I want to use hands and feet as the glue to bind together these my addresses for tonight and tomorrow.
And though it may be feet that are foremost in our minds tonight, its hands I really want to think about, for they are mentioned in both our readings.
St Paul said ‘I received from the Lord, what I also handed on to you.’
Then in the Gospel ‘Jesus knowing that the father had given all things into his hands.’
Hands of course tell something of our story. Sherlock Holmes would likely be able to deduce more or less everything about us from them. They certainly tell what we do for a living.
I used to work for a firm of Agricultural engineers, in the stores. So I know that farmers and mechanics have hands that tell what they do. The hand cleaner could never get rid of the muck or the calluses.
What of us? Clean hands? Moisturised? Warm or cold? What of Jesus’ hands? Hands which drew lines in the sand, blessed the children in his arms or as we remember tonight washed his disciples’ feet. It was such a powerful and symbolic act.
Just think of feet in those days, dirtied with dust and grime. There wasn’t a lot of hosiery in those days, calloused and sore perhaps, private and personal certainly. He pours water on them. He washes them. He dries them. What might they have thought?
Well, as ever, they don’t get it. ‘Peter said to him “You will never wash my feet.”’ Yet what he did mattered, his hands making real the words that would follow. ‘By this everyone will know you’re my disciples’.
So by doing it, Jesus reminds them that, in contrast with those who held power and influence that it’s not just what they say that matters but what they do. And it was with his hands that he began what we do day by day, week by week, as his followers here.
Just as he broke bread, so we break bread, and just as the cup was shared, so we share the cup too.
St Paul wrote of what was already happening in the church. That from the very beginning the followers of Jesus were fed and sustained through this sacred meal.
That same meal feeds us, unites us in a mysterious way to that night when he first spoke those words ‘Do this in remembrance of me.’
And just like the disciples we come with our wounded hands, to the Jesus who serves us, who washes away our failures and feeds us for our journey with him.
A few months ago I heard for the first time a song written by Gregory Porter. It was played, when my Cell Group last met, as a kind of offertory hymn at the Eucharist we celebrated at the end of the day when we’d shared how life was for us, our joys and frustrations, our failures.
It came to mind as I thought about these words for tonight and of what is before us. It’s a song that was and is I think deeply moving and is also profoundly true. (Go home and have a listen)
Porter sings of how we gild our houses in preparation for the king, of how we line the sidewalks with every kind of shiny thing but that we will be surprised, because he will not be much interested in such things, he will say
‘Take me to the Alley,
take me to the afflicted ones,
take me to the lonely ones that somehow lost their way.’
And goes on
‘Let them hear me say,
I am your friend,
Come to my table,
rest here in my garden,
you will have a pardon.’
The story of the king born in a stable, was never likely to be a king who frequents palaces and large houses. Rather he was a king who shared a meal with his friends in a room at a pub and whose life would end on a rubbish tip outside the city walls.
He was and is a surprising saviour. He washes feet. He eats with the smelly and the outcast. He forgives and shows mercy to those who simply know their need of God whether they wear the right clothes or say the right things or have everything sorted.
The hands of this saviour turns over the tables of our lives again and again. For as the song says we do sometimes lose our way and long for the one who invites us to his table, where we can truly rest, where we are truly known and forgiven.
In a few minutes we shall open our hands to receive him who on this night that he was betrayed took bread and cup. Jesus, even as he contemplates his death is giving to those who have followed him.
He pours himself into bread and wine. The little fragment of bread is the most precious gift we ever receive into our hands in our lives. Something that goes beyond words, that touches our hearts with his life giving presence.
Jesus then leaves the table behind and retreats to the garden, there he prays ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done.’
Such an interesting image these words bring to mind, of a cup being held in his hands. A cup he chooses to hold. He could at that moment have slipped away into the night. But he stayed.
His hands had washed his disciples’ feet. His hands had given his followers the meal that would sustain them far beyond that upper room. Now we walk with him towards his final hours.
Strengthen for service, Lord,
the hands that have taken holy things;
may the ears which have heard your word
be deaf to clamour and dispute;
may the tongues which have sung your praise
be free from deceit;
may the eyes which have seen the tokens of your love
shine with the light of hope;
and may the bodies which have been fed with your body
be refreshed with the fullness of your life;
glory to you for ever.
 Luke 22.42