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St. Pauls – Maundy Thursday – 4/28/2024

Earlier this week I was talking with a friend about tonight’s foot washing. He said, Do you want to hear about my Jesus moment? 

I couldn’t help it and I just started laughing. And then he started laughing. Sure, I said, tell me about your Jesus moment. The reason we were laughing is that my friend is Jewish. Not only is he Jewish he’s a rabbi and serves a synagogue.

Three weeks ago he was in Brownsville, Texas, working with an organization that cares for migrants when they are released in the United States. He said a group of about forty young men from China came through. One had fallen behind and gotten separated from the group. The group stopped to get basic necessities and then continued on. This one young man was trying to catch up to them but he still needed shoes.

My friend said a volunteer saw what was happening, ran into the warehouse, and picked out some shoes he thought might fit the young man. Then he ran up to the young man and knelt down before him. He took the young man’s feet into his hands and wiped off dirt and whatever else was stuck to the young man’s socks. He smoothed out the wrinkles in both socks, put the man’s feet into the shoes, and tied the laces. The young man took off running after his group.

That’s tonight’s gospel (John 13:1-17, 31-35). That’s Maundy Thursday. It’s that simple and practical. Jesus moments usually are.

When Jesus washes feet, he shows us that love doesn’t have to look glamorous to be revolutionary. In fact, Jesus moments are often the humblest acts of love which speak the loudest. A phone call to a person you don’t usually think to call. A check-in over zoom, email or a hand-written note. A meal left at a door. An encouraging smile to a stranger standing near you in line somewhere or walking past you.

Jesus moments catch us by surprise. You can’t plan them. They’re unexpected. They just happen. And when they happen they usually interrupt what we had planned and expected. They pierce our heart with compassion and open our eyes to the needs of others. They sensitize us to the pain of the world. Jesus moments connect us to something larger than and beyond ourselves. They ask us to see and respond to the basic needs of another human being regardless of who he or she is, whether it’s Peter, Judas, a migrant, you, or me. We don’t decide what to do in Jesus moments,  we just do what we do because we can’t do anything else.

Jesus moments are not about answering questions, eliminating doubt, or making judgments. They’re about imagination, possibilities, and hope. Jesus moments open and enlarge life. They’re expansive and inclusive. They ask something of us and await our response. And sometimes the response is as simple and practical as a pair of shoes or a basin of water and a washcloth.

Jesus moments are as much about ourselves as they are the other. For every Jesus moment in which we hold the feet of another in our hands, there is a Jesus moment in which someone else is holding our feet in her or his hands. And that, Jesus says, is how they will know we are his disciples, if [we] have love for one another.

On his knees, looking up as our dusty feet rest in his soon-to-be-pierced hands, Jesus says, Love one another like this. Hands-on and no-holds-barred. Love until you surprise people. Love until the powerful of this world feel the threat of your love. Love until the broken of this world are healed, and the starving of the world are fed. Love until love becomes your signature, your trademark, your calling card, your identity. Love until you  understand what I have done to you. Love until the world understands who I am. Remember me, and remember this: I have made you for love. I have made you to create moments in my name. Do you know what I have done to you? What I have done for you? What I long to do with and through you?

Toward the end of our conversation my friend said, Since I’m a rabbi I should really call this my Abraham  moment. He mentioned Abraham offering water to the three men who visit him so they can wash their feet. (Genesis 18:1-4) But, he said, I’m still going to call it my Jesus moment. You all – meaning us Christians – get it so much better.

I wondered to myself, Do we? I hope we do but I’m not sure we always do.

What do you think? Do we get it? Do you? Do I?

What’s your Jesus moment today?

May we kneel before each other and learn the mystery of love.