Maundy Thursday Sermon
REV. JENNIFER ADAMS – April 21, 2011 – Sermon Maunday Thursday
If I had to title my sermons (which preachers in other denominations have to do or get to do depending on your perspective,) … well if Episcopalians had sermon titles, I would call this one “Of Food and Feet,” because that’s what we’ve got going on here tonight and I want to draw your attention immediately to those two things.
The liturgical actions and readings wind us in and around those themes in several different ways. Did you catch them all? There was the Passover supper in the book of Exodus, the walking in the wilderness and the manna remembered in the psalm, the institution of the last supper in Corinthians and John, and the washing of feet in the gospel. We hear in these readings of feet ritually clothed with sandals and feet made bare in order to be cleansed. We hear of feet carrying people for forty years worth of their prayerful, faithful moving toward the promised land. We know of disciples traveling from town to town on their feet and Jesus then washing those very feet in order to demonstrate the humble service that he’s inviting them and us to share. We hear of lamb and manna, milk and honey, bread and wine and body and blood. There were food and/or feet in every story we heard and not only were they there but they were playing critical roles. And so tonight, we too are about those things.
And the first thing I want to say is that while these things we do tonight are symbolic they are also participatory. This isn’t only about something that happened then – this isn’t a quaint sort of remembering that we do tonight. The kind of remembering we do tonight is also about becoming. And so we not only hear about these food and feet things, we also do these things, because Jesus said that’s how it should go. He didn’t just ask them to watch him. Within each of Jesus’ teachings and actions that we just heard about there were also commands. “Love one another!” He told them. “Do this!” he said. “Watch what I do and then you do it too.”
So, notice there aren’t a symbolic few people having their feet washed tonight any more than there are a symbolic few people receiving Eucharist. Everyone is invited, encouraged to participate in all of this and so my expectations are high tonight in terms of the community stepping into these actions. Very few of us are proud of our feet. Very few of us would offer them to our neighbor the way we offer a hand to or a smile to greet. But neither of those things are what tonight is about. These actions aren’t about pride or initial acquaintance.
This is about a new community happening right here in our midst, service taking place and food and feet helping it all come to be. You’d be amazed what can happen when we simply shed a sock, reveal our imperfect feet (speaking for myself here,) and allow our fellow parishioner to dry our toes. And something happens not only because feet are kind of strange but because these are the feet have carried us through forty years, or twice forty years, or one quarter of forty years, or at least through the last forty days and nights of our own wanderings.
Our feet know our stories and have carried us through them. I heard once about a person in EFM who told their spiritual journey by showing different shoes representing different phases of their life. I like that. Out of all the things we do tonight, the foot washing might stretch you the most, but that’s OK. It’s worth the stretch. Because I think that if we can take the risk of caring for one another’s feet which is a little awkward to begin with … if we can do feet, we can care for each other, and be cared for by each other in other ways too. And so tonight even if you are a little squirly at first, I strongly encourage you to be a washee – and if you’d like, tap one of the washers and take over that role too.
The food is easier for us. We eat together all the time here. And we feed others too. Our Feeding America work is not just an outreach ministry, it’s a manifestation of the stories and actions of tonight, a way in which we live this memory beyond ourselves. Holy Chow blooms out of tonight, home Eucharists are inspired here, youth group meals, Stephens shared suppers, brunches, newcomer welcomes all have their foundation, their model in this meal.
In Eucharist and therefore in all the meals we share there is strength, there is welcome, there is forgiveness, abundance and love to be had. And so tonight, in remembrance we’ll pass the bread and wine around the circle that is us and because this remembering has power we will become Christ’s Body for the world, broken yet one.
And all of this is the stretch that is Holy Week. The challenge this week is not only about Christ’s death; the challenge is also about stretching ourselves to live well, faithfully well, to become what we hear Jesus telling us to be. Essentially a people of food and feet, caring for those parts of ourselves that carry us on the journey, and feasting on Christ’s presence among us while offering that abundant life to all. The miracle being that as we do those things we become better able to stand together through whatever tomorrow brings, even if tomorrow happens to bring us the cross.