A sermon preached by Pastor Robert Schaefer
First Lutheran Church
Maundy Thursday – March 24, 2005
Text: John 13:1-17, 31b-35
Friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
We are gathered here tonight as a community of the baptized – each of us, to the best of my knowledge, has been dunked or splashed or dipped into the family of God, whether years ago as children or more recently when God finally caught up to us. Whenever and however it happened, that baptismal water washed us clean, marked us with Jesus’ cross, and ensured that we would share fully in his life as God’s resurrected Son, just as he shared fully in our deaths as sinners condemned under the law. In that brief meeting of water and skin, God laid his claim on us, adopting us as his children forever.
Can you believe that? You are God’s own children, just as much as Jesus himself is God’s own child. Jesus is God’s only begotten Son, but you are God’s adopted children – when you were marked with the shimmering cross at the baptismal pool, he gave you a new name – “Christian” – and a new family – your brother Jesus, and all the brothers and sisters around you and beyond who have also been washed in this holy water.
God is careless and indiscriminate in his washing. John tells us that Jesus got down on his hands and knees and washed the feet of each disciple, every last one…including Judas, the disciple whom Jesus had called, and whom he knew would turn traitor that very night, feet still damp. It didn’t matter – the washing Jesus offered his disciples was his gift of love to them. Jesus washed the disciples because they were filthy and needed his care, and that was true of Judas as much as Peter. This world’s a dirty place, and those who live in it tend to find themselves in need of a washing. In your baptism, God washed you clean. He only adopts filthy people like us, but his very first act as our Father is to bathe us in his love and forgiveness.
Tonight we gather around both table and basin. The table is God’s gift of nourishment to us – he provides holy food and drink to keep his children strong and growing. When we circle around to eat and drink together, we’re reminded that we’re all family, and that this supper binds us together with each other, with our brother Jesus, and with our Father God. Tonight, five special young people will dine with us for the first time, and they know that they can count on this meal of Christ’s body to fill up their spirits and this drink of Christ’s blood to quench their thirst for meaning.
But God doesn’t not simply provide for us so that we can become fat and lazy. His food and drink gives us the strength for our work. Every family member has responsibilities and duties, and the family of God is no different. Our work as Christians is deceptively simple and cunningly difficult – we are to love God and love our neighbors with all the love God has shown us himself. We are to wash and be washed as a reminder of how to serve. We are to testify to the world each time we east and drink that our Lord Jesus died for us. We are to take the sustenance God has graciously provided us, and put it to work in his world, bringing our neighbors his love, until they find themselves at the adopting waters.
O Lord Jesus our brother, grant us humble hearts that we might become faithful servants - washing, loving, eating, drinking, proclaiming, until our every thought, word and deed is an act of your love overflowing in us. We bless you for your kindness toward us, and ask that you continue to wash us and feed us all the days of our lives, until we shall live with you in our Father’s house. Bless us as we remember your holy death and glorious resurrection, and all for your name’s sake. Amen.