Maundy Thursday, 2022 Service

Maundy Thursday Service

April 14, 2022


When Jesus approaches Peter to wash his feet, Peter’s reply is, “You will never wash my feet.” Many will feel the same tonight. We struggle to confess that we have dirty feet, that we live in dusty homes and have messy lives. We would like people to see us with our shoes and socks on, neatly wrapped and presented to the world. In private though, we are painfully aware of our shortcomings. We can feel like miserable failures, hopeless cases, lost causes. We are none of the above. We are creatures of earth, living in earthy bodies and inspired with the breath of God. We are dirt, but we are not our dirtiness.

     When Jesus knelt at Peter’s feet to wash them, it was Peter who was affronted by the seeming impropriety of the situation. But to Jesus, who sees with God’s eyes, it was a chance to wash the feet of a loved one—not unlike the feeling you might get touching the feet of an infant. We are children of God and, like any loving parent, God simply wants to give us a bath. Through the eyes of love God looks at us the way we might choose to look at our church, at our lives, at our feet—as things redeemable.

     Our feet—stinky with decay, wrinkled with age, ugly from arthritis or infection, bruised by labor, signs of our march toward death—our feet are not scary to the one who has bound us up into a new body, a body of life, a body we entered into through baptismal waters. God, who is not afraid to draw close to the decaying portions of our world, sees our feet and loves them, and we are given the new commandment to love one another as we are loved.

Confession and Forgiveness

Friends in Christ, in this Lenten season we have heard our Lord’s call to struggle against sin, death, and evil—all that keeps us from loving God and each other. This is the struggle to which we were called at baptism.

Within the community of the church, God never wearies of forgiving sin and giving the peace of reconciliation. On this night let us confess our sin against God and our neighbor, and enter the celebration of the great Three Days reconciled with God and with one another.

Most merciful God,

we confess that we are captive to sin and cannot free ourselves. We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. For the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways, to the glory of your holy name.  Amen.

God, who is rich in mercy, loved us even when we were dead in sin, and made us alive together with Christ. By grace you have been saved. In the name of ☩ Jesus Christ, your sins are forgiven. Almighty God strengthen you with power through the Holy Spirit, that Christ may live in your hearts through faith.


GATHERING HYMN:  WOV 666   Great God, Your Love Has Called Us Here

The three days of the Easter Triduum are from dusk on Holy Thursday to dusk on Good Friday (day one), dusk on Good Friday to dusk on Holy Saturday (day two), and dusk on Holy Saturday to dusk on Easter Sunday (day three). Each of those days “tells” a different part of the story of Jesus’ saving action.  Although the Triduum covers three days, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday are considered one service.  Therefore the service on Maundy Thursday  ends abruptly after the Lord’s Prayer, and on Good Friday all leave in silence after the procession of the cross. 


The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Prayer of the Day

Eternal God, in the sharing of a meal your Son established a new covenant for all people, and in the washing of feet he showed us the dignity of service. Grant that by the power of your Holy Spirit these signs of our life in faith may speak again to our hearts, feed our spirits, and refresh our bodies, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.


First Reading: Exodus 12:1-14

Israel remembered its deliverance from slavery in Egypt by celebrating the festival of Passover. This festival featured the Passover lamb, whose blood was used as a sign to protect God’s people from the threat of death. The early church described the Lord’s supper using imagery from the Passover, especially in portraying Jesus as the lamb who delivers God’s people from sin and death.

1The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: 2This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. 3Tell 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. 4If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it. 5Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. 6You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. 7They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. 8They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 9Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over the fire, with its head, legs, and inner organs. 10You shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn.  11This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the Lord. 12For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. 13The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.

14This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.

Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19

R:  I will lift the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. (Ps. 116:13)

1I love the Lord, who has heard my voice, and listened to my supplication,
2for the Lord has given ear to me whenever I called.
12How shall I repay the Lord for all the good things God has done for me?
13I will lift the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. R
14I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all God’s people.
15Precious in your sight, O Lord, is the death of your servants.
16O Lord, truly I am your servant; I am your servant, the child of your handmaid;

you have freed me from my bonds.
17I will offer you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call upon the name of the Lord.
18I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all God’s people,
19in the courts of the Lord’s house, in the midst of you, O Jerusalem. R

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

In the bread and cup of the Lord’s supper, we experience intimate fellowship with Christ and with one another because it involves his body given for us and the new covenant in his blood. Faithful participation in this meal is a living proclamation of Christ’s death until he comes in the future.

23For 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.” 25In 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.

Gospel: John 13:1-17, 31b-35

The story of the last supper in John’s gospel recalls a remarkable event not mentioned elsewhere: Jesus performs the duty of a slave, washing the feet of his disciples and urging them to do the same for one other.

1Now 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.”

31b“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.”

HYMN:  WOV 765   Jesu, Jesu, Fill Us With Your Love

Sermon:  by Rev. James Alison[1]

In my preparation for Maundy Thursday I came across this sermon by Rev. James Alison.  He offers a unique perspective on our gospel text.  I share with you his insights…

We’re going to look at the gospel of the washing of the feet.

St. John gives us this gospel instead of the institution of the eucharist, which shows how important he thought it was.  John deals with the institution of the eucharist in other ways, but here, at this key moment, he has Jesus performing a particular sign.

So, I would like to look with you at two elements of this sign.  The first is that Jesus, once again, is doing something absolutely deliberate.  St. John gives us all sorts of word clues about this.  But one clue is that uses the same verbs here as he uses when he’s talking about laying down his life and picking it up again in the good shepherd discourse.  So, here, it says he lays down his upper garment and later it says he takes it up again.  Many of our translations obscure that, but it seems to me to be key.  Jesus is enacting before what he has been talking about and what he’s going to do.  So, he is definitely doing something absolutely deliberate.

The second element is that at the end of the foot washing, then turns around immediately to his disciples and says, “Have you understood what I am doing?  Do you realize what I have done to you?”  Now this is actually rather different from usual relationship to his disciples after the signs.  Normally, performs the signs and the don’t get it.  They begin to get some hints of meaning, and little by little they begin to understand.  Only much later do they really get what’s been going on, and that’s part of the nature of the kind of signs is doing.  They shake the universe of meaning.  But here, immediately, he’s asking them, “Do you know what I have done?”  And that seems a reasonable question for us to ask ourselves.  Do we know what has done?  Have we understood what he has done?

So, here’s my attempt to meditate a little longer…

The first point is what has done; he has performed a service that would normally be done by a servant.  In a household where there was going to be a banquet the host would prepare servants to wash the feet of the guests who were on their way in, and the washing of the feet would be a gesture of courtesy.  It would be a pleasant relief after walking a long, sweaty way – one would have dust all over one’s sandaled feet.  A gesture of courtesy welcoming somebody in.  It would not be something that the host would do.  So here, one of the first things does is, as the host, he is actually being the servant who welcomes in to his own feast, in which he, himself, is going to give himself away.  is being a servant welcoming to his own feast.

The second point is that there was actually someone for whom it was appropriate for the host to wash their feet, and that would have been the host’s wife.  It would have been appropriate for a husband to kneel down before his wife and wash her feet.  It was a gesture of humility, of intimacy and of equality in a world where neither humility or equality was necessarily lived out in relationship between spouses.

So, yes, there is something marital about this act.  Something suggesting a marital intimacy of service.  And, yes, it doesn’t seem inappropriate to see Jesus as engaging in a spousal act of humility and intimacy with those whom he is turning into his spouse – the Church.

The third point is that one is actually putting oneself under people’s feet when washing them.  One is putting oneself in a position of vulnerability.  It is really quite easy for the person to kick one or stomp on one.  It’s not for nothing that the psalms which speak of kings being victorious in ancient Israel speak about putting their enemies beneath their feet.  It was a place of abjection.  One runs the risk of being treated as an abject enemy, as being humiliated.  I think it’s not for nothing that Jesus is calling to mind Psalm 41, “Even my bosom friend, in whom I trusted, who ate of my bread, has lifted his heel against me.”   Now, to lift the heel against someone is a way of referring to the phrase “stabbed in the back”.  But the reference here to lifting a heel against someone shows how someone whom a person trusted, before whom one was prepared to be humble, has, in fact, been stomped on.  Of course, Jesus is doing his sign straight off at the banquet where he knows he’s putting himself in danger of being stabbed in the back, or stomped on by someone who has lifted his heel against him.  In other words, not all the people whose feet one washes are there to accept one’s act of humility.  Some people will try to use one’s humility against them.  I think that Jesus is saying, “Part of my service is to agree to go into the dangerous place, of serving in the midst of people who won’t have one’s back, who can’t be trusted.  And yet, the loving service is to continue.”

Fourthly, appears to be giving an act of service which was done to the Levites and the high priest – the rite of ordination which involved washing.  is doing this service in such a way as to bring in to performing the high priestly function with him.

We can tell this because of the strange exchange has with Peter.  He washes Peter’s feet, Peter gets huffy saying, “No, no, no, you shouldn’t have to do that to me” – the boss shouldn’t wash the servant’s feet – and Jesus says to him, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.”  In other words, clearly thinks of this washing as being in some way configuring the person washed into what he himself, Jesus, is doing.  This is some sort of ordination rite.  Peter, of course, immediately gets it because he then says, “In that case, wash the whole of me!”  In other words, let me be like the great high priest, completely washed from head to foot, as was the custom for that ordination rite.  But Jesus says, “Come, this is a rite, you don’t need that, you’re ok.  It’s you as a person who is basically clean who is going to be performing this rite.  Not all of you are clean.”  knows that one person is a traitor, one person has bitterness and resentment in his heart.  “This is the gesture that I’m performing now on all of you, washing your feet, to show that you are now going to be living out the rite of the great high priest.”

I want to suggest that we spend a little time thinking of what it actually means that Jesus really wants us to understand that he’s doing something for us!  This is what he’s doing; every time we celebrate the eucharist we not only remember the words, the sacrificial language and Christ’s presence, but the deeply human gesture of someone who laid down his life, serving us, maritally, dangerously, and in a priestly fashion, so that we could come to share in his life forever, by making this gesture in our lives, this washing of the feet, the humility of service, continuous and contagious.  Amen.

Hymn:  WOV 664   A New Commandment


On this night we have heard our Lord’s commandment to love one another as he has loved us. We who receive God’s love in Jesus Christ are called to love one another, to be servants to each other as Jesus became our servant. Our commitment to this loving service is signified in the washing of feet, following the example our Lord gave us on the night before his death.

If you live alone, take some time to ponder those situations in your life where you lived out Christ’s call to serve others.  If you have a family, I invite you to wash each other’s feet.

Prayers of Intercession

In these holiest of days, we offer prayers for ourselves, our neighbors, and our world.

We pray for the church around the world. Write your new commandment of love on the heart of every believer and strengthen pastors, deacons, and lay leaders in humble service for your people.

Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

We pray for the good earth you have made. Protect fields, orchards, local farms, and gardens. Inspire us with the new life budding around us, that we show more care for plants and all living creatures. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

We pray for leaders in every land. Kindle compassion and equity in all who are called to administer justice. Guide all in positions of power away from the temptations of abuse and toward work for the common good. We continue to hold up before you the people of Ukraine, Russia and our indigenous sisters and brothers.

Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

We pray for all who are in need, especially those who are incarcerated or unjustly accused. Illuminate paths to end oppression and form supportive communities gathered around a common commitment to justice and peace.

Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

We pray for this congregation and all who gather to receive your body and blood this night. Fill us at this shared table and nourish us well to heed your example of grace. Send us in love to those who cannot be with us due to illness.

Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

We give thanks for those who have died in the faith. Teach us by their example and comfort us as we mourn. Renew us by the promise of life together with you.

Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

We offer to you these petitions and those we carry in our hearts, trusting in your abundant and ever-present mercy.


Lord’s Prayer




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