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Maundy Thursday - John 13:1-17, 31-35

Living in historic times amplifies the echoes of the past.

I can't remember so much public interest in the spanish flu, or social media commentary

on the great plague of London.

I do remember that today is the seventy-fifth anniversary of the martyrdom of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, executed for idolizing Christ over patriotic loyalty.

He did not keep politely quiet when God's people the Jews were being tortured and butchered the way pastors are supposed to about politics, unless they agree with you, then it's okay.

The trouble is that our faith, from the beginning, has insisted that the God who made the world is active in it, sometimes politically, not always in the way we expect or want.

Which is why Jesus and his disciples are preparing for Passover.

The bold Jewish claim is that in days of disaster and plague and death, God was doing something worth celebrating.

The promise is that God is moving history toward liberation...setting people free from Pharaoh and Hitler and other bullies, who always fight back.

So Peter has his sword ready, because now the Messiah is in town and it's time for God to defeat the tyrannical Romans and make things right.

He just has no idea how.

Rooted in Passover faith, we gather in our homes as death rages around us and we pray.

Our prayers are a mixture of worry and hope, trust and desperation, desires and questions.

We try to muster patience and gratitude, not as we ought, but as we are able.

The voices of the saints insist that God is up to something good we cannot see or know.

Saints at seder and the pastor in the concentration camp urge us to trust, but there is so much we don't know, and we are constantly being bombarded with more of it.

The news rolls an odometer of death and closure and doom, pumping out data and theories like an IV of crack; if the virus doesn't suffocate us, maybe the information avalanche will.

How long will this last?

Do I need a mask?

What's the right way to succeed and win social approval during pandemic?

What will happen politically and economically now?

The more we hear and ingest, the more we realize how much we do not really know.

Maybe we are finally ready to listen to John.

In the opening verses of chapter thirteen, which will launch a long and mind-bending stretch of teaching, John takes great pains to impress upon us that Jesus knows stuff we don't.

Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father.

He knew who was to betray him.

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and where he had come from and where he was headed and how...

You do not know now...Do you know what I have done to you?

Where I am going you cannot come.

John wants us to be abundantly clear that Jesus is in on things that Caesar and CNN are not, and since he won't be around much longer, pay very close attention to what he does and says.

Jesus gives us no answers or explanations or helpful information.

He gives us no timeline or protection or battle plan.

He simply takes a towel and a knee.

He washes his friends' feet, and for more than twenty seconds.

It is a slow, dirty, thankless job.

It is shameful and raw, more than Peter and his Messianic certainties can stomach.

The governor is stocking a grocery shelf.

The president is wearing a trash bag and treating an infected patient.

The hope of history is driving a Walmart truck.

The savior is scrubbing skanky toes without saying a word.

At this point I invite you to pause and take a clean towel in your hand.

If you are a Shepherd member who lives in the area, hopefully you received one in your

worship bag earlier today.

Hold your towel, touch it, feel in your hands and against your skin. If you, like me, are blessed to live alone, soak your feet tonight and dry them slowly.

If you are blessed to live with others, wash their feet and let them wash yours.

Do not clutter the moment with words.

Bathe in the water and the towel and the silence.

Cleanse your feet of the day; cleanse your brain and heart of the noise and fear.

Like Peter's feet, you are in good hands that know more than you do, whatever's next.

Resist this if you must, cling like Peter to your expectation of what God and life are

supposed to be if you insist, but Jesus knows more than you do and with only a few hours

left to live, he has decided that what is most important right now is your feet.

The silence continues, long enough for the whole room to feel it, long enough for us to listen when Jesus finally, gently breaks it open with his voice.

He gives us no answers or explanations or helpful information.

He gives us no timeline or protection or battle plan.

The one who knows everything we don't knows what to say, and it's all we need to know.

I have a gift for you.

It am giving you a new teaching, a new commandment, a new something for you to do.

Love one another.

Love one another the way I have loved you.

It is a slow, dirty, thankless job.

The secret Jesus shares is that true glory is washing feet and dying on a cross.

Love is a lot less glamorous, and far more beautiful, than we had hoped.

Love is a lot to ask.

And it is the very, heroic thing that will save us.

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