Holy Week Tuesday 30th
The chosen hymns for this week, And can it be that I should gain and Will you come and follow me can be found below along with a transcription of the sermon for those who prefer to read.
Welcome to our reflection for Tuesday of Holy week with the theme: ‘‘Never at any time will you wash my feet’.
We will start with our reading from the gospel of John Chapter 13 verses 1-20
It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus.
Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so, he 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 that was wrapped around him.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
Jesus answered, “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.”
For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.
Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.
I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfil this passage of Scripture: ‘He who shared my bread has turned against me.’
I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am. Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.”
May God add his blessing to this reading of his holy word.
This was not a Passover ritual. Feet washing was traditionally done by servants for guests or their master when they arrived home after a journey along the dry dusty roads. Certainly not something a master would do for his servants. It was however a needful and practical thing that needed doing before sitting down for a communal meal especially since people reclined at a low table and feet were very much in evidence.
So what Jesus was doing was extraordinary and so clearly an important message was being given especially in the context of one of his last opportunities to minister to his disciples before his arrest. The disciples had been arguing about who was the most important so perhaps that is a clue. No one else had offered to wash the dust from their feet so Jesus stepped in.
So what message was Jesus trying to get over to Peter and the other disciples?
Well, there are a number of key messages for us all in this passage but today we will focus on three:
Firstly, we should all follow Jesus’ example of humility, self-sacrifice, and service to others.
Secondly, no matter who you are you should be willing to be a servant to others.
And finally, you should readily accept help when it is offered.
We could think of no better local example of these important lessons than the foodbank operated by Alva Development Trust from the Cochrane Hall, so Kay and I set off to see what we could learn from them.
ADT Video (18 mins)
John & Kay
I don’t know about you, John, but when we decided to record an interview with Mary Laing, I didn’t quite know what to expect, but actually the scale of all that they do certainly amazed me. I know it’s not part of our reading today, but it made me think of the parable of the mustard seed that grew and grew. From something that began on a very small scale, what they provide is huge. And her simple message, ‘We’re here for everybody’ is at the very heart of it all.
Absolutely Kay, they do an incredible job. – You know, going back to our reading, when Peter feels it’s wrong for Jesus to wash his feet, Jesus says: ‘Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” Maybe what he is saying is that no-one should feel less worthy than anyone else. Absolutely no one is above getting their hands dirty so as to speak. He is setting an example of service and fellowship, of everyone working together as a team. That makes us stronger and surely, the example that Alva Development Trust’s foodbank sets is a light shining through the darkness of the pandemic?
Definitely and one of the key messages that Mary gave us was that the volunteers treat all comers with dignity and respect. They don’t expect any explanation or justification from people who need help – they simply give it. When Peter answers: ‘“Then, Lord, not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” that reminds me the Foodbank is not only that: it is a community of volunteers who do much more than handing out food parcels – they actually care enough to find out what problems people have and create solutions – like the cooked meals for people who can’t prepare food for themselves; like discovering an elderly lady had been sleeping on the floor and organising a bed for her; like checking up that folk are okay if they haven’t seen them for a while. This is a clear example of going above and beyond.
The other thing that struck me was just as Peter was reluctant for Jesus to wash his feet, people feel the same reluctance to ask for help. From the interview with Mary, it all goes back to pride and self-worth. Yet, like Peter who is so ready to go further himself, folk are more than willing to give help but somehow don’t feel comfortable being the ones to ask for help.
And that raises another thought in my head. We maybe need to ask ourselves, if we are reluctant ask other people for help when we need it, does that mean we avoid asking God for His help when we should?
Yes taking everything to God in prayer can sometimes be a last resort for us. It shouldn’t be, and talking to God regularly really can help.
From our interview we clearly can see that over the past year, giving help has had a huge effect on both the people in need in the Hillfoots and on the wonderful team of volunteers who provide it. At the very beginning they probably had no idea of the scale of need, the work entailed or the resulting strength of the bond that joined them:
‘Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
As Mary said, ‘We are a family now’ - and isn’t that how it should be? Giving and receiving help makes us stronger together.
Let us join our hearts and minds in prayer – let us pray.
Heavenly Father, you sent Jesus, your only beloved son into the world to show us how very much you love us, despite all our flaws and weaknesses. Jesus came to call us to join him in building your kingdom here on earth, through serving others and inspiring others to serve also. We ask for the courage to look and listen for ways to serve you, always seeking opportunities to build your kingdom here and now.
We pray for all your children in this world who are struggling to cope with the plague of this pandemic.
We pray too for all those who have served so well throughout the past year: whether they are key workers in health care,
in emergency services,
in essential retail,
in transporting supplies keeping communities going.
For those in education caring and helping our young people.
For our politicians having to make the most complex decisions in situations never before experienced in our lifetimes.
And, closest to home, we give thanks and we pray for the wonderful family of Alva Development Trust’s Foodbank.
Dear Father, when we are facing deep struggles, help us to know when to ask for your help so that we can be sustained and comforted by your care and inspired with hope of a brighter future.
Where we can help others with their struggles, may we be quick to do so. Amen.
And now we can all join in singing Hymn number 547 ‘What a friend we have in Jesus’ (4 verses. Words on screen)
Go on in love and peace, offering help where you can see it is needed and welcoming help when you are in need, in God Our Father’s name, amen