Lent Devotion for April 13 - Maundy Thursday
We will see you tonight at 6:30PM, in the Sanctuary for our Maundy Thursday service with the Lord’s Supper, Scripture, and the Chancel Choir singing the Faure Requiem. About a 65-minute service.
"The Servant Is Exalted"
Reader: "I have given you an example."
Response: "Do as I have done to you.”
SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 52:13
13 See, my servant will prosper;
he will be highly exalted.
SCRIPTURE: John 13:12-17
12 After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? 13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. 14 And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. 16 I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. 17 Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.
SCRIPTURE: Philippians 2:5-9
5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
6 Though he was God,9 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
8 he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
and gave him the name above all other names,
Reader: “These are the words of the Servant God.”
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
What does it take to be a servant? To start off, there needs to be someone to serve. And someone has to be willing to serve. Elementary! The servant takes the position of submission to the one served. We are all very familiar with Jesus’ words “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Mt.20:28) Jesus’ referring to Himself as the Son of Man harkens to the title used in the book of Daniel to refer to His preexistence. In a real sense, Jesus has assumed that position in relation to His heavenly Father for all eternity, before creation came into being. At every point in His earthly ministry, Jesus bowed to His Father’s will. (John 8:29) Jesus has always served His Father. The fact that His ministry was “service to people.” He serviced in every conceivable way: healing, comforting, feeding, teaching, loving, telling people the truth, pointing out hypocrisy, and even washing the feet of His disciples, even the one who betrayed Him. It was on this night, Maundy Thursday, that the foot washing took place. The following story sheds light on what it means to be a servant.
I grew up in a small farming community in central Illinois. Our little Mennonite church had maybe 125 people. One of the common practices of the Mennonites then was foot washing as a part of the observation of the Lord’s Supper. As a little boy of eight who had just given his life to Christ, I was enabled to participate in the foot washing. Given this setting, I want to tell you what happened in one of my first foot washing experiences, an encounter that remains burned in my memory and heart over fifty years later.
I happened to be paired with a wonderful old gentleman by the name of Pete Oyer. Pete was one of the solid saints in the church and community. He was a janitor at our little grade school. (There were twelve in my grade.) He drove the school bus. He had since retired. I’m guessing he was in his late 70’s or early 80’s. He was a kind of “saint” who had a very bad hip and walked with a cane with considerable difficulty. I was honored and humbled that I wound up being paired with Mr. Oyer. The foot washing happened in the church basement with two wooden chairs on either side of an oval pan on the floor.
I kind of gingerly got down off my chair and knelt down to wash his gnarly old feet which possessed discolored toe nails. (Our feet are not our most beautiful feature, especially after seven or eight decades! There is also a vulnerability being shown, as we allow another to see a rather humbling part of who we are.) Apart from this physical aspect, I was greatly humbled to be washing the feet of this man. It truly was an honor, a privilege to serve this man in this way. Being on my knees seemed like I was right where I should be, serving someone I respected.
I finished drying his feet and slid back onto the seat of my wooden chair. Then, the most powerful, moving moment occurred which changed my perspective on foot washing forever. Pete struggled down off his wooden chair, assisted by his cane, and proceeded with great difficulty to kneel down and wash my little eight-year-old, smooth skinned, barely broken in feet. He shouldn’t be doing this. I don’t deserve any of this. I haven’t accomplished anything. I have no place of honor in the community or church. The elder should not be serving the younger, especially when it brings physical pain and difficulty. Everything about this was wrong! I connected easily and quickly with Peter, “Lord, you shall never wash my feet!” It is not right! I realized then and am convinced to this day that foot washing is not a cultural thing at all. It is a servant thing, a humility thing, and above all, a deeply spiritual thing. It’s what Jesus told us to do. We are servants. Our model is no less than the Son of God.
Where charity and love are, God is there.
Christ's love has gathered us into one.
Let us rejoice and be pleased in Him.
Let us fear, and let us love the living God.
And may we love each other with a sincere heart.
Lord Jesus Christ, who on that treacherous night, did display unending, unconditional love and proclaimed the fulfillment of a New Covenant of grace, we can find no words to express our love and gratitude for the difference your action makes in our lives today so many years later. We are nourished by the bread and the cup, your life-giving body. We live into that holy night rejoicing in the power unleashed by the Holy Spirit. You lived servanthood to the fullest. You live servanthood even now as you intercede before the Father on our behalf. Receive this our prayer through Christ our Lord, who reigns with you, the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end, forever and ever. Amen.