This sermon was preached on the 28th of March 2024, Maundy Thursday, in the Anglican Parish of Kalamunda-Lesmurdie

Text: Mark 11.1-11; Mark 14.1-15.27

Would you have let Jesus wash your feet that night? Would you have allowed Jesus to humble himself for you? Would you have allowed Jesus to be your servant?

Take a moment to picture yourself in that room, amongst the disciples, gathered together for a meal. Suddenly, Jesus jumps up from the table. He takes his outer robe off, casting aside all rank, all authority. And then he ties a towel around his waist, taking on the role of a servant, a slave, the lowest of the low.

This is your teacher. This is your Lord. This is God incarnate. And there Jesus is, down on his hands and knees, moving from person to person, gently and carefully washing the feet of each. You find yourself wondering, as Jesus slowly but steadily works his way around the room, carrying the basin from person to person, why Jesus is so calm.

Over the course of the night, there’s been a palpable tension. You all know that that the chief priests and the Pharisees were profoundly angered by the procession into Jerusalem. The Romans are angry too: they’ve seen Jesus’ entry upon a colt as an insult, as a parody of an Imperial procession, mocking and challenging the power and authority of the Empire. You feel afraid. You feel tense. You want to shout out.

And yet Jesus… Jesus still makes his way, steadily around the room. Now, Jesus patiently, calmly washes the feet of the disciple next to you. Would you let Jesus Christ wash your feet?

Or would you spring up from your chair, and shout that something must be done! Jesus must be taken to safety! You, yourself must flee to safety! We can’t just sit around up here – what are we doing here?!

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”

Jesus was never one to teach in the abstract, with mere words alone. Jesus first gives this commandment to the disciples, to humankind, to us, through his own profound, embodied example. Our Lord knew that he would be betrayed. And Jesus knew who it was that would betray him. And yet, Jesus got down on the floor, and washed his betrayer’s feet.

God incarnate got down on the floor, went down into the dust, dressed in the garments of a slave, and washed the feet of his betrayer. He washed the feet of his betrayer, just as he washed the feet of his friends. This is unconditional love. This is hospitality that has no boundaries, no conditions, and looks for no reply. This is pure grace: the grace of God.

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”

Jesus gave us this commandment on the night of his betrayal… on a night when we would expect almost anything else to be on his mind. And so he taught us that we are to serve even when we things are going wrong. Even when we are scared. Even when we are despondent.

This is a commandment that cannot be lived unless we embody it, unless we choose to make it real.

God has made us, each of us, simply and wonderfully in God’s image. And God has granted us each diverse bodies. God has granted us each diverse gifts. Today, by washing feet, by demonstrating selfless service and grace, even on the brink of tragedy and disaster, Jesus tells us what we are to do with our gifts.

We are to offer them to one another. We are to serve one another. And in so doing, we are to offer our gifts, offer ourselves, back to God.

And the boundaries of our service are not to be limited by this building, this church, these walls. Our Lord was willing even to wash the feet of his betrayer. Jesus made no differentiation, no distinction, in his service. Jesus modelled for us the purest grace; a hospitality that was and is offered utterly without condition.

Who we serve, and how, is a matter for prayerful consideration. Yet the example of Jesus tells us that it is not to be limited to just our close friends; it is not to be limited to just our chosen in-groups; it is not to be limited to just those of this congregation.

No. We are called, with God’s help, to serve widely and abundantly. That might seem to be a big ask… but we can encourage one another. Share what you do to serve your fellow people. Invite others to join in, to contribute somehow.

I was quite moved on Palm Sunday, when a parishioner shared her ministry of collecting cans and bottles, taking them to be recycled, and using the proceeds to support local animal shelters. That’s a creative way in which the people of this place can support the broader community.

If you have an idea for how God’s church in this place might serve the community, share that idea with others. Perhaps they will join with you, and together you can make it a reality.

We can always encourage one another. We can build up God’s church. And God will help us, if we turn to God in prayer and in faith. Remember the example that Jesus set, that evening, getting down upon the floor, going down to the dust, to wash the feet of all… even the feet of Judas.

Remember also the words that Jesus spoke at the table, as told to us by Saint Paul, and by the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it, it said:

“This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

Jesus took the cup, gave thanks, and said:

“This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

Each time you approach the Lord’s table, remember those words. Remember that Jesus gives us his Body and Blood. Jesus gave and gives everything, everything, for each and every person. Jesus gives everything, for each and for all of us, not regardless of who we are, but with regard to who we are. Jesus sees us, just as we are, and Jesus loves us.

Accept that hospitality.

Embrace the overflowing, transforming love of God.

Love one another as Jesus loves you.