I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.John 13:34 NRSV
Tonight, the beginning of the Triduum, we hear these words proclaimed in the Gospel reading. We are given a new commandment: that we are to love one another as Christ has loved us. In our practice as a parish, we embody this commandment in the way that we have our feet washed and then wash another’s feet. The service is a moving reminder that the posture of the church is the same that is in Christ on this night: kneeling at the feet of another to wash their feet. The practice of the church also reminds the church that its posture is that of the disciples: to have its feet washed.
In ordinary times, we might think of the ways that we are called out of ourselves to go and serve the world by participating in ministries of mercy and justice like volunteering at a food bank, serving in a homeless shelter, calling on the sick and the elderly, or by walking alongside the migrant and the stranger. We might think of the very traditional ways that the church has long attempted to be present with those that are hurting, and we might have a renewed desire to give our time to those very same ministries as we are walking out of the church.
In Holy Week 2020, however, the church is being called to live into this new commandment in wholly different ways. Instead of gathering together for Maundy Thursday worship in the church, we are invited to gather online and to participate in worship from our homes. We are invited to be patient as we learn how to gather in new ways and how to worship in new ways. We are invited to love one another as Christ has loved us by remembering that we are called to take on both postures presented in the Gospel lesson this evening: of washing and of being washed.
Over the next three days, our parish will honor and celebrate the three holiest days in the whole of the Christian year, and in that time, we will experience a completely different form of worship for these high holy days. To be sure, the ways that we are invited to worship this year will feel incomplete in comparison to previous years. We will miss being able to gather in our beautiful worship space, and we will miss the different devotions that we so look forward to practicing during this week.
The one thing that I hope we do not miss is the invitation that Christ gives us at the beginning of these three days. The clergy and staff at Epiphany have been working their fingers to the bone over the last few weeks to pull together an online worship experience that invites us deeper and deeper into our faith in new and different ways. They have labored hard to create new worship services, online bulletins, and opportunities for daily prayer. They have walked alongside me as we strove to bring to our community a glimpse of the love of God, and they have poured their love of our parish into their work. I invite you to join me in loving Father Steve, Pastor Carmen, Deacon Martha, Deacon Lynn, and Deanna by sending them a thank you for the hard work that they have put into keeping Epiphany connected in the best ways that we can for the present moment.
I know that we all long for a day in which we begin to see life returning to something that at least resembles normal, but I also know that we may need to prepare ourselves for a paradigm shattering new future. The reality that we knew prior to the pandemic is gone. We are invited to love one another as Christ loved us in the ways that we continue to show up for each other, our neighbors, our community, and the world in mission and ministry. We are invited forward to know God’s love and to share that same love with all.
Our Holy Week will be different this year, but it will still be holy. May your Holy Week be filled with God’s presence, and may you know the glory of the resurrection on Easter morning.
I love you, and each of you remain in my prayers as we journey these three most holy days.