Maundy Thursday Reflection

This morning I posted this prayer on the Light for the Journey Facebook page.

Lord Jesus Christ today we are reminded
of how you knelt to wash our feet.
In a lowly act of service you poured out love.
Leading us away from power and prestige,
You showed us what true kingship looks like.
Earth shattering, profound,
A reversal of the status quo,
That we still struggle to imitate.
May we today follow your example.
May we kneel and wash the feet of others.
And in so doing share the wonder of your love.

The radical counter cultural nature of Jesus action is almost incomprehensible to us. A God who kneels to wash our feet as a servant. This was a job not just for a servant but for the lowliest of servants.

Two phrases stood out for me as I read the account of Jesus revolutionary action in John 13 this morning. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth and now he loved them to the very end.  (v2) and I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. (v15)

All that Jesus has been trying to tell his disciples is summed up in this act of servanthood which John describes as one of the final acts of love Jesus shows towards his disciples. Don’t go after power, wealth and position. Don’t expect others to kneel and wash your feet, get down on your knees and wash theirs.

No wonder the import of this story usually passes us by. It has a part of a ceremony rather than a real act of life. But this is the prelude for the Last Supper. Perhaps it is the prerequisite for us truly being able to take communion together in the way that God intended us to.

So my question for all of us as we stand in the shadow of the cross today is: How can we too kneel and wash the feet of others today? How can we become more like the servants God intends us to be and so share the wonder of Christ’s love?


Resources for Holy Week 2013 – Maundy Thursday

This is the fourth in a series of posts on resources for Holy Week.

You might also like to check out the previous posts:

Resources for Holy Week #1: Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday Prayer 2013

Resources for Holy Week #2: Stations of the Cross

Washing the Feet - Jan Hynes - Used by permission

Washing the Feet – Jan Hynes – Used by permission

Today I am focusing on Maundy Thursday, the day before Good Friday, which commemorates Jesus’ last Supper with the disciples and the institution of the Eucharist. Its name of “Maundy” comes from the Latin word mandatum, meaning “command.”This stems from Christ’s words in John 13:34, “A new commandment I give unto you. Love one another as I have loved you”. Many of us associate it with foot washing:

 a rite performed by Christ upon his disciples to prepare them for the priesthood and the marriage banquet they will offer, and which is rooted in the Old Testament practice of foot-washing in preparation for the marital embrace (II Kings 11:8-11, Canticles 5:3) and in the ritual ablutions performed by the High Priest of the Old Covenant (contrast Leviticus 16:23-24 with John 13:3-5). The priest girds himself with a cloth and washes the feet of 12 men he’s chosen to represent the Apostles for the ceremony. Read more

It is the oldest of the observances peculiar to Holy Week but seems to have attracted the least attention and I must confess creative suggestions were hard to come by. 

Foot washing has taken on new significance for me this year as I read two posts that have been contributed to my blog. Some of you might like to revisit these too.

The Dirty Job of Special Needs Parenting by Barbara Dittrich

Living Into the banquet Feast of God

Maundy Thursday reflections – this post includes a link to a this  great Maundy Thursday reflection by Beth Stedman.

I have adapted other customs of Maundy Thursday here that you may like to consider for your own observances:

  1. Visit 3 or 7 local churches or other places of worship after (or before) your own service.
  2. In Germany, Maundy Thursday is known as “Green Thursday” (Grundonnerstag), and the traditional foods are green vegetables and green salad, especially a spinach salad. Consider planning a vegetarian Last Supper banquet for your celebrations and highlight the environmental issues you are concerned about.
  3. Visit a local homeless camp or home for the elderly (make sure you get permission first) and do foot washing and pedicures for the inhabitants.
  4. This is the traditional night for an all night vigil of prayer and meditation. Give yours a new twist by holding an all night reading of Dante’s Inferno as St Philips in the Hills Episcopal Church has done for the last 5 years.
  5. This is a day to reach out and help someone in a special way: consider looking after a child so that the mother could have a free evening, undertaking some mending or darning, humble, unostentatious things like that.
  6. In Mark Pierson’s Lenten devotional he comments: Jesus, a king who acted like a slave. Perhaps on Maundy Thursday you would like to consider a special way to reach out to those who are still in slavery. 
  7. One symbol of Easter I grew up with that is not so common in the U.S. is hot crossed buns wich some think originated from a 12th-century English monk who placed the sign of the cross on the buns in honor of Good Friday. So if you want to have your hot crossed buns ready for Good Friday make them on Maundy Thursday, together with your family or community. Here is the recipe I use

For those celebrating with kids I rather liked this Fill Your Seder Plate game

So consider including this day in your Holy Week celebrations and if you do something creative let me know.

The Dirty Job of Special Needs Parenting by Barbara Dittrich

Today’s post in the Lenten series Return to Our Senses is written by Barbara Dittrich. Barbara is the mother of three children, two of whom have a variety of special needs, Barbara Dittrich founded SNAPPIN’ MINISTRIES (Special Needs Parents Network) in 2002 and currently serves as its Executive Director.  The organization she leads was one of three finalists for WORLD MAGAZINE’S Hope Award for Effective Compassion in October of 2009, in conjunction with the American Bible Society.  With a unique vision for serving parents of children with special needs, she has led the SNAPPIN’ MINISTRIES team in developing an innovative parent mentor curriculum.  She has lives with her husband of 20+ years in Wisconsin and blogs at Comfort in the Midst of Chaos.  Barbara is also a contributing writer at Not Alone  and presents on topics relating to parenting children with special needs throughout the U.S..

I have several friends with special needs kids and have always felt that this is yet another segment of the population that is overlooked and abandoned. I was profoundly moved by the imagery of foot washing in this context and asked for permission to repost it after seeing it her: The Dirty Job of Special Needs Kids

Jesus washing Peters feet

“Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:14, NIV)

“Bloody noses are just a nuisance,” the hematologist proclaimed.  I melted into tears and frustrated anger as we stood there in the exam room, sleep deprived and disheveled, lacking a desperately needed shower.

“YOU live with this and see how much of a nuisance this is!” I cried in response.  The doctor softened her edge as I buried my face into my hands.  She knew it took a great deal to push me to a point where I lose my diplomacy with staff.

We were in a period of constant and unexplained bleeding for my son with severe hemophilia.  Despite having ever-increasing amounts of clotting factor infused into his little veins, he was suffering from daily nosebleeds that lasted an hour or more.  We couldn’t go to church, to school or even to pick up groceries without a bleed starting up spontaneously.  The night before this exchange with the doctor, my husband and I had awoken to our boy crying in the middle of the kitchen, with the floor covered in pools of blood like a crime scene.  The sight of all of the blood was not only upsetting to us, but even more so to our son.  The more he cried, the worse he bled.  One of us tried to hold him still, applying pressure to his nose while the other sopped up the sticky crimson mess.  It was a nightmare.  Once we got the bleeding stopped, I began the meticulous process of washing and rinsing the stains off of his face and hair, between his fingers and under his chin.  We changed his pajamas and bed linens, soaking laundry to be dealt with in the too-soon-to-arrive morning.

When we became parents to children with special needs, I expected the expensive medical bills; I expected the change in lifestyle and accommodations; I expected fear, and anxiety, and sorrow; but I never expected that it would be such a truly dirty job.  Between our son’s bleeding disorder and our youngest daughter’s severe and rare allergies, we have had to endure some filthy, thankless circumstances throughout the years.  There was the Christmas season where our daughter threw up under the tree with yet another severe allergic reaction that put us in the emergency room.  Fa La La La La!  Then there year our son was hospitalized with a gastrointestinal bleed.  That was an entirely new venture into rancid smells, disgusting testing and repugnant maintenance.  Those are merely two of the many “nuisances” that have driven us to adorn ourselves in disposable gloves while raising our precious kids.

I know most of you can relate to what I am saying, because you have told me such at camp or when I give a talk.  I laughed the first time a group of mothers confessed to me that if you have a child with any sort of special need, you probably also deal with some sort of bowel trouble.  There are some of you whom I have the highest regard for as you press on maintaining feeding tubes, changing the diapers of teenagers or practicing the meticulous sterile procedure of using a port-a-cath.  Regardless of what the dirty job is, it can be the one thing that drives us to tears, especially in our most depleted moments, crying out to God, “Why me?”.

Yet, God always redeems.  Jesus asked us to do just what we’re doing.  In a much less overtly spiritual or notable way, we parents of these remarkable kids are washing feet just as Jesus commanded.  When we do this for our children, we are doing it to and for Christ.  This thought certainly elevates that which feels incredibly unsacred and makes it profound, doesn’t it?  Carrying out our duties with love and pressing on is a tender act of worship that we dare not miss.

I will confess that this is rarely the way I want to worship God.  I want a more comfortable form of praise and adoration that doesn’t require the high cost of heart ache and personal humility.  Still, this challenge is the purest form of adoration, maintaining deference to our awesome Lord.

Over the years, I have learned to laugh about the disgusting parts of my parenting life.  I often joke that you could spray our house with the blood-revealing Luminol and see it glow from outer space.  While that humor brings relief and is evidence of acceptance, more pleasing still is the understanding that our parenting trials are all part of God’s mission to which we are uniquely called.  How blessed we are when we can reflect knowing our encounters with the putrid are actually a divine privilege.

Living Into the banquet Feast of God

Jesus washing Peter's feet

Jesus washing Peter’s feet

The following post is the tenth that I have done which are excerpts from my new book my upcoming book Return to Our Senses, which will be available in mid November. It is already available through Mustard Seed Associates at a pre-publication discounted price of $15. 

When MSA Board chair Penny Carothers was in Calcutta she befriended Asa and Jebodah, teenage sisters whose mother provides for them by selling herself at the temple of Kali, goddess of destruction. One day Penny and a friend went to distribute toys and clothing to some of the street kids. The kids came slowly at first delight on their faces, she remembers. “But the moment lasted only moments. Before we knew it desperate hands had wrested our gifts from us and in the violence of the moment we fell back into the gutter.”

What happened next profoundly impacted me when Penny related her story. “In my disillusionment I saw them,” Penny said. “Asa and Jebodah entered the filth to take our hands. They pulled us away and took us, dazed, to the water pump. And then they bent down and began to wash the grime off our feet. Beside me, my friend repeated over and over, “They are washing our feet.””

As I listened to Penny and read her story I thought – this is Jesus. These children are the ones who stooped to wash the disciples feet wearing nothing more than a lowly servant would. In them, dirty, homeless, covered in soot is the one who comes to us in the midst of our pain and the misery of our world to offer us comfort and love. Like them he comes as the lowliest and most despised of all servants – the one who washes feet.

Many of these children, as Penny noted are the children of prostitutes. They are despised within their own society as well as in ours. As I thought about this I realized how easily I could dismiss them. But the poor are with us always and everywhere. Here in the U.S. the nation’s poverty rate rose to 15.1% in 2010, 46.2 million people. This is its highest level since 1993. The poverty rate for children under age 18 is even higher. It increased to 22% in 2010, meaning more than 1 in 5 children in America are living in poverty. For African Americans it is 27.4% and for families headed by single mothers it is 31.6%, the highest rate of all.

Whose Feet Would you Wash?

Jesus washed feet as a prelude to the last meal he shared with his disciples. I think that in part Jesus washing of feet was a prayer for the disciples to notice those lowly unnoticed slaves who washed their feet. It was a reminder that everyone no matter how insignificant in the hierarchy of the day, has a place at God’s banquet table. The poor and the marginalized wear the face of Jesus.

The poor wash our feet in so many ways yet we rarely look them in the face. They make it possible for the rest of us to live lives of comfort and ease.It is the poor who pick our fruit and make our clothes. They provide us with furniture and with cheap building materials. They wash our dishes when we eat out and clean our hotel rooms when we go to Disney world. They mine our diamonds and the tantalum for our mobile phones.

What would happen I wonder if we entered into the story of these children as we do into the gospel story? What if we saw in their faces the face of Jesus stooping down to wash our feet as a preparation for the great banquet feast of God? What would happen if every time we bought our food at the supermarket we thought about those who produce what we eat and consider the conditions under which they live and bring up their children? What would happen if every meal we ate became a prayer of anticipation for the great banquet feast of God?