It begins with feet

The Maundy Thursday Homily from the Rev. Deacon Carey Chirico, St. George’s Episcopal Church
Fredericksburg, VA | April 2, 2015
“Seated, six feet off the ground” by Flickr User CDM. Licensed through Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Psalm 116:8
For you, O LORD, have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. Amen.

It begins with feet. Small, innocent feet which have never touched the ground.
Small feet which kick and wave in the air.
Feet that will grow and stretch and carry a grown man around the countryside, walking miles and miles each day – hot, brown, dusty and sweaty.

It begins with love.
The love of Mary’s words in the Magnificat. The love of teacher for his disciples.
The love of a shepherd for his lost sheep.

It begins with shame.
The shame of an unwed mother.
The shame of an unexpected pregnancy.
The shame of sheltering to be born -in a cave not a palace, among animals not friends.

And so we come to this day. The night when having journeyed with our Savior through the giddy days of Hosannas we arrive at the meal which will be our last.

On this night the disciples have gathered to eat together as they have on so many occasions yet surely they must have sensed, known that things were about to change. Jesus has given them the best he has, the best he can. In one final gesture he kneels down and again upending the Kingdom washes their feet.

Gently wiping, pouring, cupping their tired, dusty feet. Their protests are the final sign of their lack of understanding of this man they have followed.

Tonight we will walk in their steps. We will come forward, sit down and let someone take our foot and gently, lovingly rinse it with water. Then they will pat it dry, carefully returning it to the earth. Tonight we will have the opportunity to let ourselves be loved, be served, be cared for, be cherished. Is this not the greatest of His messages to us – care for each other, love one another as I have loved you?

And we will struggle just as they did.

We will resist showing someone else that which is imperfect, unmanicured, unlovable. We will protest. We will resist, we will want to stay in our seat. But when we relent.

When we let go…….. then we will get it. Then we will begin the work of understanding.

My friend Jane tells a story about an experience she had right here in this Church. Jane is a teacher, and one year she had – that child. That child that you struggle to love, struggle to reach but who defies your every attempt. And she was ashamed. Her inability to love this child made her feel ashamed.

At her wits end, dreading school the next day, Janie prayed here in this Nave. Then she stood up and walking up the aisle to the altar for communion she pretended that she carried in her arms this child. And at the rail she knelt beside him, offering up what was broken between them and her inability to fix it.

Three months later she asked the children to write an essay about something significant that had happened to them during the school year.

The unloving, unlovable child wrote about the day, that day, in the middle of the year when his teacher ……started loving him.

“Generally speaking,” says the great Fredrick Buechner,“if you want to know who you really are, keep an eye on where your feet take you.”

It begins and it ends with feet. Feet battered and pierced. Feet, which the Gospel of Matthew tells us, were grasped and worshipped by the women at the empty tomb. Feet, which carry us into the world, humble, misshapen, dusty and hot.

As it began, it ends in shame. The shame of a slave’s death on a cross, tried, beaten and defeated. Deserted and denied by disciples. Alone between two thieves.

And as it began, it ends in love, the greatest love mankind has ever known or will know. Love that takes all our cares, all our shame, all our brokenness and hands us back – hope, joy, growth and healing.

Tonight I invite you to take a chance and experience in a small way how hard it is to share that which is rough and unpolished even shameful about ourselves.

And I invite you into a small experience of the joy of being entrusted to care for someone else’s hard, embarrassing place.

Love one another as I have loved you and by this the world shall know that you are my disciples.



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