Thursday, April 21, 2011

And chose a servant's part

I agreed to preach a Maundy Thursday sermon a couple of weeks ago, and that night has arrived.  "Maundy Thursday" is one of those phrases I read occasionally in British books during my upbringing, but as a Southern Baptist never thought would become a part of my life.

Maundy Thursday is so called because it is the day of Holy Week when Jesus gives a new mandate -- a new commandment -- to his disciples.  Actually, a number of different mandates are piled together on this day.  It's the night of the Passover meal that we now commemorate in the Eucharist, Communion or Last Supper, and Christians understand there to be a mandate to "do this in remembrance of me."  The author of John adds another institution, portraying Jesus as leading a foot-washing ceremony, which was presumably something regularly practiced by the community for which he wrote.  (Mainline churches that celebrate Maundy Thursday typically wash feet only on that night; a few Christian communities, like Seventh-Day Adventists, understand the ritual to be mandated more regularly and broadly, and therefore schedule it as a prominent worship ordinance.)

But the most important mandate of this night is Jesus' statement in the gospel of John that he is giving a new commandment to his disciples to love each other in service, just as he has made himself a servant to show his love to them.

If you'd like to read my sermon -- it's short and contains no jokes or anecdotes! -- it's available here.

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