Hello and welcome, this Maundy Thursday to Conwy. I’m sitting in the Vicarage kitchen, where just a few short weeks ago we made over a hundred pancakes for our ‘Open House’ Pancake party. There were people crowded into the dining room and living room, tucking into food and enjoying chatter.
In fact, it’s been hospitality that we’ve really enjoyed here in the past few years. But the openness we’ve tried to create here in the Vicarage is but a pale imitation of the radical hospitality of Jesus at the Last Supper. And that is our focus today. Read the whole story in John Chapter 13. Jesus at the table with those he’s come to know well. He doesn’t only offer them food, he washes, first, their feet – he ministers to them. Our friend Sarah introduced me to this painting by Stanley Spencer:
The Last Supper Painting by Stanley Spencer
See all those sets of feet, and light playing on their newly washed toes – it’s almost like they are enjoying the fresh air, made clean and new, despite some of them being decidedly bony and contorted. They have had the dirt from right between their toes washed away, as a pre-figuring of what is to come. For when Jesus goes to the cross for them, the following day, he is going to take every part of their messiness upon himself. Their feet are, if you like, under the table, God’s table.
But what does that have to do with us now? And this year of all years, when we can’t have a physical meal together. My heart absolutely yearns for the day when we can be together again, here in the Vicarage, enjoying each other’s company. Just as I yearn for the day when I can be re-united with those whose physical company I can’t share in this life, but I will be able to share, and with laughter, again in heaven.
In the death and resurrection of Christ, that we are about to mark this Easter weekend, in the most disorientating of circumstances, we especially need to hear his invitation – his radically hospitable invitation, to take a seat at his table.
The Last Supper Window at St. Mary’s Church (Conwy) © alamy
This is my favourite window in St Mary’s Conwy. Judas has left his cloak in haste, he is seen top right exiting with his money bag. His empty seat is right opposite Jesus. It’s the seat that we’re invited to take. Despite all the mess we’re in. Whoever we are, from wherever we’ve come, whether we’ve still got stuff to deal with … he will wash every bit of it away. We can accept his invitation to come and rest awhile in his hospitable company.
Imagine taking that empty seat now as we pray together:
So here, I’ve come, I’ve pulled up a chair to sit with others – some I know, some I don’t. Some are like me, some aren’t. But I’ve joined them, here, Lord at your table.
I come with empty hands and dirty feet, and a rumbling belly, hungry for hope. I come as your guest, and with your very self, with water, bread and wine you will make me whole.
You will set me free to serve you, to serve all those you call me to be in company with. May I, in turn, wash their feet and not run away – ever again.