Today is Maundy Thursday in Holy Week. A day full of story and meaning. The last supper. The first communion. The profanatory foot washing. The flagrant betrayal. And I am struck by the invitation of Jesus that begins with a kind of humility, debasement and intimacy that is hard to receive. Here he seems to be signaling his followers that the way of Jesus is an inglorious one as he takes on the posture of a slave and embraces our most filthy, base parts and makes them clean.
I loved this reflection by Urban Faith Staff:
Holy Thursday, Maundy Thursday, and I am thinking of that night so long ago. I am putting myself in the scene, this soul-weary, overweight, middle-aged black woman who needs Jesus with everything in me. In my mind I am there with the disciples. I am present with my Jesus. You are there, too. Can you see it? The upper room in the drafty edifice, us stumbling in exhausted. We are starving. It’s just before the Passover Feast. So much has happened. So much will happen.
We gather together for a simple supper. Even Jesus has a kind of weight-of-the-world weariness about him. He’s talked a lot about going away lately, but he is fully present now, and his love has arms that hold us close. Still, a sadness lingers in his eyes. It reminds me of how the poet prophet Isaiah describes him, as a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.
The table is set, and we recline where we’re seated, grateful to be with him. Our cups are lined like guards before us, full of wine. A basket of bread lies in the center of the table. Later he will tell us the wine is his blood poured out, and the bread his body broken. Later. Now we sit. Night, as thick and palpable as fog, surrounds us. The flames on the candles bow and rise in the breezy room, as if they too, worship our Lord.
Then Jesus sets aside his outer garments and dons an apron like a slave would wear. He pours water in a basin. We exchange puzzled looks.
“Give me your feet,” he says.
We are stunned silent, each of us carefully removing our sandals, unsure of what to say–what to do–faced with such shocking humility. Foot washing is the worst of tasks, despised by a servants gesture. Yet Jesus kneels before us, one by one, and washes our feet. I watch Him move from person to person. Dear God, Jesus is on His knees, pouring water on our rough soles. The Son of God, the Son of Man, washes us as if the pitcher contains, then releases, his own tears. The water slips between our toes, and the filth of the world falls to the ground, ground now hallowed by His presence. We couldn’t help but feel emotional. Some of us wailed as he worked.
He sure knows how to make a mess of things.
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I too feel the sting, "This is all too much, Jesus! Turn your gaze away!" And yet Jesus tells us that we cannot be a part of what he is doing unless we surrender to the vulnerability of this act.
And I can't help but think about what this means for us today as we traverse through the world. For so often, we find ourselves attempting to hide our filthy, undesirable parts to present a shiny image that is presentable. And yet Jesus seems to be saying that unless we allow him (and it seems others) into our vulnerability, we cannot have any part of the kindom.
And then the kicker. Jesus says, “as I have done… so also must you do." We are invited to take the posture of a slave, giving up power and privilege and entering the mess of others. I think about it as I prayerfully walk my neighborhood, as I encounter my neighbors who are struggling to survive on minimum wage, as I share a table with my neighbors who are grieving loved ones, as I greet my neighbors without a home to call their own, and as I befriend the refugee and the immigrant. What does this act of vulnerability invite of me?
This is the path of descent. This is the path of the cross. This is the path of recovering our humanity, embracing the inglorious and calling it holy. This is the glorious mess of Maundy Thursday.
by Jessica Ketola