A homily preached by Pastor Robert Schaefer
First and Spring Creek Lutheran Churches
Maundy Thursday, April 17, 2003
When you’re a preacher, you start to notice signs of God’s presence in the funniest places. Could be as simple as a stick lying just so on the ground. Other days it’s your pooch, and the love she shows you. Just looking out the window, washing the car, or walking down the street, it’s hard to tell when one of those God moments will hit you.
Other folks have them, too. Like my brother. He’s the one who saw God in the loaf of bread.
I had just moved into my new house here in Litchville and Jeff was helping me get settled in. We’d been working that morning—no small job!—and decided to call it quits for a few minutes to grab a bite of lunch. I opened the cupboard and pulled out a loaf of Master bread (white, like Jeff likes), and was halfway through spreading on the peanut butter when Jeff read the label out loud to me: “Master Is Good Bread.”
“That’s pretty good theology for a loaf of bread, don’t you think?” he said.
It sure was. “Master is good bread.” Jesus said just the same thing. He called himself the Bread of Life, and said he was the kind of bread that never leaves you hungry. Our Master Jesus is good bread, the best bread, the only bread you’ll ever need. And so Jeff and I found God’s touch in the most ordinary of things, a loaf of white bread that reminded us of the goodness of Jesus Christ.
That’s the thing about our God. He uses all kinds of everyday things to get to us, to show us what he’s like and how much he loves us. He uses those things to show us forgiveness and to give himself to us.
Tonight we remember Jesus’ last supper with his friends, the night he took bread and wine and gave them to those friends, giving himself to them in that meal. There’s nothing special about some bits of bread or a sip of wine, nothing out of the ordinary to make you think God’s present here. And yet those very ordinary morsels of food and drink are the meal that God uses to feed our souls and forgive our sins. The plain, boring bread and wine become special because they have the fingerprint of God on them.
But the Lord’s Supper isn’t the only ordinary place to look for signs of God tonight. We’ll also see him in something as simple and low as washing and bathing. It’s something we do every day, whether we want to or because our parents make us. It’s nothing special; in fact, it’s more of a chore than anything else. Wash your hair, wash behind your ears, wash every one of your two thousand parts, then wash your hands over and over throughout the day. It’s the kind of drudge work that we’d be embarrassed to let someone else do for us.
But Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, and the graying water became a sign of God’s presence among them. What was God like? He was someone who would get his hands dirty to serve those he loved. He was someone who would get down on his knees and do the work of the lowest servant. He was someone who could pour water over old Peter’s feet and wipe them dry with the tenderest of touches, because loving means looking after the needs of one another. Jesus transformed the insignificant act of bathing into a clear sign of God’s presence.
In the Lutheran church we have two sacraments, two most important ways that God uses ordinary things to get to us in extraordinary ways. He gives us grace and forgiveness in the waters of baptism and in the bread and wine of communion. But he touches our lives in all sorts of commonplace ways. Learning to see just how often God uses these simple things in surprising ways is called sacramental living, and it’s powerful stuff.
Seeing Jesus on a bread wrapper? Don’t be surprised. You’ll see God using even stranger things than white bread to get to you, if you just keep your eyes open. God loves making the simple things deep and powerful, and he loves getting to simple people in deep and powerful ways. Thanks be to God for his precious, ordinary gifts. Amen.