Brother, sister, let me serve you,
Let me be as Christ to you,
Pray that I may have the grace to
Let me be your servant, too.
Today is Maundy Thursday - the first day of the Triduum, the holiest days of the year in the Christian calendar. We remember Jesus and his disciples at his last Passover supper. Jesus' simple but extraordinary action, the washing of feet, has become resonant throughout the world: Pope Francis caused shock, a few years ago, when hewashed the feet of young offenders instead of, as was traditional, clergy.
In the midst of this coronavirus crisis, we have all learnt new ways of service. We have learnt how our love for one another is absolutely at the core of this society, and when all around us is strange and silent, the care and engagement of people in local communities is palpable.
Tonight, we will have an online service at 7pm wherein we will re-enact, virtually, the Mass of the Last Supper - symbolically washing feet, and then going with Jesus into the Garden of Gethsemane. You are warmly invited, and if you can create a Garden of Gethsemane in your own home, so much the better. We will be inviting you to place some bread in the Garden, symbolising Christ, in the same way that the consecrated bread is taken, each year, into the Lady Chapel at St John's.
Tomorrow, Good Friday, we will be re-enacting the Pop-up Church in Waterloo Station, online, at 11 a.m, alongside other members of South Bank Churches. And then we will have a Good Friday liturgy at 2 p.m.
To other, weighty matters. In particular, finance. I haven't mentioned money in any of these emails, but feel that now I should. There is a tradition of making an Easter offering to the church, and I am asking you today if you would consider making a special gift to St John's.
We are, like many other charities and organisations, facing a very challenging situation indeed. Our income has dropped dramatically as we cannot let our spaces. We have placed most of our wonderful staff on furlough, but even with the Government's measures, the future is worrying. Can you help St John's to be here for you, this Easter and in the months to come?
If you give by standing order, could you consider an increase? And if you give by envelope or cash, could you make a special donation? We have set up a special donations page. For full details, our Giving page is here.
I really recommend, if you haven't watched it, the Zoom Passion Gospel from Palm Sunday.
And finally, here is a poem sent to me by Susan Blishen. From a very different tradition but deeply resonant with Maundy Thursday.
Tao te Ching, 78
Nothing wears away hard strong rocks,
as well as soft weak water.
From this anyone can see
that softness is harder than hardness
and weakness is stronger than strength.
But no one lives accordingly.
That is why the Ancients said:
'Embrace being a nobody,
and you are fit to be somebody.'
Embrace the problems of ordinary life
and you will master the whole cosmos.
The Truth is paradoxical.
(translated by Timothy Freke)
With my love on this important day...