A Radical Act (Maundy Thursday sermon) – Br. David Vryhof

Br. David Vryhof

John 13:1-17, 31b-35

Some years ago I had the privilege of taking a course with Dr. Stanley Hauerwas, a theologian who was then on the faculty of the Divinity School at Duke University.  Dr. Hauerwas, the son of a bricklayer, was a straight-shooting, no-nonsense kind of guy who believed that living as true disciples of Jesus in the world would necessarily put us in conflict with the culture in which we live.  I remember being surprised to hear him say that participating in the Eucharist was one of the most radical actions any Christian could undertake.  Tonight we will understand why this is true.

Tonight we watch in wonder as the only-begotten Son of God, the Eternal Word who was “in the beginning with God” and through whom “all things came into being” (Jn 1:1-3), stoops to wash the dirty feet of his disciples.  Tonight we behold the Incarnate Son of God, the “King of kings” and the “Lord of lords,” tying a towel around himself, pouring water into a basin, and assuming the role of a servant.  The King kneels before his subjects; the Master washes the feet of his disciples. Continue reading

Choosing the Lowest Place – Br. David Vryhof

Br. David Vryhof

Luke 14:1, 7-11

This story is reminiscent of another Gospel story, when Jesus found his disciples arguing about which of them would be greatest in the kingdom of God (see Luke 9:46-48 or Mark 9:33-37).  He realized that they had not yet understood the import of his message: that what is valued and sought after in the world is not what is most prized in the kingdom of God.  On that occasion he taught them, saying, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all” (Mk 9:35).  The aim of life in the kingdom was not self-exaltation, but self-offering, the laying down of one’s life in service to God and to one’s neighbor.

Here we see a similar situation – not among Jesus’ disciples, but among the dinner guests at a Pharisee’s house.  Jesus notices them seeking the places of honor, motivated no doubt by the desire to be noticed and deemed important by the other guests.  He tells them that when they attend such a banquet, they should deliberately choose the lowest place, because “all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (v.11). Continue reading