Maundy Thursday: Instead of Throwing in the Towel: How to be People of the Towel In (in the midst of hard days)

After the town florist, Ray, opens our back door, slides a vase of Easter lilies across the floor, after we wave at him through the farm kitchen window, we wildly spray disinfectant on the doorknob, drench the vase.

How did this Easter end up smelling a whole lot more like a hydrogen peroxide cleanse than the soul cleanse I’m desperate for?

On Maundy Thursday, I kneel to wipe down the back door, the vase, the beat-up cork floor, with a dry clean towel.

On Maundy Thursday, Jesus kneels before the dirty with His basin of water, cups the heel that’s crushed sacred things, and even in places where we can’t stand the stench of us and all that’s gone wrong, we are still held.

Tonight, the socks will come off.  Tonight, the chipped enamel bowls will fill with lukewarm water. But God, let us not be that, not lukewarm, especially not now. 

Too much is at stake these days to risk being tepid. Lives are at stake.

Souls are at stake.

All things sane are at stake.

There’s absolutely no way it can be too much right now to peel the socks off.

Risk how it feels to sit with being exposed and in need.

There is no shame. No shame now.  

The grime that’s stained, that can’t be scrubbed away, the embarrassment of how things have gone madly different than the way you wildly imagined—- none of it makes Him pull back or take even one of His promises back.

Jesus doesn’t ever shirk back from your grime — and you never have to shirk back from His grace.

On the night that Jesus was betrayed, He gave thanksand passed on the grace.

On the morning of Maundy Thursday, after disinfecting the doors, the floor, the vase, the Farmer and I are on the phone for hours with our second refugee family, sorting through trauma and loss and heartbreak and trying to wash all kinds of painful wounds. We cry. We still believe it: Shared tears are multiplied healing.

On the we’ve-lost-count-week of being betrayed by a pandemic, by a broken world, by our own broken hearts, we can keep giving thanks for graceand keep passing on the grace.

Because if Jesus can give thanks in that kind of heartbreak —  how can we not give thanks in ours?

Because when we give thanks for grace in our hard places — we see we have grace to pass on to others in their hard places.

I dig around in the freezer and pull a roast of lamb out to thaw. The Farmer fills a row of disinfectant bottles at the back sink. I throw a load of towels into the wash. Both of our hands are chapped from this relentless liturgy of hand washing.

What if on my death bed, my hands were chapped from a life of all kinds of foot washing? I dare to believe that this is how you die happy.

I had read it once, how, about 250 years after Christ went to the Cross, during the height of The Plagues, there were a bunch of Christians who named themselves, “The Gamblers.”

When the dead were heaped in the streets, The Gamblers risked their very lives to bring food to the sick, nurse the weak, bury the dead.

In the midst of a pandemicthere were Christians who called themselves The Gamblers who gambled all of their lives away on the Way Jesus lived, who risked their literal lives so that Christ’s love could literally win.

What if Christians in the midst of this pandemic gambled everything on living Jesus’ way — finding creative ways to still wash feet, still reach out hands, still meet needs because Jesus met ours?

The Gospel is at stake.

Jesus went to the stake and gave His literal life for ours.

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On the night that Jesus was betrayed, He not only gave thanks, broke the bread and gave it — He bent down with a basin and embodied it for us, incarnated by example, what it means to live broken and given.

At the Last Supper, He became the Passover Lamb — and showed us how to pass on His grace by kneeling down and serving others, so no one is passed over.

Jesus laid aside both His heavenly glory, and His outer garment — to robe Himself in humanity and wrap Himself with a towel.

He poured water into a bowl, like He will pour out of His life blood on the Cross, and He washes the filth from the feet of the disciples, like He has washed the filth from my soul.

Tonight, in the basin’s dirty water, He will see my face, all of me.

And I will see His.

A mingling exchange will happen.

And I will be clean. Hydrogen peroxide be confounded.

It is no small thing to let Jesus wash your feet even now, to receive the touch of His towel, to receive impossible grace, to simply receive.

God in human flesh took on the likeness of a servant to love the unlovely — so how could we live anything less than that of a servant, because this is how we love and thank Him?

How can we not take time to thank those essential workers, the truckers and delivery people, the grocery personal and the medical caregivers,  who are the ones risking their very lives to serve us all now?

How you can you not become one of the People of the Towel — when you’ve been touched by the towel?

There can still be Gamblers who do not throw in the towel because love seems hard  — but risk ease to become People of the Towel so love can be seen.

When the dryer alarm goes off, I scoop out an armful of still warm towels, carry them to the table, and I can feel how the time’s up for being lukewarm.

At the table of the Last Supper, in remembering to give thanks in all things, in remembering to live broken and given through all things — it is our own broken places that are re-membered — and in the midst of all things, the ones who feel forgotten and in need are remembered.

This is communion.

This is how we are all one.

This is the Maundy Thursday mandate to love one another as He has loved us.

I look past the vase of Easter lilies on the farm kitchen windowsill, look down the road to the neighbours.

Tonight, the socks will come off. Tonight, the bowls will be filled. Tonight, there will be remembering Jesus who re-membered us.

And hearts will fill with His voice:

“After I wash your feet —  look around you — and feel how I hand you a towel.” 

 

Resource for the Hardest Holy Week:

1. How to have a Christian Passover Meal :

Free Printable to download for everything you need for Easter-At-Home…

2. How to ShowUp & Be People of the Towel in a Pandemic:  How to prayerfully & practically live cruciform love, bend low & serve through this pandemic, check out our organization: ShowUpNow

3. The Broken Way: This hard Holy Week — and in the midst of any mess — take the cruciform way Jesus takesright into the abundant life we all yearn for.