A congregation of the United Church of Canada
Just Like Them
I think maybe this year more than any other we can actually understand the depth of the feelings that were swirling around that upper room dinner table so long ago.
Just like them, we’ve gathered tonight for a spiritual purpose, to re-enact a foundational religious ceremony, to connect ourselves with our faith tradition in a tangible way, and yet we find ourselves distracted and overwhelmed by circumstances beyond our control – just like them.
Just like the disciples must have felt that night during the Passover festival with the occupying and oppressing Romans everywhere, and the people fearful for their lives.
So what do we do? Turn to Jesus, obviously.
He’s our leader, our teacher, our inspiration, our friend.
Surely Jesus will guide us through this!
And what does Jesus do? He washes their feet.
We lose some of the meaning of this because foot washing is alien to us. We don’t automatically have our feet washed by a host when we enter their home. They did. It was common and expected.
(Now we don’t go to anyone’s house, and we wouldn’t wash our feet we’d wash our hands – but I digress.)
The thing is, a servant, a ‘lower class’ worker (so to speak) would do the foot washing. Not the host. Not the leader. Not the…king.
Instead of calming their frayed nerves Jesus flips their understanding upside down (again) and challenges them to go and do likewise. Be as one who serves. Even if you’re…important.
And the disciples must’ve been thinking, “So now I’m fearful about what’s happening out there and confused by what’s happening in here. But that’s ok. Jesus is here. He won’t let us down.”
In the midst of the meal Jesus pauses and asks us to consider the food before us. As we look at it he tells us that this food, this every day, three times a day, regular, ordinary, homey kind of stuff is actually infused with Spirit, and meaning – if we choose to notice. He says to take that food and while you eat, while you’re savouring the flavor, while you’re doing what keeps you alive – remember.
Remember Jesus and his teaching.
Remember Jesus and his world-inverting kingdom values.
Remember Jesus and his servant heart.
Remember that it’s all about love – loving God, loving neighbour, loving one another. Remember that that food, all food, can represent Jesus’ body, the body of Christ, the physical enacting of his Way.
And so we ate – just like them – and remembered.
And then he has us look at our drink – his was probably wine, but it doesn’t really matter. It’s just what was on the table. So look at what’s on your table, in your glass – and remember.
Remember Jesus and his spirituality.
Remember Jesus and his passion.
Remember Jesus and his unrelenting commitment to his vision of loving-kindness.
Remember that that drink, all drink, can represent Jesus’ life-blood, the spirit of Christ, the spiritual immersion in his Way.
And so we drank – just like them – and remembered.
And then, just as we were starting to feel a little relaxed, and we’d forgotten some of the clamour of that oppressive world outside our doors while we huddle inside in safety – just then he said it.
One of you will betray me.
How would you react? Just like them, probably.
“Who me? You couldn’t mean me! I would never…”
But the truth is, while we’d all like to just point to Judas and say, “No, it’s just him! That Judas!” – the truth is, if we didn’t think it might just be us too, we wouldn’t have been defensive and objected so loudly. Just like them.
I don’t think Jesus was trying to shame Judas, or any of the disciples – and not us either.
I think he was just naming a hard spiritual truth.
Following his Way, living God’s kingdom values, without compromise, is very, very hard to do. It demands so much. And at some point, some sooner, some later, some maybe never, all probably at some point – fall short, compromise, turn away, deny – just like them.
Not that we want to.
Not that we’re bad disciples.
Not that we don’t have faith. We do.
It’s just that we’re, well, learning.
So much to learn. Just like them.
After dinner that night things went from uncomfortable to terrible.
Jesus is betrayed and arrested – for calling out injustice, for daring to offer an alternative worldview that wasn’t based on individualistic greed and power, for loving too much.
Apparently the most subversive and dangerous thing a person can do is to wash someone’s feet and invite people to infuse every aspect of their lives with remembrance of God’s Presence and God’s Way.
Apparently seeing the sacredness in every person and every place, and demanding we actually treat ALL people and places as sacred cuts too deeply into the bottom line.
And, apparently, staying true to that kind of worldview demands our all.
And we can’t wrap our brains around why that’s so.
Just like them.
So we’re left with only Jesus’ challenging commandment – to love one another.
How wonderful that we have so simple a way to remember this – just by eating and drinking – not just in a fancy church ritual – but in every bite, and every sip, every day.
Sustenance like that will help us as we rise from the table and go out and face the oppression and struggle outside our doors – as Jesus lives out the consequences of loving so deeply and fully.
And we’ll do so, despite our discomfort, and despite how hard it is, just relying on our faith in Jesus and his Way, no matter what.
Even through the horrors that await tomorrow.
Because we’re disciples.
Just like them.