Home > Worship > Sermons >
The Paschal Triduum: Maundy Thursday April 13, 2017 - The Rev, Janet Campbell
Exodus 12:1-14; Ps. 116:1-2,12-19; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26;
            John 13:1-17, 31b-35
Christ Episcopal Church
Tacoma, Washington
Thursday, April 13, 2017
The Rev. Janet B. Campbell
On this holy night,
we enter a journey
that lasts three days.
The liturgy we have begun just now
will not end
we reach the dismissal
of the Easter Vigil.
We won’t be here together
          all that time,
we will
disperse and return,
disperse and return,
but what we have begun tonight
will continue in us
as these three holy days enfold us
          at home,
          at work,
          at school,
          fasting and eating,
          waking and sleeping . . .
. . . until all is accomplished . . .
. . . until we tonight
wash one another’s feet
and share Christ’s Body and Blood,
          the bread broken
          and the wine poured out . . .
Until all is accomplished . . .
. . . until we tomorrow
find our way to Good Friday’s cross . . .
          empire’s instrument of torture and death,
          means of Jesus’ self-offering
                    for the sake of the world,
          sign of God’s ultimate power
                    out of death to bring new life . . .
Until all is accomplished . . .
. . . until we Holy Saturday evening
gather in expectation
          around a new fire in the courtyard,
share the ancient stories of our salvation,
proclaim the Lord’s resurrection,
celebrate with splashing waters
          our baptismal renewal in him,
come to God’s table
          for the Easter feast,
and finally, are sent out
          for the Eastering of the world.

While much of the world
goes about its ordinary business
these three days,
Christians around the world
have stepped out of ordinary time
into sacred time
when the power
of the events of the last days
of Jesus’ life
is present with and for us now
as we give ourselves over
to what God will do with us
in these Three Holy Days.
Two great gifts are generously
          given us this night,
as they were given first
          to Jesus’ first disciples
                   on the night before he died.
A knowledge of our place
          and purpose in the world
all the courage and strength
we will ever need
          to live accordingly.
A simple and practical gift: an example . . .
A multi-layered and mystical gift: a participation  . . .
“I have set you an example,”
Jesus said to his disciples on his last night with them,
“that you also should do what I have done to you . . .
If I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet,
you also ought to wash one another’s feet.”
In Jesus’ time,
sandals were the usual footwear
and feet were filthy with dust and dirt
          and street-leavings of all kinds . . .
It was a messy and necessary job,
a servant’s job,
to wash the feet
of all entering the household.
No one wanted to recline at table
          to dine
                   next to street feet.
We’ve come here shoes-on,
or, knowing of the foot-washing, sandals,
but this is the Pacific Northwest . . .
so most probably
          sandals with socks . . .
Our feet don’t need to be washed.
But we need to have them washed
          by another.
And we need to wash another’s feet.

In so doing,
we follow Jesus’ example
of humility and servanthood . . .
We practice being servants
          of one another . . .
Not to create a closed circle of service
          within this place,
but so that we may remember that,
          upon leaving here,
          we are to be servants of all.
Not that we will go out into the world
          with bucket, pitcher, bowl and towel . . .
but that we will go out
          with humility,
                   (which is the same size as everybody else)
and knowing our purpose
          is not to be served
                   but to serve.  

The other gift so generously given us
this night:
the Mystical gift of participation
in the life of Jesus.
          and through him
          in each others’ lives,
                   and in the life of the world.
We commemorate tonight
that first night when,
breaking bread with his disciples,
sharing with them the cup of wine,
Jesus gave new meaning
to those actions:
“This is my body that is for you,”
he said over the loaf of bread,
“Do this in remembrance of me.”
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood,”
he said, offering them the common cup,
“Do this, as often as you drink it,
in remembrance of me.”

Not that we do this today
to reminisce about something
that happened once, long-ago
          and is now nothing but
                   a communal memory . . .
that we do this today
(and as often as we do it)
to participate
in the very life of the one
          who has given it,
to participate
in its meaning and power 
ever present and active
in today’s communities
          of his beloved disciples.
Bread to feed the hungry body:
Wine to gladden the heart:
Life emerging anew
from the natural cycles
of dying and rising . . .

Seed buried in the ground,
coaxed into growth by sun and rain,
green stalks of wheat,
          ripening heads of grain,
to  be threshed out
          on the threshing floor
and ground between stones
          into flour,
then, in the heat of the oven,
          baked into beautiful brown bread . . .
          whose beauty must be broken
                   to be shared.
Grapes fed into plump ripeness by rain and sun,
torn from the vine
to be crushed under foot
          until they bleed their juice,
juice fermenting into ruby red liquid
          of delightful taste and pleasure,
          that must be poured out
                   to be consumed

crushed on the cross,
body broken,
blood pouring out,
dying and falling to earth
that he might
rise to new life,
and that with him,
we might rise,
as we will sing at Easter,
“like wheat that spring-eth green.”
The crucified and risen Jesus,
that Jesus:
present in the bread
          we break,
present in the wine
          we pour out,
giving the ripeness,
the fullness of himself
          anew to his disciples
wherever and whenever
          we gather for worship . . .
. . . that we might be participants
in his strength and courage,
in his humility and self-offering,
in his love and kindness,
in his very being . . .

that we might become
what we receive,
and be
strong and courageous disciples,
humble and self-offering servants,
loving and kind
in our very being . . .
“I give you a new commandment,”
Jesus said,
“that you love one another.
Just as I have loved you,
you also should love one another.
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples,
if you have love for one another.”
Let us open the gifts of this evening . . .
they are what we will need
as we walk the way of the cross
on our journey to Easter.