Rev. Alex Wilson
April 9, 2020
Rev. Alex Wilson

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          I wonder then, if this is part of our new normal tonight. Tonight, this challenging night when you and I are truly knit together with Christians all over the world in worship that transcends time, and causes all kinds of mixed feelings to well up. Tonight asks a lot of us, it asks us to go deeper in relationships in such a way that our own vulnerabilities are exposed, which at its heart is a Novum Mandatum. A new command. A command to love.

          This night is called Maundy which comes from the Latin Mandatum or command. You and I are commanded in the midst of this supper, in the midst of this unknown, in the midst of this isolation to be and do something different. We are to love each other as Christ has loved us. Well, sure, that's also how we are every single day isn't it? Loving our world, loving ourselves and our neighbours as Christ loved us, in the way of service. Sure, and yet I think we often get stuck in the reminder tonight from verse 15, that we should do to others as has been done to us. While that is something for us to pay attention to, many scholars suggest that this reminder is actually secondary to the focus of what Christ is doing for us tonight. Tonight Christ is showing you and I how to die in love, a death we need to experience before we can serve.

          Notice then what Christ does in the midst of this dinner party, he knows exactly what is going to happen to him tomorrow. God has revealed all things to him. So he gets up from the table, takes off his outer robe, and puts on the garments of a servant to wash his beloved’s feet. Now like many we get fixated on the feet, and miss the first half. Listen again to what Jesus does here, he takes off his outer robe, he is removing the vestiges of this world and wearing the humility of God's kingdom, on his knees in service. In this simple act Jesus is foretelling, he’s revealing his own death, when his garments will be removed and divided, where he will be betrayed, and his body will be washed with the mockery of the crowd and his own blood flowing from the wounds on his head. In this foretelling of his death Jesus is showing us how to understand and live what he's commanding us today to do. We are to remove the vestiges of this world and put on the humility of the kingdom of God. But how?

          COVID-19 has shown us that we are, at our core, emperors without clothes. Our clothes represent the various coping mechanisms we employ to keep us safe in an unsafe world, to keep us loved, admired, popular, and connected. We have developed these traits our whole lives, from cracking jokes, to buying gifts, to dressing a certain way, to pulling focus and requiring external validation, among others, in order to find our place in the world and to contribute. Yet COVID-19 has thrown all of those upside down because we can no longer go to work, or be social. We can’t travel, or go to the office. How we engage with each other is mediated by the phone and via computer screens, and our conversations have gone from showing our strengths to exposing our fears and sometimes even weaknesses.

          So tonight we are invited to put on the humility of the kingdom of God as we begin to think about what normals in our everyday are worth rushing back to, because we too are about to die. Our life after this pandemic will be different, which is a death, but the far greater death I think is in how we want to live our Novum Mandatum. Are we really ready to be Christ’s hands and feet in this world, serving without recognition, living without needs, empowering others through our economic and social privileges? Or is it safer and easier to let someone else do it for us? The world will know whose disciples we are, by how you and I answer Christ's Novum Mandatum this evening.  So church whose clothes will you put on tonight? Your own or God’s?