Sermon for Holy Thursday morning, preached April 17, 2014.
There is far too much romance about foot washing. In some churches they attempt to re-enact our Lord’s washing of His disciple’s feet. I am not a fan. Jesus did not wash the feet of His disciples as a sacrament to be repeated nor as great theater. He was showing in graphic terms what it means to love – His love for us and the shape of our love for others.
We are not asked by Jesus to wash feet but we are called to love one another as He has loved us. Truth to be told, I would prefer to wash feet once a year than the call to love friends and enemies alike all day long, every day, as our Lord has loved us. I prefer an annual touch of stinky, misshapen, and ugly feet to loving those who do not love me back and doing good to those who only do me harm. I bet you secretly feel the same way.
The love Christ has for us is sacrificial. This is not the easy love for the lovable but the hard love for those hard to love. He has to see us as we are, complete with sin, with rebellious hearts, and with arrogant pride. He sees us as we are and still He loves us. He does not love us for who we could be or might become. He loves us in our sins and bears the curse of those sins upon His own shoulders. He loves us even though we are dead and He enters our death to set us free.
I don’t want to sacrifice anything. I want to give into my whims and desires. I do not want to control them or kill them or bury them. But that is the love we see in Jesus, the love which we have been bidden not only to receive but to give, not only to watch but to follow.
That is why I am here. I must be in constant contact with the love of Christ or I will never love the stranger or enemy or even the friend and family. My heart is rotten to the core. Every day I pray the Lord to create in me a clean heart. To plant in this new and clean heart the love that He is and the love He has come to display. To teach me what I could never learn except from Him and never do unless I am born anew in Him by grace through faith.
Foot washing once a year would be easy if you could get away with it. But Jesus has called us to a higher life and a noble calling. We cannot afford a cheap faith anymore than we can benefit from cheap grace. The love that loved us and lives in us by baptism and faith is love for the hard to love, who test the boundaries of that love.
We show this love not by washing a few smelling feet but by daily forgiving as we have been forgiven, by daily serving others as Christ has served us, by praying for others before we pray for our selves, by interceding before God’s throne of grace for our enemies as well as our friends, by giving to those who cannot repay, and by giving to others the good news of the Gospel that Christ has given to us – a prize so expensive none can afford it and yet one which He bestows without charge to us.
Foot washing is the easy way out. Love is the cross we bear – the loved who love, the forgiven who forgive, the lost who find, the dead who live for Him who died for them.
Where do we find such love today? It starts here in this wondrous sacrament which the Lord has bequeathed to us. It is this feast of love that nurtures our hearts in love. It starts here in the Word of love which our Lord speaks. This Word directs our hearts from self to Christ and through Christ to neighbor. It starts here, within the household of faith for if we cannot love our brothers and sisters in Christ, how can we hope to love others outside the Church? Here where we meet Christ in His love, we are reborn in this love, to love one another.
If God gave me a choice, once a year with stinky feet is far easier than all my life loving others as He has loved me. But there is no choice. Love is no spectator activity. Christ beckons us by His love to walk in His steps, toward His future... God help us, Amen.