Listening Through the Static. April 9, Maundy Thursday

Listening Through the Static

1 Corinthians 11:23-26; John 3:1-17, 31b-35

Rev. Catherine Schuyler; April 9, 2020

Catskill, Palenville, Quarryville United Methodist Churches, online


It’s been quite an intense week already!  They came into Jerusalem to the shouting, excited crowds, which had been a high to be sure, but not without its complications.  It was clear even then there were those who weren’t happy to see Jesus in town.  The disciples loved Jesus.  They believed in what he was about.  And their lives were bound up with him and all that he did.  People who weren’t happy to have Jesus in town weren’t happy with them either.  Then Jesus turned the temple courtyard upside down.  And he had been tangling with the religious authorities all week.  He won the verbal battles, but the losers of those discussions had access to power and influence.  The disciples knew they were in beyond their comfort level.  Many of them might well have preferred to go home, to mingle with the crowds from Galilee and tag along when they left, blending into the background.  Instead they were with the man who was definitely on the side of truth, but not afraid to make waves.  The fear was theirs.  Tonight, they are beyond the crowds, together with only their friends, their makeshift family, bound together in love and admiration for this amazing man Jesus.  But even in this relative peace, their hearts aren’t calm. Because as long as Jesus is in Jerusalem, he, and they with him, are in danger. 


What we have from that night so long ago are a few scenes and a lot of words – John’s gospel spends four complete chapters to tell of the wisdom and hope Jesus shares with his friends that night.  But we know that hearing what he said must have been difficult.  It’s hard to hear when you’re stressed and afraid.  How do I know this?  Because with you, like the disciples, this has been such a week already. This has been such a month.  Of tension and fear, of stress and adjusting to new ways, of solitude and loneliness, all accompanied by news that doesn’t get better as the days go by.  I am bombarded with information and suggestions, and I know I’m not hearing it all.  My soul is exhausted, not really from doing too much, but from feeling and worrying and being powerless in the face of sickness and death.  I understand the hearts and minds of the disciples on that Thursday night so long ago in an entirely different and deeper way than I ever have this year.  With that understanding, imagine if you can the wonderful gift it was for them that Jesus came to them and washed their feet.  He touched them and caressed their dirty and tired feet, washed them carefully and dried them with a towel.  It must have been beautifully calming, a gift of gentleness and peace.  Then as they ate, he offered himself to them, for the present and for the future, in the bread and in the cup.  He acknowledged that he wouldn’t eat with them again until all things were different, because he and they both knew that the powers of jealousy and fear and injustice were closing in on him.  That gift of himself, given at that table, still gives to us today.  We won’t celebrate tonight at the Lord’s Table, but we will celebrate there again, in the sharing of the bread and cup, in the remembering of Jesus in his love and grace.  It’s what we do as the church, we remember Jesus, we act in his stead.  We love one another just as told his disciples to do that night, just as disciples of Jesus have been doing since that night until this night. 


We’ll share the whole passion story in a few minutes.  The fear and the pain will well up in our hearts as they always do.  Our own fear and pain and helplessness will contribute to our empathy as we listen. 


Whether or not you are in a position to really hear all of Jesus’ words tonight, allow your hearts to hear this.  Jesus loves you, as he loved those first disciples.  He would touch your heart as he touched their feet; he would feed your soul as he fed their hunger.  And we are telling his story tonight, not only for his wisdom and for his kindness, not even only for his sacrifice and self-giving, but also because tonight and tomorrow are not the end of the story.  Easter is coming, my friends.  Jesus is arrested and tried and crucified by the powers of fear and oppression.  And he is raised by the power of love, love triumphant even over death, God triumphant over the power of Rome, and over all the powers of empire and injustice ever since.  We will shout with joy again on Easter morning, in our own homes this year, but we need not be silent or somber.  Love wins, life will be victorious, even in this our current crisis.  And God’s love and glory will reign.  Hold on, friends.  Your hearts ache tonight.  The day will come when together, yes, together, we will rejoice.  Amen.




1 Corinthians 11:23-26
23 For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me."

25 In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." 26For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

John 13:1-17, 31b-35

13Now 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. 2The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper 3Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5Then 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. 6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 8Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” 9Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10Jesus 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.” 11For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.” 12After 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? 13You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 14So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.16Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17If 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. 32If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.33Little 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.’ 34I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

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