The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, “It is the Passover of the Lord….This day shall be a memorial feast for you, which all your generations shall celebrate with pilgrimage to the Lord, as a perpetual institution. Exodus 12
I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do. John 13
Today’s readings tell the story of rituals that are followed today, thousands of years after their inception.
The reading from Exodus is the experience that created the law of the Passover meal. God tells Moses how to prepare for the angel of death’s passage over the houses of the Israelites by killing a lamb, sprinkling the blood on the lintel, and eating their meal standing, dressed simply, ready to move on.
The passage in John is the story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. This story only appears in the Gospel of John so it’s possible to doubt the historical accuracy of the experience but the words are words Jesus often used. In all gospel passages, Jesus instructs his followers to serve rather than set themselves above others, to see everyone as equal rather than follow the all too human characteristic of seeing our self as better than.
How have we replaced the meaning of the moment with a ritual to mean?
This week during Passover, when many shared a symbolic meal, how many dressed simply? In the thousands of churches across the world where priests and even the Pope symbolically wash feet tonight, how many of those “serving” are a model of equality?
How many of our most holy moments disappear into automatic ritual as if we are brushing our teeth?
Tonight, Cliff and I will also participate in this ancient ritual. In our community, we wash hands rather than feet in a recognition of our world where hands do more of the daily work than feet. As we wash the hands, we will bless, saying, “May your hands be blessed in service to your community, to your family, and in service to yourself.”
Each year, we also celebrate the Chrism mass where we bless the holy oils for the year ahead and dedicate ourselves to the priesthood. We will strip the altar, put away the linens, remove the symbols of our office and leave the table bare.
Each year, each day, we are challenged to make our rituals real instead of empty.
Wherever you are this Thursday evening, take a moment to be real. Remember this “last supper” as a moment in your life with your experiences and your needs.
If the table is empty, what will fill it? Who will come?