I am including a draft of tonight's sermon.
When pastor Rich and I were discussing the combined service for today, I asked him how many people we could expect from First Lutheran. He said probably about forty. Then I asked how many of them would participate in the foot washing and he said almost all of them. I immediately thought.. that's forty feet to wash! Then my mathematical side kicked in and I thought... each one of those people have two feet. That's eighty feet! We'll be here till midnight just washing feet! He then assured me that we would have several basins and it would not take that long.
I don't want to discourage any of you. In fact, I hope you all participate in this ritual which has always been important. Several months ago as a part of the ordination process I took something called the General Ordination Exam or G.O.E. In the world of the Episcopal Clergy it is referred to as the dreaded G.O.E.'s. It is a very long written exam. By the time I was finished I had written about 12,000 words. Shortly after I had submitted my response to the exam I was given an oral exam in which I had to defend what I had written.
At this oral exam I was asked what the purpose was of the foot washing during Maundy Thursday. After I told them to get clean feet they told me to dig deeper. My real response was that it was an act of humility and that in humbling myself it exhibited my love for the people whose feet I was washing. It really is about showing humility and love which brings us to what Maundy Thursday is all about.
What does Maundy Thursday mean? The word Maundy comes from the Latin word mandatum which translates to the more common English word mandate or commandment. Jesus gave us a new commandment on that night two thousand years ago. He said “that you love one another, just as I have loved you.” There is so much power in those few words.
Jesus showed us how much he loved us by allowing himself to be sacrificed on the cross. We must never forget his love or his sacrifice.
Every Wednesday we do the stations of the cross at St. Andrew's. We take turns reading the individual stations. A few weeks ago one of our parishioners was leading at the sixth station and she became emotionally overwhelmed by the power of what she was reading. She stopped for a time to compose herself. We waited. Then she finished the reading.
She later apologized to us for what had happened. I told her I am affected that way too but that I can usually make it to the eleventh station before I start tearing up.
Several weeks ago I was taking an online video course on church liturgy. At one point in the class we started discussing the stations of the cross. One of the students in the class said she didn't like doing the stations because it made her sad. My response to her was, “Isn't that the point?” We are entering the sad times of Holy Week. We are here to remember. To feel sad, and to never forget the sacrifice that Jesus made for you and for me.