They’d sat at the feet of Jesus.
They had listened on hill sides, on sea shores. In houses without a roof. In holy places and whilst walking along.
Time and again they missed the point, they heard but didn’t understand. Now his words were to take on even more depth of meaning because they were to be enacted.
They weren’t to be words of an instruction manual rather they were words embodied in action.
His talk of love was to find expression as he wrapped a towel around his waist and washed their feet, as he broke bread and shared wine symbols of his message, of his self-giving, life giving love.
These actions embodied those too easily spoken words – ‘I love you.’
A few years ago, the priest I worked with then came to his last celebration of Holy Week and Easter as a parish priest where we worked.
He approached these three days keen to share what he believed about what it was all about.
I cannot remember much of what he said but the sense of wanting to define what these days are all about is a question I return to each year.
This year, of course, things feel very different for us all yet the answer to the question for me remains the same the death and resurrection of Jesus is all about love.
And so, on this evening begin our journey as we walk the way of love with Jesus as he washes feet and breaks bread. As he makes real the words by his actions.
And by love what we do tonight even though it feels very different is still united with what happened on that holy night. For the Holy Spirit comes and makes our words his. Draws our actions into his. Places us in the upper room and in the garden.
And as we share in this holy night, we remember that if we are to walk the way of love then our desire for life is to do the same. To bind together word and action in our lives and live into the love at the heart of everything.
Of course, we get it wrong our loves are flawed yet our desire remains. We see the way of love in Christ and strive to walk his way.
For him to walk the way of love, was to leave the safety of that upper room. To walk to the garden where presumably they had gathered as friends before.
A place where they had talked and laughed that now was to become a place of betrayal.
The way of love for Jesus was an agonising journey to take. In the garden, he confronts his fears.
He prays. And the path that opens before him leads on to a night in the cells.
Though we might think we’re onlookers to the unfolding of this story, it’s more than that for this story finds its echo in our hearts.
As he is betrayed. We know our betrayals of him, and of those we have been given.
As he is surrounded by his sleeping followers, unable to stay awake so we know how we have fallen away when things have got difficult.
Yet the story draws us in and we come again.
To remember that in these days we see again love in all its self-giving beauty as feet are washed and bread is broken.
Looking back in service registers it’s always interesting to note that fewer people share in our worship on Good Friday than they do tonight or on Sunday.
Of course, things are different for us this year, and this may change but perhaps this bypassing of Good Friday reveals something important.
Reveals that we are more content with the image of foot washing, and gathering around the table than we are with hammer and nail, with stumbling and sweat, with cries and with death.
Yet that is the way of love that Christ walked for us. To show us that as St. Paul wrote ‘nothing can separate us from the love of God.’ But that’s for tomorrow.
Tonight, we see word and action united in a different way and remarkably we are drawn into it and when our words are finished here, we wait.
In these three days the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is revealed.
And the good news is love.
And it is this thread of love that binds these three days at the heart of our faith together.