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


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