Good morning, my friends!

Today is Maundy Thursday. It’s the day we celebrate and remember Jesus’ last supper with his disciples. Normally, we’d gather together tonight and throw a little party where we’d share in the Lord’s Supper and get ready for what’s coming tomorrow on Good Friday. But, this year is different, as I hardly need to remind you. We’ve been given a lot of strange new rules that are meant to keep us healthy and safe. One of those, of course, is to wash our hands — constantly — and that constant handwashing reminded me of Jesus’ equally strange claim during that last meal with his disciples: “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.”

It’s a fascinating story with some interesting twists and turns, and there’s a lesson here about washing and cleanliness that we could all certainly use today, because it’s a lesson full of hope and life and a timely reminder that we aren’t as lost or as unclean as we might think. So, let’s dig in.


Holy God, thank you for being a God who loves too much to stay hidden and too passionately to stay safe. Guide us by your Word and your Holy Spirit this morning, so that in your light we might see light, and in your truth, we might find freedom, and in your will, we might truly discover peace through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


John 13:1-17, 31-35

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.
After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 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…
When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”


“There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood” by William Cowper

(YouTube video for in-home worship: https://youtu.be/b25-LJjrGQA)

There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins;
And sinners, plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains:
Lose all their guilty stains,
Lose all their guilty stains;
And sinners, plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains.

The dying thief rejoiced to see
That fountain in his day;
And there may I, though vile as he,
Wash all my sins away:
Wash all my sins away,
Wash all my sins away;
And there may I, though vile as he,
Wash all my sins away.

Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood
Shall never lose its pow’r,
Till all the ransomed Church of God
Be saved, to sin no more:
Be saved, to sin no more,
Be saved, to sin no more;
Till all the ransomed Church of God
Be saved to sin no more.

E’er since by faith I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die:
And shall be till I die,
And shall be till I die;
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die.

When this poor lisping, stamm’ring tongue
Lies silent in the grave,
Then in a nobler, sweeter song
I’ll sing Thy pow’r to save:
I’ll sing Thy pow’r to save,
I’ll sing Thy pow’r to save;
then in a nobler, sweeter song
I’ll sing Thy pow’r to save.


I feel like I should already be clean, but I still keep washing my hands. Over and over and over again. The other day, when I returned home from Costco and had finished sanitizing all our groceries, I even decided to jump in the shower. Washing my hands just wasn’t enough. Only after all of me was soaped and soaked did I finally feel clean.

We’ve all been told that twenty seconds is the ticket if we want to achieve true cleanliness — but what happens if I accidentally only wash for nineteen? Will I still be clean? Who knows? So, I sing another line from “Happy Birthday!” and count to ten again just to be safe. I want to know for sure that I’m completely clean. All of me, I tell myself, must be clean.

On that last night with his disciples, Jesus commanded them to wash each other’s feet because only by doing so could they truly love one another. That’s why we call today maundy, which comes from the Latin word for “command.” (Think mandate.) Love and service, love and sacrifice — Jesus intimately links the two and in doing so inverts our normal understanding of what counts as powerful, glorious, and kingly.

During the Easter season, we take time to remember that we’re all sinners in need of a savior. We’ll never outgrow that basic truth, but it’s important also to remember that Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection teach us even more, and we get a good glimpse of that when Jesus washes his disciples’ feet. Here’s how C. S. Lewis puts it in his Mere Christianity: “This willing submission to humiliation and a kind of death…is not something God demands of you before He will take you back and which He could let you off of if He chose: it is simply a description of what going back to Him is like. If you ask God to take you back without it, you are really asking Him to let you go back without going back. It cannot happen. Very well, then, we must go through with it. But the same badness which makes us need it, makes us unable to do it. Can we do it if God helps us? Yes, but what do we mean when we talk of God helping us? We mean God putting into us a bit of Himself, so to speak. He lends us a little of His reasoning powers, and that is how we think: He puts a little of His love into us and that is how we love one another.” Easter isn’t just about forgiveness, Lewis says. It’s about empowerment.

But, that doesn’t explain why Jesus was so insistent that Peter only needed to have his feet washed. Why not his head and his hands, too? “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet.” Was Jesus just being practical here? My guess is no, mainly because he’s the type of teacher who never passes up the chance to make a point. So, what could be the moral of being mostly washed, except for our feet?

Henri Nouwen once described original sin — that thing that separates us from God and what we all share — as our “endless capacity for self-rejection.” It’s easy to dwell on our failures and to let them define us. We are sinners; this is true. But we are also children of God. We have been washed, and that, Jesus insists here to Peter, makes all the difference.

Maybe that’s why, in my morning devotion yesterday, I was encouraged by this thought: “The most courageous thing we will ever do is probably to accept that we are who we are.” That’s not an allowance to do whatever we want. It certainly isn’t a call to resist or ignore our need to change. Peter still needed to have his feet washed, after all. What it is, though, is a reminder that our identity and our worth are seated in the love of God, even when we remember what that love cost — and that’s what truly makes freedom from sin so free.

Happy Easter.

Prayers for Our World

A lot of us and our neighbors and our world are struggling with despair these days, if not some of that same self-rejection we just mentioned. Hope is a commodity in short supply. So, will you join me in a prayer for hope written for today, Maundy Thursday, by one of our neighbors, Walter Brueggemann?

This day of dread and betrayal and denial
causes a pause in our busyness.
Who would have thought that you would take
this uncredentialed
Galilean rabbi
to become the pivot of newness in the world?
Who would have thought that you —
God of gods and Lord of lords —
would fasten on such small, innocuous agents
whom the world scorns
to turn creation toward your newness?
As we are dazzled,
give us the freedom to re-situate our lives in modest,
uncredentialed, vulnerable places.
We ask for freedom and courage to move out from our nicely
arranged patterns of security
into dangerous places of newness where we fear to go.
Cross us by the cross, that we may be Easter marked. Amen.

Let us continue to pray that God would bring hope to the hopeless here in our city, our churches, and around our world:

  • For our neighbors who may have been injured or worse during last night’s storm, we pray for hope and healing.
  • For our neighbors whose homes were damaged by the storm, we pray for hope and open doors to new places to live.
  • For all those tasked with cleaning up after that storm, we pray for hope and protection from injury and illness.
  • For all those who had no place to take shelter last night, we pray for hope and warmth and peace.
  • For ministries like our Valley Interfaith Food and Clothing Center, we pray that they be beacons of hope to those who are struggling right now.
  • For our own families, we pray that we can follow Christ’s example and know how and where to bring others hope by serving them during this time of social distancing.
  • For our sick and homebound and those with friends and family who are sick and homebound, we pray for hope and the ability to communicate with each other.
  • For our first responders, medical workers, and all those who are serving us in whatever capacity these days, we pray for hope and protection from illness.
  • For our churches and all those who worship God, we pray that we will be a united source of hope to a hurting world.
  • For our worship this Holy Week and Easter, we pray that we would proclaim the hope of Christ crucified and resurrected powerfully and clearly.
  • For all those who have died this week because of this virus, that God would receive them into his open arms of love.

Closing Prayer

Humble and serving God, we thank you for sending your Son to teach us how to live, to heal us from our sins, and to empower us to be loving servants ourselves. Pour hope into our lives. Free us from the chains of despair and self-rejection. And, remind us that we are your children, loved and defined by you. Hear our prayers this morning for ourselves and for our world. We ask these things in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, one God with you and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

For more on C. S. Lewis’ understanding of divine empowerment, see his book, Mere Christianity.