Do you remember Big Boy restaurants? My MeMa, without Mom’s okay, gave me my first solid food at a Big Boy. Mom was horrified, but I squealed and MeMa laughed. I also remember growing up and watching the commercials for McDonald’s with Ronald, Grimace, Birdie the Early Bird, and the Hamburglar. I remember going to Dairy Queen and getting, oddly enough, their tacos and a dilly bar. Do you remember dilly bars? And there was in my hometown, and still is, a hamburger place — a greasy spoon — called The Glass Kitchen. That teeny place has been there since before I was born and the burgers are juicy, the cheese thick, and the buns buttery. Sooo good!
As I read the Old Testament passage for tonight, a phrase struck me that I hadn’t noticed before, and in what can be a fast-paced life, I stopped and visualized what God intended to happen. “This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly.” God did not desire for His people to linger at the table, savoring the selection of foods, laughing and engaging in fond and familial banter. No, quite the contrary. God told His people to cook it quickly and eat it basically standing up. And they were to eat it all leaving nothing behind. And as I read and visualized what that Passover meal would look like for them — the first institutionalized fast food — it caused me to consider how I come to the table and partake of Holy Eucharist. In what attitude do I hold my hands to receive the bread, to drink the cup? Do I linger? Do I drink quickly? When we come to the Table in a few minutes, consider your thoughts and your responses. Be aware of what is happening within you in those moments.
The instruction for the meal in our Exodus passage would have been keenly familiar to the disciples as Jesus was with them. They would have known the historical impact this story had for their ancestors as the stories were passed down from generation to generation. Likewise, Jesus would have known. He knew what what about to happen for Him, and Scripture tells us, “He had always loved his own people in the world; now he love them right through to the end.” John, as he wrote our text, also knew that by mentioning a Jewish festival, he would want his reader to understand that he was actually speaking of Jesus. He would be making the connection between the rites and rituals of the past to the actions and expectations of the present. And we, even now, discern the relevance of the old stories with the events of this night.
And, within the framework of the Passover celebration, Jesus continues the instruction that His Father began. But, instead of telling His disciples what to do, He shows them. The Son of God, removes his outer garment and wraps it around his waist like God told the Israelites to do at the Passover. Then, in a strange gesture, Jesus takes a bin of water. He crouches down and begins washing the feet of His disciples. These men were His friends, His beloved companions, His children. And with this act of mercy and humility and servanthood, He gives a new commandment: We are to love one another. Jesus says, “Just as I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
Ah! What a conviction for me! I can easily think of those whose feet I would never want to touch, let alone wash! Jesus, forgive me for my arrogance and break me for what breaks You.
There is one more element to our readings that I want to leave with you. When love comes alive, when Jesus takes His final steps toward the Cross, the shadow of evil looms ever larger, closer. Through Judas, evil creeps in the shadows, seeps into the cracks, and is willing to wait, to be patient. Not only is the service tonight about how we receive the spiritual food of the most precious Body and Blood of [God’s] Son our Savior Jesus Christ, how we are commanded to love one another as He loved, as He loves us, but we also are reminded that as we surrender our lives to His will and to His work, evil will lurk attempting to pervert what Jesus is doing through us. So, it makes sense that we would serve one another while standing together alert, deliberate, vigilant as we receive His precious sacrifice.