Just under 30 of us gathered at St Swithun’s Martyr Worthy (and 7 on zoom) yesterday evening for a very moving Maundy Thursday service. It was wonderful to be back in church again after so many months of lockdown even though we were still unable to sing and had to wear masks. However our lack of engagement with singing was more than compensated for by Tim Tyler, Maddie Woosnam and Bella Woosnam accompanied by John Dover who peppered our liturgy with some really beautiful singing: Gather us in, Kyrie Eleison, a gospel acclamation and, whilst the Rector washed his wife’s feet (to keep it in the household) the very moving brother sister let me serve you. Then a number of beautiful interludes to the Eucharistic prayer.
The Rector gave the following talk:
Jesus washed the disciples feet….Jesus washed the disciples feet…..
The trouble with explaining some of what happens in the Bible, is that customs have changed over 2000 years and what would have appeared really shocking to the Ancients, just seems quaint to the modern man and woman, so some explanation is necessary….
It was customary in the Ancient world, when you were attending a dinner, for a slave to wash the grime built-up from the sandy roads, off your feet when you came into the house, but this was a task which was so menial that Jewish slaves were not required to do it and indeed the disciples
had not washed each others feet when coming to the Passover meal with Jesus.
But Jesus, the Son of God, Creator of the Universe, Verse 1 ‘Knowing that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father….Verse 4 got up from the meal took off his outer clothing and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that he poured water Into a basin and began to wash his disciples feet drying them with the towel which was wrapped around him’. The rest of the disciples,,,,,sat in stunned silence
But Peter, never one to be restrained in any social situation, immediately, (thinking perhaps that he is showing Jesus respect) by what he is saying (and perhaps implicitly criticising the other disciples who had already submitted to Jesus washing their feet) Peter, says to Jesus (verse 7) “you shall never wash my feet”.
Jesus then says the shocking words: “Unless, I wash you you have no part of me”. Peter then passionately responds, “Then Lord…not just my feet but my hands and my head as well”.
Jesus enigmatic response is “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet, their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you”
Jesus is, of course, speaking on a much deeper level than personal hygiene. Those who have had a bath need only wash their feet….what is he referring to here? Is he talking about baptism?
Almost certainly, Judas Iscariot would have been baptised, and surely Jesus is talking about him when he says ‘though not every one of you’, so he cannot be talking about baptism……
He must, it seems to me, be talking about those who have been bathed In the Holy Spirit, those who have been reborn, (to use another of Jesus analogies, this time speaking to Nicodemus in John 3).
So two points today:
Firstly, what it means to be bathed in the Holy Spirit, to become a follower of Christ
And, secondly, how we followers of Christ can keep on track, how we can avoid Jesus’ admonition of Peter ‘Unless I wash you you have no part of me’.
Firstly, what it means to be bathed in the Holy Spirit
This a moment when we may have felt God’s presence overwhelmingly when because of his presence or because of his astonishing answers to prayer we know that he is real…..or we may have called out to God for help and he has turned our life around
Or it may be the moment when we accepted Jesus Into our lives, taking our own responsibility for our relationship with him, rather than just relying on what our parents have told us, or our family culture of church going
In Valley Worship, month after month, for the last few years we have heard stories – testimonies – about people in our parish who have had these key moments in their lives, turning points if you like, on the journey of life
It may have happened gradually, over some time, like if you are on the night train travelling between France and Germany, you start off in one country and the following morning you find yourself in the other, but you cannot tell exactly when you crossed the border, when it happened, but now, looking back, everything is different you are in a different place to where you were…or It may have happened suddenly on a specific day with some kind of Damascus Road event.
If this has never happened for you, of you don’t know if it has or not, or if you don’t know what on earth I am talking about….can I possibly suggest that you take the opportunity to investigate further, by attending Alpha on-line in the comfort of your own home. Tim Clapp is running Alpha with Dan Day Robinson from 15th April….on zoom, do join them. It will be fun. Don’t miss this important opportunity for discovering not just the theory but the reality of God’s presence. Its an opportunity to answer so many of our questions about faith, and resolve so many of our doubts……all of which are such an obstacle to our relationship with God, such an obstacle to experiencing being bathed In the Spirit in his presence in the way that Jesus encourages us….
Email Beccy if you want to take part…..
Secondly, for the follower of Christ,, the person who has had that bath In the cleansing power of the Holy Spirit, the person who has been re-born of the Spirit, need only present his or her sinfulness during a day to Jesus, but must do it every day, repent of it and it is gone…for ever and then we can get on with our lives, recalibrated, back on track, without guilt about the past, or fear about the future.
When I was at school, I used to do adventure training in the Brecon Beacons in Wales. Perhaps we were doing our Duke of Edinburgh award. The weather can get bad in the Brecons quite quickly, and it was a particularly cold Spring. It was my turn to lead the group of disaffected moaning teenagers on a walk through the Brecons from checkpoint to checkpoint and camping out a couple of nights. I think we were on the final day going up the hills….as the snow started to fall. We didn’t have any radios to communicate back to our teachers.
By the time we had struggled through a forestry commission plantation, the snow was thick on the ground and the sky was completely white, there was a strong wind. I knew from the map that there was a cliff to the right of us but it was impossible to see where….and that our next checkpoint was a trig point at the top of the hill. So, with my freezing fingers, I took a compass bearing from the map, added the magnetic variation, and set off into the blizzard, constantly looking at my compass, not able to see the difference between the ground and the sky and certainly no more than a few feet ahead of us, no idea about whether I was about to fall over the cliff edge; it was white out!
Astonishingly, because I am not known for my map reading, we hit the trig point bang on! It just appeared out of the bllzzard a few feet in front of us
I tried to leave a note for the teacher on the trig point (which we were required to do) which immediately blew away, so I adjusted my compass for the next leg and we were, after a couple of hours, down in the relative warmth of the valley In the school’s mountain cottage Cwm lwych…..drying out our socks and clothes by the fire…
A couple of years ago, one of the boys on that trip said to me, when I met up with him In a pub in Winchester, that he had no idea how I had managed to bring them down that mountain….And nor have I….because my map-reading is atrocious. And as an army officer years later there is no way that I would have taken soldiers up the Brecon Beacons into those conditions…It was far too dangerous.
But I tell you this little story to illustrate about foot washing as we come to Jesus daily to ask for his forgiveness, for the sins we have committed during that day, Its like being at the check point are readjusting our compass to the direction that he has set for us. We are going back to his map, his plan for our lives which are good plans as the Lord says in Jeremiah 29 ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’.
If we do so, we will get through the blizzard when we cannot see the way ahead when because of whiteout we cannot distinguish between the safety of the firm land and the peril of the cliff, we will hear his gentle voice behind us prompting us to go that way, do this thing – not that….because the obstacle that our sins place between us and him will have been removed by our repentance.
As we come to him In daily repentance He will wash our feet and will we eventually come to the safe and secure home at our journey’s end
13 Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4 got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 8 Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
12 After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 14 So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16 Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. 18 I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But it is to fulfill the scripture, ‘The one who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ 19 I tell you this now, before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am he. 20 Very truly, I tell you, whoever receives one whom I send receives me; and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.”
The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Jn 13:1–21). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.