Maundy Thursday, April 17, 2014

     

The Sacrament of Service                                   
 

John 13:12-17              

 

When as a seminarian I took the Presbyterian Worship & Sacraments Ordination Exam, one of the questions revolved around why foot washing isn't a sacrament. I for one am thrilled it isn't a sacrament. I see no reason to interrupt an otherwise perfectly good worship service to touch somebody else's feet... or worse yet, to have somebody else mess with mine.

 

One distinction between sacrament and non-sacrament in the Reformed tradition is Jesus' command to go and do likewise. In the case of Baptism and the Eucharist, the command is explicit.  In the case of foot washing, Jesus says he is merely setting "an example." Foot washing, as Jesus explains in John 13, is an example of how his followers are to serve one another.

 

So what does it mean to serve as Jesus served?

 

In the broader context of the Johannine Gospel, Jesus bowing down to wash his disciples' feet isn't an act of powerless submission. It is an act of tender, self-giving love. In this same, final evening with his friends, Jesus comes back to the theme of indwelling love over and over again. In 13:34, he issues the commandment to love one another. In 15:9, he instructs them to abide in his love. In 16:27, he speaks of God's direct and accessible love for his followers. And in 15:13, Jesus names that there is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends.

 

Christian service isn't simply a willingness to do the dirty work for Jesus.   It is a living out of love in community. It is self-giving devotion to support one another's healing and the wholeness of God's Kin-dom. And while it may not get official recognition under our creeds, I dare say this form of loving service is sacramental... a visible, tangible sign of God's grace. Are we not blessed to know these things and to do them? 
         

Rev. Elizabeth McCord

SFTS Associate Dean for Vocations
SFTS M.Div. 2006