Sermon for Maundy Thursday; John 13:1-17; 31-35

It seems a strange story, really. Foot washing. I doubt you’ve ever been to a dinner party where the host gets up from the table only to start washing your feet. For most of us, it would be an uncomfortable or maybe an awkward experience, at best. I have found that people are very passionate about how they feel about their feet. I don’t know why that is. But, more than once if I’ve mentioned my enjoyment of pedicures, some people have responded “I don’t like anyone touching my feet…no way!” Or people wear socks to bed so that their feet don’t even have a chance of coming into contact with their partner’s feet. Warmer weather keeps teasing us and I know I will hear more than one opinion about open-toed shoes. People are quite opinionated when it comes to their feet. I like my feet. I like pedicures. I like open-toed shoes. I don’t mind if other people touch my feet. I sleep with socks on but only because I don’t like my feet to get cold. And if someone wanted to wash my feet I would probably wonder what in the world I did to deserve such an action.

We probably don’t give a lot of thought to feet. If you’re in fairly good health without any major problems with your feet you probably don’t think about them a lot. But, if you think about everything our feet do, it’s pretty amazing. This is not the only time that feet are mentioned in the Bible. Feet (along with other body parts) are mentioned several times throughout. In fact, one of my favorite passages comes from Isaiah 52:7 “how beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace” See, God didn’t intend on us just using our mouths to share the good news of a Christ crucified for all, for the entire world for the forgiveness of sins. No, we should use our entire bodies, as a willing and able sacrifice to God in order to share the good news with whomever will hear. This includes our feet–our beautiful feet.

But again, this still seems a bit strange. Foot washing. There is a lot of vulnerability that happens in this story. Jesus removes some of his clothing and places himself in a position of vulnerability, where he is literally on his knees in front of his disciples. Yet the disciples are vulnerable as well. They are confused why Jesus would do this. They may be ashamed of their feet. They may be uncomfortable with this sign of affection. Or maybe, being stripped, having any part of themselves naked, having to show who they really are, was outright frightening.

No matter how many times I tell you or clumsily attempt to show you that God, through Jesus Christ, loves you, the fact is that I am incapable of such things, really. The love that God has for us is incomprehensible. It is immeasurable. And honestly, sometimes the love of God can be offensive. Sure, sometimes it’s easy to swallow the fact that God loves us. But, God loving our enemies? For God to love those whom we’d rather not? That’s offensive. And yet, that’s what happens. That is how this God, that we claim loves us, works. We serve an offensive God, brothers and sisters. We serve a God whose ideas of love, justice, righteousness, forgiveness, and mercy come no where close to ours. When it comes down to it, are we even able to comprehend this Jesus who kneels in front of us?

Simon Peter asks Jesus “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Simon Peter doesn’t want it to happen at first. He isn’t real excited about the idea. He doesn’t want to be loved in an offensive way. Simon Peter is unable to accept the love that Christ wants to show him through an act as simple and as complicated as foot washing. And if we’re really honest and truthful, brothers and sisters, I think we are often unable to accept the love that Christ has for us.

If we’re not unable to, we certainly are uncomfortable accepting the love that Christ wants to give us. See, the cross is offensive, friends. It was our sin, yes, that Jesus took upon himself on that cross, but it was also his love poured out with his blood, also for us. The idea of accepting a love with no strings attached makes us uncomfortable. Certainly there must be a catch. Certainly at some point in time I will do something that will brand me as “unloveable.” Certainly there is a burden I carry that makes me think that I am outside the realm of grace. I am almost positive that there is a stain or two in my past that would cause this love to be given with restrictions.

But no. That is not the kind of love Christ desires to give us. That is not the kind of love Christ desires to give to ALL of God’s people. The kind of love that God gives, through Jesus Christ is just as simple and as complicated as this: God loves you. That’s it. God loves you. Not “God loves you except that part that you hide.” Not “God loves you except for that one thing you did that we don’t talk about but we all know about.” Not “God loves you but sure would love you more if you did this, that, and the other thing.” None of that. God loves you. Are you starting to understand how offensive this really is? We are incapable of showing this love. At times, we are incapable of accepting this love. Because really, if we can’t love ourselves, how in the world do we expect God to love us?

But the cross isn’t about your perfection. The cross isn’t about your holiness. The cross isn’t about your obedience. The cross isn’t about you except that it is. See, the cross was about God’s perfection in Jesus Christ. The cross was about Jesus’ holiness. The cross was about God’s obedience in Jesus Christ. The cross was about God’s promise through Jesus Christ. And while the cross isn’t about us, it certainly was FOR us. We didn’t do anything to deserve it. We didn’t do anything to earn it. The cross was a gift. A really expensive and offensive gift. A really uncomfortable gift. We cannot return it.

Jesus was stripped of his clothing, for you. Jesus was beaten, for you. Jesus was given sour wine, for you. Jesus was mocked and derided, for you. Jesus was ridiculed and mocked, for you. What an offensive gift. When we gather at this table and we taste the bread of life and drink from the cup of salvation, we receive offensive gifts. We hear the words “for you” not once but twice. We are eating the grace that God gives us. This bread and wine are tangible signs of God’s grace. A love outpoured over and over and over, for all who come forward, eagerly open their hands, and firmly believe that God is present in this meal. How offensive.

We are sustained by a life giving feast of body and blood. And everyone is welcome at the table. How offensive. A table where sins are forgiven. A table where it doesn’t matter what you’ve done or not done. How offensive. Bread for you: you who doubt yourself, you who who are you cloaked in shame, you who keep secrets, you who feel like hiding. Wine for you: you who question yourself, you who question who God made you to be, you who smile through tears, you who feel empty, you who have lost, you who feel lost. Yes, welcome to this table, you who need love, you who need forgiveness, you need reminding of worthiness, you who are broken, you who are bruised, you who have been knocked down but not knocked out, you who are angry, you who even question whether or not there even is a God. This table is for you too. This Jesus, the one on the cross, was and is for you too. How offensive.

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