Maundy Thursday: Hands & Feet

St Nicholas
Maundy Thursday

Exodus 12:1-14
Psalm 116;1, 10-end
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
John 13:1-17, 31-35

I would like to spend a few minutes looking at the hands and feet in the readings this evening. There are over 560 Biblical references to hands and some 260 mentions of feet. These numbers aren’t significant other than that is a lot of hands and feet!

In Exodus, God gives specific instructions to Moses and Aaron about how the Passover meal is to be prepared. Hands were needed to prepare the lambs and make the arrangements. Sandals were to be on feet, staff in hand and the food eaten quickly. The lamb’s blood needed to be painted over the doorposts.
They were to be ready! Things had to be done.

Maundy Thursday is a day of preparation. There are physical as well as spiritual preparations to be made as we move into Good Friday. In a few minutes we will invite you to come forward to have your hands washed. Following on from this we will celebrate our last communion before Easter Sunday. At the end of the service we will strip the altar and then sit in silence to keep watch. All of these actions, however ceremonial we make them, should help us to turn our hearts, hands and feet to Jesus as he goes to Gethsemane and then onto the cross.

Paul is reminding the Corinthians about how they are to celebrate the Eucharist. Seriously, simply and holding to the words of Jesus. Paul says he received this from the Lord and is handing it on. What we have received from the Lord needs to be handed on too. This is not a passive passing on of only words but of action. The actions of Jesus and his hands: taking the bread, lifting it to give thanks and then breaking it to be shared. This is the new Passover meal.

Jesus’ breaking the bread is a violent action. Jesus is breaking his own body. Jesus’ body is broken for us on the cross. Not because of anything that He did – NO. But for what we have done. This is the drama that is played out on the altar each time we take communion together. Do this in remembrance of me, he says. Remember my broken body and my blood spilled for you. You. Remember me.

There is so much that we want to forget. The news, the weather, those things that have gone wrong. There are things, I am sure, that we want other people to forget we have done or not done. Then we forget the easy things and seem to never forget the things that should be forgotten.
What then should we know and remember?

Verse 3 – Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God.’

Amen! Jesus knows what is going on. As we read again the accounts of the Last Supper and Good Friday, Jesus has been given all things. Not only that, Jesus remembers and knows. Whatever it is, is in his hands! The relief this has brought me time and again has been amazing and transformational. Even in the darker and difficult times and I forget; Jesus has not. It’s in His hands. I’m in his hands; You are in his hands.

Because it is in his hands, we can get our feet (okay hands) washed. That is what John is telling us. Jesus knew he was going to God, so he got up from the table (verse 4), tied a towel, poured the water, and began to wash the disciples’ feet.
Jesus’ foot washing is an act of service and of love. The ultimate victory is knowing that Jesus was going to God. He can then do the menial job; the job of a slave. This foot washing shows us what humble service and true greatness are.

Maybe we have a Peter or two in the congregation tonight. You want all of yourself to be washed: feet, hands and head. Maybe there are a few anti-Peters who are saying ‘No. I will not be washed!’ Our hearts and hands pick up stuff along the way that they really should not or lead to where we do not want to go. Our feet can step in it sometimes too.

If we believe, deep down, that it is really in His hands then hand washing is not that big of a deal. It is a sign of humble acceptance of all that has been done for you. Jesus has set us an example as he has washed our feet, we are to wash the feet of others. We can do this in our acts of love and service to each other however unglamorous or menial they might be.

Tonight, though, is about the literal washing of hands as an outward sign that we believe we are in His hands.
The hands that healed the blind and raised the dead.
The hands that broke the bread and poured the wine.
The hands that have our names written on them.
The hands that were nailed to the cross for the dirt on ours.
The feet that walked thousands of miles to heal and teach the least, the lost and the last.
The feet that brought the Good News.
The feet that walked up the hill under the weight of the cross.
Will you let the things that have been picked up in your heart, hands and feet be washed away tonight?

Loving Lord, you served your disciples in washing their feet: serve us often, serve us daily, in washing our motives, our ambitions, our actions; that we may share with you in your mission to the world and serve others gladly for your sake. (based on a prayer by Michael Ramsey)

Proper 13: How Fresh is Your Bread?

Jesus is the bread of life. If this is the case – why do we insist on eating mouldy, stale bread. Or why do we always eat the same bread? Jesus has so much more on offer for us!

From Malcolm Guite’s WordPress

Fingest Group Service
August 1st 2021

Exodus 16:2-4; 9-15
John 6:24-35

The next time you are in a grocery store I would suggest you take a slow walk down the bread aisle. Marvel at the sheer variety of bread that is available. The shapes, sizes, thin, medium or thick cut, white, whole wheat, rye, seeds, nuts, grains, no gluten, low sugar. Danish, French, Italian.

  • Bread is big business! It has been eaten for thousands of years and it remains a staple of most diets around the world. According to the Flour Advisory Board Approximately 12 million loaves are bought everyday in the UK. Spending 3.6 billion on bakery items. 
  • 99% of households buy bread
  • 44% of men eat bread twice a day – only 25% of women do.
  • White bread accounts for 76% of all bread sold in the UK even though about 200 different types of bread are made here

Bread is relatively easy to get, it is generally good for us with lots of vitamins and minerals, dietary fibre.  It provides energy, it is affordable for most people to buy and there is a huge selection.

I assume that you are all thinking about bread; if I asked each of you about the bread you are thinking about, we would get many different answers.

So what do we think about when Jesus says: ‘I am the bread of life’?

The crowd that was following Jesus that day had different ideas about who Jesus was. This was mostly the crowd of 5000 that were fed the day before with the miraculous multiplication of the loaves and fishes. They are back today for more!

Jesus knows that this is the reason they are back to see him. Although it appears that bread and fish are not on the menu today. To be fair it is hard to see clearly when we are hungry. The crowd clearly saw the sign yesterday; the loaves and fishes multiplied. Yet they missed what this signified; the Kingdom of God, Jesus the bread of life. This is what Jesus offered them that day and still to us every day.

Jesus then tells the crowd ‘do not work for the food that spoils, perishes but the food that lasts for eternal life which the Son of Man will give you.’ The bread we buy in the shop will spoil eventually. Everything in this life; bread, people, situations and circumstances will perish one day too.

Although Covid has changed the priorities and given a new perspective on life and death for many people; many of us still work for the food that perishes. We then wonder why life doesn’t get better or God doesn’t do what it is we want him to do too. 

This was the case of the God’s people in Exodus. They had been led out of their slavery in Egypt by Moses. They now find themselves in the wilderness and life is hard. They are complaining about the lack of food, claiming that they sat around in Egypt eating meat by the pot full and endless bread. No mention of the hardship and brutality they lived under. Memories can be short sometimes! 

God, in his great mercy and proving that He did not lead them into the wilderness to starve to death, started sending the quail and manna from heaven each morning and evening. Enough food for the day. Just that day. 

The Israelites would collect it and eat it but they would be hungry again. The same thing would happen the next day…and the next. God fed them so they would know that he is the Lord their God. 

Jesus is saying the same thing to the crowd who returned again for more bread. Throughout chapter 6, Jesus is pushing those listening and being fed. Day 1 was about physical feeding, Day 2 is about spiritual feeding. 

Most of us here can satisfy our physical hunger quite easily. Abundance of bread in the shops, money in hand. Yet many of us are spiritually hungry;  this is a hunger much harder to satisfy. We can’t do it ourselves, there is no shop selling ‘spiritual food’ for us to buy that will fill us up. 

Some people are eating yesterday’s mouldy, stale bread. It’s green and fuzzy and gross. This bread has been stored up and saved. Maybe they have been eating it for so long that they do not know any difference. This is what is in front of them and maybe they never think to look for anything else. This is not the bread that Jesus is offering. Maybe it never occurs to them that fresh bread is available? Jesus offers us fresh, living bread every day. 

Maybe others are only eating white bread. Only ever eat white bread. White bread is boring. 76% of all the bread sold in the UK is white yet 200 other kinds are made. The white bread eaters like what they like but they are missing out. God has so much more on offer for us, if only we would wake up. Work for the things that really matter. It takes courage to do this but Jesus promises that those who come to him will never be hungry or thirsty. 

Where do we find the real, the true bread? 

With thanks to a close friend and brilliant Priest: ‘At the Last Supper the night before he died, he held bread in his hands and said to his friends, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:24). We are going to hear these words shortly at the consecration. Ever since then Christians have been celebrating the breaking of the bread. We come together to share a meal and be fed with the bread and wine that is Jesus. 

This is indeed the meaning of the Eucharist: Jesus Christ is here on earth again in the Eucharist, just as he was two thousand years ago. He is not just present in our memory. He is not just spiritually present. He is here on earth, body and blood, soul and divinity.’

Our hunger will only be satisfied by Jesus in the Eucharist. I think we all know this – but good to be reminded. We bring to him what little we have; he will bless it and multiply it. It will be more than enough! We can trade the mouldy bread for fresh, the white bread for a variety. 

When we are physically full we function better; we just do. It is why schools have breakfast clubs for kids.  We know that with a good breakfast, kids do better in lessons. It is the same for us, when we have had our bread from heaven. We do better – we can be humble, gentle, patient, more loving, more unified. The bread that will never leave us hungry or thirty. The bread that offers us eternal life.