O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
faithful shepherd of your Father’s sheep:
teach us to hear your voice
and to follow your command,
that all your people may be gathered into one flock,
to the glory of God the Father.
Psalm 89.1-2, 20-26
My song shall be always of the loving-kindness of the Lord:
with my mouth will I proclaim your faithfulness
throughout all generations.
I will declare that your love is established for ever;
you have set your faithfulness as firm as the heavens.
‘I have found David my servant;
with my holy oil have I anointed him.
‘My hand shall hold him fast
and my arm shall strengthen him.
‘No enemy shall deceive him,
nor any wicked person afflict him.
‘I will strike down his foes before his face
and beat down those that hate him.
‘My truth also and my steadfast love shall be with him,
and in my name shall his head be exalted.
‘I will set his dominion upon the sea
and his right hand upon the rivers.
‘He shall call to me, “You are my Father,
my God, and the rock of my salvation;”’
Glory to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now
and shall be for ever. Amen.
After he had washed the disciples’ feet, Jesus said, ‘Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But it is to fulfil the scripture, “The one who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.” I tell you this now, before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am he. Very truly, I tell you, whoever receives one whom I send receives me; and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.’
Today’s reading takes us back to the Maundy Thursday and the Last Supper. When we think of that great event in the last twenty-four hours of Jesus’ life we are often tempted to focus on the superficial. So much goes on: Jesus washes his disciples feet; Jesus gives the new commandment of love for one another; Judas leaves the meal to betray Jesus to the religious authorities; Jesus institutes Holy Communion; Jesus moves from the meal to his time of Agony in the Garden. On one night there is so much for us to take in. The danger is that our attention is grabbed by the headlines and not the detail. Today we are asked to consider just one part of the detail we may have missed.
Jesus said: servants are not greater than their master.
These words are said just after Jesus has washed his disciples’ feet, and just after he has told his disciples to do the same. Jesus is making it clear that all who would call themselves his disciples, his followers, are called to get down on their knees and carry out the most menial of tasks, just as he has done.
Every year, as part of the Maundy Thursday liturgy, deacons, priests and bishops, emulate Jesus’ action. They tie towels around themselves, they get down on their knees and they wash feet. Sometimes this is done in the form of offering to polish shoes for passers-by in a shopping centre, but that is not quite the same. There is an intimacy and a humility involved in the act of washing a stranger’s feet that is not replicated in the less personal polishing of shoes.
I know from my own experience that this moment in the Church’s year is very powerful and very moving. I also know that many would-be recipients of this ministry struggle with it. The baring of one’s feet in order that they might be washed, albeit in a ritual sense, is too much for many. Embarrassment overrides humility. It is too easy to say, ‘You shouldn’t be doing that’. It is too easy to refuse the love and service proffered by Jesus, our Lord and Saviour.
Jesus tells us that all who would claim kinship with him must be prepared to do as he does: servants are not greater than their master. Furthermore, Jesus makes it clear that he, our Master, is prepared to offer total love through the most menial of actions. It is our vocation to do exactly the same. Let us pray for the strength and the humility to be faithful servants of our loving and serving Master.
Prayers of Intercession
Let us pray that Christ shall be glorified in the Church and in the world.
Grant to your servant Church the zeal to bring all people to Christ and to make known his saving sacrifice of himself. Give her power to drive out evil and to find her life in his death and resurrection.
Bless all who work to spread the gospel and offer their lives in its service. Guide the seekers after truth, and lead into the right way those who care only for the pleasures of this world and the satisfaction of their own lives.
Make us willing servants of the faith, helping those around us to find their way and be renewed in the power of Christ. But the power of the Cross may all divisions in our community be mended, and all hurts healed.
Have mercy on all who suffer in body, mind or spirit. May they be relieved from their affliction and find new life after loss.
We remember those who have died to his world. May they grow into the life of heaven where joy is endless and what has been offered on earth comes to perfect fruition.
We pray in the name of Christ, the Servant King.
Prayer for the week
risen from the dead and alive for evermore:
stand in our midst as in the upper room;
speak your peace to our hearts and minds;
and send us forth into the world as your apostles;
for the glory of your name.
The Lord’s Prayer
Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.
And after Supper he washed their feet,
for service, too, is sacrament.
In him our joy shall be made complete —
sent out to serve, as he was sent.
Fred Pratt Green (1903–2000)