Welcome + Worship + Witness

The Rector: Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday
18 April 2019
19.00 Eucharist of the Last Supper
Revd Nicholas Mercer

In 1972, I went to York Minster with my Mother and her sister to see the Queen after the Maundy Thursday Service

I was nine years old at the time.

However, the memory of the event stayed with me as the Queen stopped to talk to us after the service and we were on the News.

At the time, I knew the name for the service but not the reason for the name.

I also had no understanding as to the meaning of Maundy Thursday either

The word Maundy is a corruption of the Latin word “mandatum” meaning commandment.

The commandment, on this particular occasion, is the commandment given by Christ to

wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example” (John 13)

Which we heard in our reading this evening

This commandment is given at the same time as the commandment to celebrate the Lords Supper and both are traditionally observed together on Maundy Thursday

In a sense, our foot washing this evening, is a token gesture

It is a ritualised form of service to our neighbour

In a Western setting, the fact that foot washing has become ritualised, is understandable as rarely does someone come to our house, footsore and with feet covered in dust- We simply don’t live in that sort of climate

In fact, if I offered to wash someone’s feet when they came to dinner or even to the house they would think I was quite odd

However, although foot washing has become ritualised, in a sense, this does not matter because rituals not only speak for themselves but very often they speak far louder than words

The ritual itself speaks of a deeper reality which words often cannot convey

And the importance of the ritual of footwashing is that;

  • It reminds us of our equality before God
  • It reminds us of our humanity as washing someone’s feet exposes us and our common humanity to the world

But above all it reminds of our service as Christians

  • Our service to one another, without ceremony, formality or gain
  • But above all, Christ’s service to us all 

Christ is not only the King but the servant King

Not only did he come down to Earth but he humbled himself to the lowliest in society at the same time

I think that there is one other point from Maundy Thursday that we need to remind ourselves of

God is not found amongst the rich and powerful but amongst the lowliest born

In today’s world, that could be the homeless, the refugee, the aged, the street worker, the unemployed

Imagine their feet and there you find the feet of God

[However, having said this about ritual, when you come across an act of selfless service, and a genuine act of servanthood, this too speaks volumes

Last year, I visited a tourist in the hospital in Port Stanley who was in a coma

He was taken ill during a cruise and was taken to Port Stanley hospital where he was placed in a hospital bed to die

He never regained consciousness and died five days after his arrival

I would visit each day but, one day the nurse said that she had washed his hair

I was extremely moved by this gesture

He was not going to recover

He was not going to recover consciousness

He did not care about his appearance, nor did anyone else

Yet she washed his hair

For me it was a selfless act of love to a dying man

An act as saintly as Christ himself in washing the feet of his disciples

This was an act of servanthood to someone she did not even know

An example to us all on this Maundy Thursday, devoid of ritual, which speaks most powerfully of the Christian service we should seek to emulate.]

Nicholas