Our worship together is in the name of the + Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Grace, mercy and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you:
and also with you.
Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known,
and from whom no secrets are hidden:
cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name;
through Christ our Lord. Amen.
God shows his love for us in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Let us then show our love for him by confessing our sins in penitence and faith.
Most merciful God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
we confess that we have sinned in thought, word and deed.
We have not loved you with our whole heart.
We have not loved our neighbours as ourselves.
In your mercy forgive what we have been, help us to amend what we are,
and direct what we shall be; that we may do justly, love mercy,
and walk humbly with you, our God. Amen.
Almighty God, who forgives all who truly repent,
have mercy upon you, pardon and deliver you from all your sins,
confirm and strengthen you in all goodness, and keep you in life eternal;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth.
Lord God, heavenly King, almighty God and Father,
we worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory.
Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, Lord God, Lamb of God,
you take away the sin of the world: have mercy on us;
you are seated at the right hand of the Father: receive our prayer.
For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit,
in the glory of God the Father. Amen.
God our Father, you have invited us to share in the supper which your Son gave to his Church to
proclaim his death until he comes: may he nourish us by his presence, and unite us in his love: who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John
Glory to you, O Lord.
John 13: 1-17, 31-35
It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean. When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. After Judas has left, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once. “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
This is the Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, O Christ.
Do you remember those days of yore, when we were time-poor, constantly rushing to get through all that we had to do? They seem so long ago, now. But tonight, we have an awful lot to get through. We start with a reworked Passover meal. Then we move to a meditation on humility and taking the slave’s place. Then there is a new commandment, and then the devastation of the Garden of Gethsemane.
So, to begin at the beginning, as Dylan Thomas so neatly wrote in the opening lines of Under Milk Wood, we start with a meal, a meal that Jesus and his disciples knew and loved so well, meal full of story-telling and ritual – “why do we do this, each year?” – at least four shared cups of wine, endless matzeh broken and shared, with Jesus as host and chief storyteller. All is going well until Jesus breaks the spell, and stops the meal’s progress. He takes a towel, wraps it round his waist and proceeds to wash the feet of each person at the table. This is not the host’s task – that should be done by the door slave, as people arrived off the street. But this was entirely predictable, as John the Baptist had said of Jesus when he met him by the River Jordan, “I am not worthy to untie the clasp of his sandal” – not even worthy to be a door slave to Jesus, but here Jesus takes on just that role, just that position within a household, the lowest of the low. Peter can’t cope with this. He can see exactly what Jesus is doing, and it is just not right. His Messiah cannot behave in such a way.
Jesus is gentle with him. He delicately teaches Peter that this slave way, this example of taking the lowest place, is essential to understanding what is coming next. It is through this meal that we “have a part” in Christ, but Christ the host washes the guests’ feet. Peter must understand this example of service, so that he can then go on to comprehend fully what is going to happen next – the command to love, the obedience of Christ in the face of suffering and death, the resurrection – all of that has to be understood in terms of service, of taking the lowest place. The Apostle Paul understood this, so he could write to the Church at Philipi – as we read last Sunday –
Jesus, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used
to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!
This hard, hard lesson is taught during the middle of the institution of communion, so that it has to apply there, when we take communion, that Christ is our slave, washing our feet as we seek his forgiveness (for we have been washed clean all over in baptism) and offering us food and drink in the new covenant of grace. Too swiftly communion became a hierarchical event, surrounded by mystery and locked away from most people by clergy privilege and fear. Even to this day, many practices around communion can be exclusive and excluding, when that is the very last thing that communion should ever be! And in these days of absence, of locked churches, of worship alone, at home, that inclusiveness of communion must be maintained. Others may livestream themselves receiving communion in their study, but I will not, however much people may like the idea, as communion has at its heart the service of others, and I would only be serving myself.
It really ought not to be a surprise that the new commandment, to love one another as Christ loves us, should come at this moment. Christ the slave, having instituted communion as a way of permanently remembering him, adds love to the already heady mix. A slave had no choice in the roles they performed within the house. This slave, this God-slave, takes on the lowliest function out of love, and commands us to love like him. How can we do that? How can we possibly behave like that? Does it not take divine grace? But we have that divine grace, in bread and wine, in our hands and on our lips. We take divine love into ourselves as we share the bread and wine, so it ought to be possible – but it is so, so hard!
We will continue so far through the service, and then stop, a little earlier than we normally would on Maundy Thursday, as usually we would share communion and then draw the liturgy to a close. But in these extraordinary times, we will stop before communion, as we cannot share in it together. In these extraordinary times, we will enter Gethsemane alone, and watch and wonder. In these extraordinary times, we will seek out divine love and the slave’s way by ourselves, and trust that God will bring us with all his people to the joy of resurrection. Amen.
Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. The peace of the Lord be always with you: and also with you.
Blessed are you, Lord, God of the universe, you bring forth bread from the earth.
Blessed be God for ever.
Blessed are you, Lord, God of the universe, you create the fruit of the vine.
Blessed be God for ever
The Lord be with you
and also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give thanks and praise.
We give you thanks because, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end: and on the night before he suffered, sitting at table with his disciples, he instituted these holy mysteries, that we, redeemed by his death and restored to life by resurrection, might be partakers of his divine nature.
Holy, holy, holy Lord,
God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.
As our Saviour taught us, so we pray
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.
When the disciples had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Jesus prayed to the Father, “If it is possible, take this cup of suffering from me.” He said to his disciples, “How is it that you were not able to keep watch with me for one hour? The hour has come for the Son of Man to be handed over to the power of sinners.”
Christ was obedient unto death. Go in his peace.