What are You Always Doing?
Apr 01, 2021
Maundy Thursday Reflection
April 1, 2021
Text: John 13:1-17, 31-35
Pastor Jean M. Hansen
It is true that we live in a selfish, self-centered, self-gratifying, self-promoting culture. The examples of that probably are endless. But, on this holy night, I would like to suggest that this year of dealing with a pandemic has sparked the fire of selflessness and forced us to be more about “we” than “me.” And although no one would call me optimistic, I am someone who contends that good will always triumph over evil and that there are more caring people in the world than uncaring ones. We just hear more about the latter.
In tonight’s very familiar Gospel lesson, Jesus illustrates what it means to serve, to give of oneself for the sake of others. It is probably no surprise to learn that foot washing was a common act of hospitality. The host offered the guest a basin of water, and that person usually washed his or her own feet. Certainly, the host would not do so, nor would anyone else in the household, even a servant who was considered “free.” Only a slave would stoop to wash the feet of another.
For a free person to wash someone else’s feet meant that he or she was assuming the position of a slave. The only reason someone would do so voluntarily was to show complete devotion to another person. That is what Jesus does; he shows the depth of his love for his disciples, washing even the feet of the one who will betray him.
Please note, though, that his actions are not just a gift but an example. This is not just about being helpful; it is about showing the kind of love that startles and surprises, to love in ways that no one expects.
We saw some of that this past year; medical personnel working long hours in stressful, unhealthy environments, for example. I can still bring to mind a photo I saw of a nurse whose face was marked and bruised by wearing the personal protective equipment for hours. Whose eyes were beyond tired but were pools of exhaustion. Whether or not she was a follower of Jesus, she responded as disciples are called to act; that is, selfless, denying of self. Serving is not just something that we do; it reflects who we are.
That leads me to this question, which is in a sermon on tonight’s Gospel lesson by Pastor JoAnne Taylor. She asks, “What would others say you are always doing?” Maybe people would say you are always encouraging, or they might say you are always complaining. They might say you are always finding fault or that you always see the good in everyone. How about he is always working out, or she is always doing yoga?
Give that some thought for a moment. Be honest. If you are courageous, when worship is over, ask someone you love what he or she would say you are always doing. Then, think of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet, and the new commandment he gave us, “…that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” (John 13:34) And how did Jesus love us? He loved us fully, sacrificially, in ways that are unexpected.
Beloved followers of Jesus, when you wake up each morning, pray a prayer something like this one written by Pastor Taylor. “God, this is the day that you have made, I will be glad and rejoice in it. Give me eyes to see people who are in need. God, give me a heart that breaks for the things that break your heart. I am your servant. When you call, let my answer be yes. You may tell me to wash somebody’s feet. Whatever you ask of me, I will say yes to you, because serving is not what I do, it is who I am.”
And then, she goes on to say, “And then, someday, if someone were to ask the question, what’s he always doing, what’s she always doing, they would have a really powerful answer. She’s always serving. He’s always making a difference. She’s always helping others see the love of Jesus. He always there, every single week, showing up consistently. You can count on her, she does not just talk about Jesus, she lives the love of Jesus. They are servants of the Lord Jesus Christ.” (1)
Imagine that tonight Jesus kneels before us, takes our feet in his hands, looks into our eyes and asks, “What are you always doing, my child?” AMEN
(1) “Selfless in Service: Sermon on John 13:1-17” by JoAnne Taylor, January 28, 2018, “A Pastor Sings”, www.pastorsings.com