Tonight is about words. Tonight draws its name from certain words Jesus spoke to his disciples, some 2000 years ago. Maundy Thursday, or as when I was little, Monday Thursday... Mommy, why is Monday happening on Thursday this week? Mom never sis have a good answer for me. She would just roll her eyes at me and go back to whatever it was she was doing. (Smart woman!)
Maundy comes from the sane Latin word which gives us our word "mandate". We all just love mandates. Just ask us; we'll tell ya'. Especially federal or state mandates which lack the requisite funding. Those really get us heated up and talking. Costly mandates. We definitely don't like those costly mandates. They take away our freedom; limit our options; cut off our room to maneuver. No, we definitely don't like those costly mandates.
Now Jesus' mandate to us starts off simply enough, "Love one another..." Oh, yeah, we can do that. We love each other. Just ask us; we'll tell ya'. Why, we're the most loving, friendly bunch around. Just ask anyone. Why, we were just lovin' on poor ol' Jim the other day. Just sayin' what a shame it was that he lost his job, and his wife ran out on him and took the kids with her. Poor ol' Jim. Cain't seem to catch a break. When it rains it pours, dontcha' know. And if the government would just quit balin' out billionaire bankers and give poor ol' Jim a break, well, we'd all be a lot better off. Yessir, durn tootin'.
Seen Jim? Talked to Jim? Why, no. Why would we do that? Besides, Jim don't want to talk to nobody right now, anywho. But, we are right here behind him, luvin' him up. Just ask us. We'll tell ya'. 'Cause we're the most friendly, loving bunch in town. Ask anyone.
Yes, Jesus' mandate starts off simply enough, "Love one another..." But it doesn't stop there. It doesn't let us off the hook so easily. It keeps on going. And it gets costly -- very costly. "Love one another... as I have loved you." Silence. For words alone are no longer adequate. Action is called forth -- costly action. "Love one another... as I have loved you."
And Jesus doesn't just leave us to ponder as to what that might mean. He doesn't give our imagination a chance to rationalize his mandate away. He gives us a concrete example. A costly, humbling, humiliating example. Jesus grabs a towel and a basin and he grubs around like the lowliest of the low: washing the dust of the earth from tired, worn out, stinking feet. This how he loves us. He washes us clean. By setting aside his inalienable rights and emptying himself, pouring himself out, pouring out his life for us. And this is how he calls us to live and to love in his name. He calls us to make his presence visible -- not just audible -- visible, in the way we live together, in the way we welcome the stranger in our midst and care for the "least" among us, in the way we care for the Earth that has been entrusted to us.
Say what you will, this is a costly mandate. A costly mandate written and sealed in blood. The blood of the Lamb, the blood of raw knees and elbows, the bloody sweat of the garden's agony, the bloody shame and torture of the cross. A costly mandate, indeed. A mandate calling for our surrender, our service, our life.
On this day, all speech is hushed... all words fall silent... This is the day of the costly mandate.
Love one another as I have loved you.
Do this in remembrance of me.
Maundy Thursday 2010.
I am the Unlikely pastor. Welcome to my world.