I am worthy of your respect!
I had a Vision.
I was standing before the throne of God offering him a sacrifice. I held out a package I was holding in my hands and with great reverence I unwrapped it. In the package was my heart. It was rotten and decomposing—I gagged from the smell and it was crawling with maggots.
Just like the Israelites in the desert—we all start here, in the flesh. Every time I asked God to show me the definition of “service”, He brought to mind verses that talked about “sacrifice”. After arguing for a while, I began to see the connection. “Service” puts legs on “sacrifice”.
Service is the sacrifice of the self for the sake of others
For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Ephesians 5:1-2 (my favorite)
5 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
So we come to the Upper Room some one thousand nine hundred and seventy-nine years ago (or so). The sun is going down and the feast of Pesach is about to begin. Is there peace in that place? The disciples had argued all afternoon about who was going to sit where when Jesus established the Kingdom. Judas had already made his contract with the Sanhedrin to betray Jesus.
Then Jesus stripped down to his underwear and picked up a towel.
7 Jesus said to Peter, “You don’t understand now what I’m doing, but it will be clear enough to you later.”
What was Jesus doing? Not simply washing feet: not simply taking off his robe. He laid aside friendships to serve his peers. He laid aside his status as Rabbi, teacher, to kneel before his students. He laid aside his divinity to take up the position of a slave.
And then he commanded them to do the same or they would have no part of him (one translation says, we can have nothing to do with each other).
He was commanding them to lay down their own selfish desires, ambitions, fears—their lives. No other sacrifice would do.
How do we get from here to there?
Let’s look at Peter’s journey—clueless but enthusiastic
He didn’t want his feet washed. Neither do I. We all feel that sense of self-consciousness and embarrassment. It’s no more socially acceptable now than it was then. But in obedience, before understanding, Peter made a first step toward laying down his own interests.
And Peter showed courage when he followed the guards and Jesus after the arrest. But his courage failed him. He denied Jesus. Once is a slip of the tongue. Twice is fear. His adamant third statement is betrayal.
To save his own skin he betrayed his friend. He betrayed his teacher. He betrayed his LORD.
Scripture tells us “And he went out and wept bitterly.”
In the days that followed Peter changed. He laid down his fear, his self-image had been shattered. He was, oh, so very sorry. He became a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Truly repentant, truly humble and contrite. A broken spirit, truly able to love for the first time.
We pick up the story beside the sea in Galilee. Not only does Jesus restore Peter to relationship with him, he makes very clear the relationship between loving the One who is Love and serving.
Jesus served breakfast to his disciples.
15 After breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Master, you know I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” [love and service]
16 He then asked a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Master, you know I love you.” Jesus said, “Shepherd my sheep.” [love and service]
17-19 Then he said it a third time: “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was upset that he asked for the third time, “Do you love me?” so he answered, “Master, you know everything there is to know. You’ve got to know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep” [love and service]
This follows immediately: Jesus said:
I’m telling you the very truth now: When you were young you dressed yourself and went wherever you wished, but when you get old you’ll have to stretch out your hands while someone else dresses you and takes you where you don’t want to go.”
[Peter controlled his own life, his own will, selfishly involved in his own desires, no matter how dressed up in holiness. But he laid that down in sacrifice and allowed the Lord to command the rest of his life, even to his death upside down on a cross]
And then Jesus commanded, “Follow me.”
It’s not easy to follow Jesus. It’s not easy to sacrifice ourselves to become the fragrant offering he requires. It’s radical. But it’s necessary.
In a few moments, we will join Peter in the Upper Room. As we offer ourselves as servants and take up a towel, let us take a moment to lay aside those things we need to put down.
Service is not an option nor is it an event. The Lord doesn’t actually need you to fix a pot of soup or even go to India. He wants your life, your broken and contrite spirit. He wants your love. Service is a way of life and a walk into the very heart of God.
Do you love him; feed his lambs. ……..do you love him, shepherd his sheep ....... do you love him, feed his sheep.
So what does that look like? John Wesley says:
DO ALL THE GOOD YOU CAN
BY ALL THE MEANS YOU CAN
IN ALL THE WAYS TO CAN
IN ALL THE PLACES YOU CAN
AT ALL THE TIMES YOU CAN
TO ALL THE PEOPLE YOU CAN
AS LONG AS YOU EVER CAN!