Today is Maundy Thursday, in the Christian calendar. “Maundy” is Middle English for “mandate” or “command.” It comes to English through the French mande‘ from the Latin version of John 13:34, “Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis ivicim sicut dilexi vos.” That is, “A new commandment I give to you: that you love one another as I have loved you.”
In our church, we celebrate Maundy Thursday with a service that includes both the Lord’s Supper and footwashing, just as Jesus washed his disciples’ feet in the Gospel of John. I look forward to it all year.
I have never understood why few denominations consider footwashing a “sacrament” or “ordinance” alongside baptism and the Lord’s Supper. After all, Jesus’ command is at least as strong. And the practice of footwashing captures the essence of Christian life as one of mutual servanthood. But whatever we call this powerful sign of discipleship, I find it to be one of the most important to my Christian life. It helps heal church conflicts. (Who can continue a grudge while preparing to wash feet or have one’s feet washed?)
However you celebrate this day, I hope you enter into Jesus’ passion–and it enters into you.
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