Maundy Thursday :: Holy Subversion

"I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.”

Fourth of July 2009  091

Wash those feet!

The act of service and commandment to love in this evening's Gospel account, which Jesus enjoins on his disciples and—by extension—on us, is, in my mind, one of the most subversive elements of Jesus’ teaching and ministry.

I have been watching with interest the goings-on in Indiana and Arkansas these past few days. You know, where those states’ legislatures have enacted laws which some say could lead to discrimination—particularly against LGBT folk, but against any person or group simply because of one’s religious [read “Christian”] convictions. A pizza restaurant in Indiana has already said that it would not cater weddings of gay couples [really, pizza for a wedding reception?]. The idea is that one does not have to engage in business with people who challenge your religious beliefs. Really? The implications of this are far-reaching and affect not just LGBT persons, but anyone whose lifestyle runs counter to someone’s religious convictions.

So. I am confused. In what way is that sort of thing, acting in that way, a response to Jesus’ command that we love one another? How is that an appropriate way of providing a ministry of service which Jesus has modeled for us? Oh. Peter. I’m actually not going to wash your feet because you really don’t get who I am. And you Judas? What makes you think I am going to stoop down and touch your feet with my hands? You must be daft!

So. This is why I say that the act of service which Jesus enjoins on his disciples and on us is one of the most subversive elements of Jesus’ teaching and ministry. Serving those with whom we disagree, those whom we may even hate, or—Heaven forbid—serving those who hate us? Such acts of service indeed run counter to the conventional wisdom of the current age, don’t they? And don't get me started on that command to love... 

But so does gathering around the altar of God and giving thanks for the gift of Christ’s Body and Blood, as we are about to do. This is mere foolishness in the eyes of many in our world

The Eucharist we celebrate tonight, and of which we partake each Sunday, is a supreme act of love and service which Jesus offered his friends two millennia ago. The notion that gathering around God's table is a way to be a full participant in Christ's strategy to change the world, for those so gathered to offer each other in love and humility and service in the name of God is one which contravenes the wisdom of this age—indeed, of all ages—and offers to all creation an example of a new way of being.

So. Hang it all! Let’s go full bore LOVE and SERVICE tonight! Let us join together in this Holy act of subverting the wisdom of the age. Maybe if enough of us participate, we can change the world!

RCL Lectionary for Maundy Thursday

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