Today is Maundy Thursday - one of those mysterious gifts buried inside Holy Week (the week leading up to Christ's death and resurrection - Easter). "Maundy" from the latin mandatum is translated as "commandment," and for the Christian signifies a day set apart to receive with intention the great commandment to love one another in humility and joy through service.
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13:34-35
At the Maundy thursday service, there is typically a foot-washing - which is incredibly humbling (even embarrassing) and the story of the Last Supper, including Jesus' washing of the disciples' feet is read aloud. In scripture, it is the foot washing that precedes The Commandment. So when Christ says that we should love each other as he has loved us - he is certainly referencing the action he just took of removing himself from the place of honor and entering the role of a servant. I particularly love this passage which speaks to me of Christ's mindset and the whole backward affair of the Gospel and the call to Christianity:
"Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; SO [and that little 'so' is my favorite part] he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples ' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him." John 13:3-5
The readings for Maundy Thursday include:
Exodus 12:1-4, 11-14 (The story of the Passover, the basis for the disciples' gathering and the formula for Christ's become the 'Passover lamb')
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
John 13:1-17, 31-35
A Prayer for Worship from the Lectionary
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. Amen.