Foot Washing, Hand Washing, and a Holy Mandate


maundy thursday 2020

The above picture is of the communion table for our virtual Maundy Thursday service last night.  You no doubt notice some strange things on this table — I will explain.

While we shared the story of Jesus breaking the bread and sharing the cup at that last supper as part of our service, I focused by message for the service on the passage from John’s gospel (John 13:1-17, 34-35) where Jesus is with his disciples, and after the supper he gets up and washes his disciples feet.  After doing so, he tells them to go and do likewise.  Just as they had been served by him, so too they must serve others.  And a few sentences after that, he tells his disciples, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, as I have loved you.”  In Latin, this is “Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos,” which is why this is called Maundy Thursday: Maundy, from mandatum, the Latin for commandment, or maybe more appropriate, mandate.

Jesus gives us the mandate–“love one another”–and the source of our strength for doing so–“as I have loved you.”  And this is where my strange communion table items come from.  Jesus washed his disciples feet.  Today, we are called to wash our hands — not just for our own sake, but in order to help others stay safe, in order to keep people out of the already crowded ICUs, in order to protect doctors and nurses and CNAs and first responders.  Wash your hands, for you love one another.  Likewise we use hand sanitizer and a face mask, for we love one another.  Why the TP roll on the table?  To remind us not to let our fear drive us to hoard materials, for there are others who also need them.  Stop hoarding, for we love one another.

And it is not just in a pandemic that we are called to love one another, and what is on the table helps us to remember this: bread and cup–feed the hungry; the basin of water–help all to have access to clean water; the hand sanitizer–help all to get access to medical care; the TP–help all to get access to needed materials for daily life.  And the face mask helps us to remember that we should make this a world where no one has to hide their true identity, that all should feel welcome in our world as they are. And the palm branches, from our Palm Sunday service, are eco-palms, reminding us to care for creation.

I truly believe we do have much love to share — let us follow Jesus’ mandate, now and always: “love one another, for I have loved you.”

peace and blessings,

Pastor Leslie


Holy Week, Easter Not Cancelled


I’ve seen some reports in the media that Holy Week and Easter are “interrupted” or “cancelled” or somehow their arrival has been put in doubt.  What many do not fully understand, even some “in the church,” is that “church” is not a building.  When the church building is closed because we are trying to keep our friends and neighbors safe from the coronavirus, some mistakenly believe that “church” is not happening.  But “church” is the body of Christ, it is a congregation of people of faith, and a life of faith is not dependent on some bricks and mortar.  [And I would say the same is true for our Jewish and Muslim friends, as well as folks of any faith tradition.]

Yes, having a building does facilitate us gathering, worshipping, communing over coffee and donuts, having Sunday School, offering a space for community groups to meet, doing mission and ministry, etc.  But we are a people of faith, we are a church family, we are answering the call to love God and love neighbor, even when we cannot gather in-person on a Sunday morning.  We are gathering virtually for worship, prayer, bible study, and meetings.  We are calling, writing, texting, emailing, IM-ing each other to support one another. We are running errands for those who cannot get out. We are praying for one another and our community and all those sick and all those helping and putting themselves at risk in their essential work.  We are continuing to advocate for the poor, the disenfranchised, the oppressed, those suffering injustice, those excluded, those marginalized.  Some even worked the polls on Tuesday in WI’s ill-advised in-person election that put so many at risk, so that others more vulnerable could be safe and folks could vote.

The church is open for business, even if our building is closed.  It is the nature of church, when it lives up to its calling — not a building, but a community of faith, a compassionate and caring group of people, young and old, rich and poor, a wondrously diverse family of folks who love God and love neighbor, in word and in deed.  Brick and mortar not required.

Peace and blessings,

Pastor Leslie

Sleepless in pandemic


From chatting with others (electronically, or from a safe distance) I have found that I’m not the only one who has experienced insomnia or restless sleeping or strange dreams/nightmares (or all of the above) over the last few weeks.  Its not just that our routines have been changed so dramatically.  I know I’m not the only one disturbed by the news and worried about loved ones, medical personal, first responders, store clerks, delivery persons, etc.  We are all worried about the economy.  Its not surprising we struggle with quieting our minds enough to sleep.  Sometimes I manage to do better when I remember to practice better “sleep hygiene,” that is, turning the electronics off early enough, writing out my thoughts and concerns in a journal, praying, reading a book, even some chamomile or mint tea and/or melatonin have helped.

What doesn’t help is shaming.  We have enough of that going on in the world in general.  Do not shame yourself if you are having mental or spiritual concerns during these difficult times.  Yes, Jesus said many many times “do not be afraid,” but he did not mean “do not be concerned,” and he certainly never would shame anyone (besides the Pharisees, that is, and only as a teaching tool).  He just doesn’t want us to be so overcome by our concerns that we don’t remember to also share God’s love and peace with one another while we are dealing with that which concerns us.  And what helps us deal most with our concerns these days is to reach out for help, and offer help as well, especially in the form of connection — call, email, text, Skype, whatever your favorite form of connection is — for it is not mere slogan or catch-phrase or greeting card pablum that we are in this together — it is in community that we will get through this.  Not every person for themselves.  Not “what can you do for me”.  What will get us through this is to help one another.  Just having someone to talk with, or receiving a card from someone, or seeing someone’s face, these all can make the difference in someone’s day.  You don’t need something momentous or big news to share; just sharing a laugh over something stupid, or finding out that yes, someone else is also having trouble sleeping, can go a long way toward helping someone, maybe even helping them sleep a little better tonight.

I’ll leave you with the words of two verses of a hymn, an oldie but a goodie:

Abide With Me (words: Henry F. Lyte)

Abide with me, fast falls the eventide; the shadows deepen, Lord with me abide; When other helpers hail, and comforts flee, help of the helpless, O abide with me.

I need your presence every passing hour; I need your grace to foil the tempter’s power.  Give me your love my guide and stay to be. Through cloud and sunshine, O abide with me.