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14.04.2022

Service, solidarity and community – the message of Maundy Thursday

Chrism Eucharist in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin
Service, solidarity and community – the message of Maundy Thursday - Chrism Eucharist in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin
The Archbishop washes the feet of the Revd Terry Lilburn on Maundy Thursday.

Those in ministry have been workers in the frontline of faith and community during the pandemic, Archbishop Michael Jackson told the annual Maundy Thursday Chrism Eucharist. He said their service during the pandemic and beyond is part of the same mandate Jesus gave his disciples on Maundy Thursday and there were many ways of living out that mandate. The service took place in Christ Church Cathedral this morning (Thursday April 14) and people in ministry, lay and ordained, from across Dublin and Glendalough were in attendance.

During the service, which was sung by the cathedral choir, those in ministry renewed their commitment to ministry. Oils for use in healing and baptism and the oil of the chrism were consecrated. The Archbishop also washed the feet of a number of clergy and lay people and in turn had his feet washed.

In his sermon, the Archbishop looked at the events of Maundy Thursday when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and instituted the Lord’s Supper. He examined the washing of feet and Holy Communion and the roles they play in service and bringing about solidarity and belonging in community.

He said Maundy Thursday brought an unpredictable reversal of predictable hierarchy. Jesus had already told the disciples that they were no longer slaves but friends. The act of service he performed in washing their feet was offered as a gift of transformation of existing relationships. The Archbishop observed that the act of courtesy that was afforded by any householder in the ancient and eastern way of life through his servants and slaves was offered to the disciples by their teacher, the one who was sent from heaven and made his house in all humanity.

“With this extraordinary event, we may feel left hanging in the air. It is such a big gesture. We may wonder: What are we to do next? Where do we go next with this quite remarkable expression of inclusion? The Ukrainian people now in our midst offer us an obvious focus of service. Service is itself a communion,” he said.

Turning to the second half of Maundy Thursday, when clergy return to their parishes and celebrate the Institution of the Lord’s Supper with their own parishioners, the Archbishop said that in quite a different way Jesus shared himself with the same disciples.

“… take, eat and drink, this is my body, this is my blood given for you … Holy Communion creates a community of faith and response. Holy Communion gives solidarity and belonging to those who now, as then, have the courage to follow Jesus Christ in all the complexities of life and to offer back to him their thanksgivings for all that is good and true on a regular basis and to offer back likewise their anxieties about everything that disturbs and distorts our own lives and the lives of those for whom we have a care and concern. At the same time, this is also a community that God is equipping to do the work of God in the world of his creation; ours are the hands that follow through the words and the deeds of God in Jesus Christ. We are equipped for this by participating in Jesus Christ in both word and sacrament to go out to do his work in the world and for the world. Service is the outworking of the Communion that is Holy, of the thanksgiving for the body of Christ that is Eucharist,” he said.

Archbishop acknowledged the service of clergy throughout the pandemic. “You have been frontline workers in the frontline of faith and of community. Your constant efforts have kept tens of thousands of people going, tens of thousands of people cheerful, tens of thousands of people afloat. This is a service that you have carried through as part of the same mandate that Jesus gave to his disciples on this day. I want to thank you for it and for all of it. Service and the washing of feet take many forms. There are indeed many ways of living out the mandate:

‘For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done for you’,” he said.

You can read the Archbishop’s sermon in full below.

 

The Choir of Christ Church Cathedral at the Chrism Eucharist on Maundy Thursday.
The Choir of Christ Church Cathedral at the Chrism Eucharist on Maundy Thursday.

 

MAUNDY THURSDAY

St John 13.1–17, 31b–35

St John 13. …: Do you know what I have done to you?

Sermon by Archbishop Michael Jackson

Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin – 14 April 2022

Maundy Thursday is a very particular day in the church, when we enter more fully into the earthly life of Jesus than, perhaps, we have done thus far. We are now at the end of the earthly story even though there is still a long way to go. Many have remarked on how slowly this total story goes in The Gospel of John. In chapter 13 St John sets the scene for Jesus’s departure from this world. While the Jesus of St John’s Gospel remains in control of his death, there come into the story a range of people who take his life out of his hands. He sets his departure firmly in the frame of those to whom he shows his love. His forthcoming death, we are effectively told, is a work of love. And love is the bedrock of the new commandment, the mandate, that gives this day its name: Maundy Thursday.

On Maundy Thursday we are drawn into an unpredictable reversal of predictable hierarchy. We are told that there is a well–recognized and socially functioning hierarchy of master and servant, of teacher and pupil, of messengers and the one who sent them. Jesus had already told the disciples quite firmly that they are no longer slaves but friends. Here in today’s Gospel, he builds on this by the act of service that he performs and offers to them as a gift of transformation of existing relationships. The master washes the feet of the servant and, in return, dignifies a menial task by doing it openly for all the disciples, clean and unclean. The motivation for such a task is also transformed. This is a new commandment that is written in a deliberate action when Jesus takes the water and the towel and washes the feet of his disciples one by one. The courtesy that is afforded by any householder in the ancient and eastern way of life through the agency of his retinue of servants and slaves is offered to the disciples by their teacher, by the one who was sent from heaven and made his house, his abode, in all humanity by being born as we are born. Teaching, preaching and the working of miracles are of course vitally important in the revealing of God on earth; what is happening today is equally and differently important and revealing. And it is something that any and all of us can do and from today are called to do once again in the year that unfolds from today.

With this extraordinary event, we may feel left hanging in the air. It is such a big gesture. We may wonder: What are we to do next? Where do we go next with this quite remarkable expression of inclusion? The Ukrainian people now in our midst offer us an obvious focus of service. Service is itself a communion. The second half of Maundy Thursday, which you will mark and celebrate each in your parish and with your own parishioners, is The Institution of The Lord’s Supper. In a quite different way, on that occasion, Jesus shares himself with the same disciples: … take, eat and drink, this is my body, this is my blood given for you … Holy Communion creates a community of faith and response. Holy Communion gives solidarity and belonging to those who now, as then, have the courage to follow Jesus Christ in all the complexities of life and to offer back to him their thanksgivings for all that is good and true on a regular basis and to offer back likewise their anxieties about everything that disturbs and distorts our own lives and the lives of those for whom we have a care and concern. At the same time, this is also a community that God is equipping to do the work of God in the world of his creation; ours are the hands that follow through the words and the deeds of God in Jesus Christ. We are equipped for this by participating in Jesus Christ in both word and sacrament to go out to do his work in the world and for the world. Service is the outworking of the Communion that is Holy, of the thanksgiving for the body of Christ that is Eucharist.       

As well as service and the community of the church, we need the community beyond the church in order properly to follow Christ. In St John chapter 10 he speaks of having other sheep who are not of this fold. Service is not only important for the proper internal satisfaction of God’s people; it is important that faith and its acceptance be shared and tested in the world beyond the church. There are many, many different ways of reading the progress and the decline of the church and indeed there always have been and will be. There are also many, many different ways of reading the impacts of the world beyond the church on the church itself. You can all rehearse the arguments for yourselves; we have heard them time after time. But one thing is clear and that is that the interface, the cliff–edge between both is important for us within the church, if we are not to implode and if we are not to look too indulgently on ourselves but instead look outward in love as a community, from a community to a community. The dynamic life of a church may be gauged as much by its external as by its internal happiness.

We do not need to be nor, probably, do we want to be reminded of COVID–19. And I do understand why. The memory of it is hardly going to fade but I do hope that it will somehow recede, as fresh priorities and old priorities take their place when our own lives and the lives of our people, God’s people, develop afresh and take directions that we have not foreseen. People may be inspired by us; we need to let ourselves be inspired by them. You have been frontline workers in the frontline of faith and of community. Your constant efforts have kept tens of thousands of people going, tens of thousands of people cheerful, tens of thousands of people afloat. This is a service that you have carried through as part of the same mandate that Jesus gave to his disciples on this day. I want to thank you for it and for all of it. Service and the washing of feet take many forms. There are indeed many ways of living out the mandate:

For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done for you …

Please proceed and please continue to do this work of service and of thanksgiving in the name of the One who took up not the sword but the towel.

 

Archbishop Michael Jackson preaching at the Chrism Eucharist in Christ Church Cathedral.
Archbishop Michael Jackson preaching at the Chrism Eucharist in Christ Church Cathedral.

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