28th March 2024 7.30pm – Maundy Thursday – Eucharist

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The Readings

Exodus 12.1-4

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbour in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it.


John 13.1-17, 31b-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.

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.’


Scripture Quotations are from: New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

The Sermon
By the Revd Canon Dr Alan Billings.

In most of the Church’s liturgies there is usually a dominant mood. On
Christmas Day, it is one of great joy: ‘A Saviour has been born to us.’ It will be
the same at Easter: ‘The Lord is risen.’ At the other end of the emotional
scale is, tomorrow, Good Friday. We shall be sombre and sad.

But tonight, Maundy Thursday, we scarcely know how to react emotionally.
The vestments are white, which suggests joy and celebration. Yet we know
that this was the night of betrayal, when the Lord is delivered up into the
hands of wicked men. By this time tomorrow, he will have died an
unspeakable death. Perhaps all we can be is thoughtful.

For this is no ordinary night, but a time of crisis for Jesus and his friends.
Things are coming to a head, and knowing that, Jesus uses this night to give
the disciples two signs, two acted parables if you like, that will sum up all that
he taught them and serve to bind them closer to one another. The two signs
are first the bread and wine, and second the foot-washing. Let me say a word
about the second – the washing.

We say, rightly, that if we are to call ourselves Christians we must be willing to
wash the feet of others - to serve our brother or sister in need, in any way we
can. Just as Jesus on this night took a towel and a basin of water and did
what the slave of the household would do: he washed the feet of those who
came through the front door – feet made grimy and sweaty from walking
through dusty streets. There could not be a more welcome or more menial

The sign is one of humility and service. The followers of Jesus are called to
wash the feet of others. But this is not all that he intended by it.

Peter protested when Jesus approached him. Then he tried to get Jesus to
wash his hands and head as well. And Jesus says, No. A man who has
bathed needs no further washing. So what is going on here?

Our attention now shifts from what the slave does – washes feet – to the
symbol of the water itself. Water makes clean, and Jesus is concerned with
making clean, not in a physical sense – which is what Peter is thinking - but in
a spiritual sense. Washing in this sense is about the need for forgiveness.
Jesus recognises that all human groups - including his disciple group – all
human groups will come to grief if they do not understand that they have to
become communities of mutual forgiveness. Because every human group –
families, friends, colleagues, church – is a site for jealousies, resentments
and hurts. If the disciples of Jesus do not learn how to deal with that, they will
fall apart. This is what Jesus means when he says, ‘Love one another’:
because forgiving lies at the heart of loving.

But it’s demanding, more demanding, perhaps, than being of service to
others. And we can understand just how demanding if we see what happens
to two of the disciples – Judas and Peter – over these days.

People sometimes say after someone has been wronged or hurt, ‘You must
forgive and forget’. That is not what Jesus is asking for. Quite the contrary. He
does not ask us to forget because that is really an invitation to trivialise
whatever has happened, and to fail to take someone, and what they have
done, seriously. To say you must forget is like saying, ‘It’s alright. I’m actually
not that bothered.’

There can be no forgetting – because once something is done it cannot be
undone – and hurts and betrayals can be enormously destructive and on-
going. There is little we can do about that. But the guilt and the danger of on-
going resentment can be dealt with. It needs one person to be able to say,
‘This is what I have done and I am very sorry’, and the other to say in effect,
‘This is what you did, I cannot forget that, but because you are sorry, I can
forgive you; and the reason I can forgive you is because I too am a sinner
who also needs forgiveness.’

After this night, Peter and Judas, who both betray the Lord, though in different
ways, face what they have done. Peter weeps bitterly. Judas is filled with
remorse. They both know that what is done cannot be undone and will never
be forgotten. The Lord stands ready to forgive both. But while Peter can ask
for forgiveness and is restored, Judas lacks the courage to ask. His remorse
turns inwards and becomes self-pity – and he goes and hangs himself.

Every Christian congregation is called tonight to remember the two symbols –
the bread and the wine and the washing. But part of that washing is about
spiritual cleansing, becoming a mutually forgiving community of people. That
way, the hurts we do to one another, that always threaten to blight the groups
we belong to, will become not stopping points but starting points in our
journey to spiritual maturity and the kingdom of God.


Prayers of Intercession

In the power of the Spirit let us pray to the Father
through Christ the saviour of the world.
on this, the night he was betrayed,
your Son Jesus Christ washed his disciples’ feet.
We commit ourselves to follow his example of love and service.
Lord, hear us
and humble us.

On this night, he prayed for his disciples to be one.
We pray for the unity of your Church.
Lord, hear us
and humble us.

On this night, he prayed for those who were to believe through his disciples’ message.
We pray for the mission of your Church.
Lord, hear us
and humble us.

On this night, he commanded his disciples to love,
but suffered rejection himself.
We pray for the rejected and unloved.
Lord, hear us
and humble us.

On this night, he reminded his disciples
that if the world hated them it hated him first.
We pray for those who are persecuted for their faith.
Lord, hear us
and humble us.

On this night, he accepted the cup of death
and looked forward to the new wine of the kingdom.
We remember those who have died in the peace of Christ.
Lord, hear us
and welcome all your children into paradise.

Common Worship: Times and Seasons, material from which is used here is copyright (c) 2010 The Archbishops' Council