Love One Another

The bowl and towel represent so much. Jesus took on the role of the lowest servant in washing his disciples’ feet. I am reminded of the scene in the Ghandi film where he talks about them all taking it in turns to rake out the latrines. His wife is appalled that he should ask her to do such work and she refuses – it is the job of the untouchables! They argue and he tries to send her away. But where could she go? She is his wife. In the end she agrees to rake the latrines, not because he demands that she does it, but because she loves him and wants to be part of what he is doing. Even though she freely admits she’s not as enthusiastic as him about changing society, nor does she fully understand what it means, she obeys out of love. Likewise, none of us fully knows what it means to say yes to following Jesus – but we take up our towels and bowls and wash feet…… even smelly ones: a powerful reminder that there is no job that is below us. None of us is above doing the mundane, messy, unglamorous jobs.

‘Once a deacon, always a deacon.’ This expression is often used by those who are ordained as a reminder that in our first year of ordained ministry we are deacons. A deacon is one who serves. When we are ordained priest (and for some bishop) we do not leave behind nor rise above the role of deacon. It is the foundation layer of all ministry. I pray that Jesus helps me to stay true to him, to never let my words or actions betray or deny him.

On Maundy Thursday I usually go to Lichfield Cathedral, along with many other ministers, and renew my ordination vows. Readers renew their commitment to serve too, as well as the bishops. Oils for healing, chrism and baptism are also blessed and distributed. It is a wonderful occasion to catch up with people I haven’t seen since the previous year! I have many happy memories of meals afterwards with congregation members who have also attended. It meant an early start to get a seat too as the cathedral would be packed with every available seat taken. Instead, this morning Terry and I sat in our living room and joined with others across the diocese in a service transmitted via Facebook. Not quite the same, but better than nothing. It was good to be reminded of our call to serve and be encouraged by the bishop.

I had a conversation yesterday with someone from the food bank run by a church in our nearest town. Our church is going to partner up with them. I suggested it last week when we realised that there was a need in the village. On Friday I had been feeling that I had ’failed Lent’ because I hadn’t done many of the 40acts nor stuck to my other discipline of giving up alcohol. However, the verse “do not neglect to do good and share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God” (Hebrews 13:16) in that morning’s readings was a reminder of what it is really all about. I am in a position to help others to also be generous and hep the struggling families. This is one way I can serve the community here.

Graham Kendrick has allowed churches to use some of his songs in their online worship during this pandemic. I hadn’t heard this one before and I added it to my Facebook post with the night prayer/compline (I think on Tuesday):

All the room was hushed and still
And when the bowl was filled
He stooped to wash their feet
And when it was complete, he said

This is what I’m asking you to do
This is why I’m kneeling here beside you
This is what I want my church to be
This is what I want the world to see
Who it is you follow

Love each other
One another
Love each other
In the way that I have loved you
Walk together
And whatever comes
Love each other
Let the room be hushed and still
Let us go to where he kneels
And join him as he serves
And learn his ways of love, he said

This is what I’m asking you to do
This is why I’m kneeling here beside you
This is what I want my church to be
This is what I want the world to see
Who it is you follow

Love each other
One another
Love each other
In the way that I have loved you
Walk together
And whatever comes
Love each other
In the way that I have loved you

Love each other
One another
Love each other
In the way that I have loved you
Walk together
And whatever comes
Love each other
In the way that I have loved you
(I have loved you)
(So love each other)
(In the way that I have, have loved you)

We celebrated communion from the vicarage this evening, without foot washing, but with a reminder from Terry (who preached) that we need to allow Jesus to wash us before we can serve others. He reminded us that we are gathered for communion as a family and as the various stones building up the temple of Christ. I think that was partly in my mind when I did the wall on my picture with the indication of bricks.

So I come to the end of Maundy Thursday and am not in the best of moods. I have struggled for a big chunk of the day and early evening with the computer and video files for the Good Friday reflection entitled One Friday. I won’t bore you with details but just hope that tomorrow morning what I upload to Facebook will play as I intended, complete with the sound.

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