Today, on Maundy Thursday, we begin reflecting on the actions that led Jesus to his death. Starting in an upper room, gathered within his friends, Jesus begins to share with his closest ones the details of the next few days. As always, Jesus did not only choose to share his plans simply through words, but through actions.
In John’s Gospel, Jesus is described as taking off his outdoor clothes, wrapping a towel around his waist, pouring water into a bowl and kneeling at his disciples’ feet. From this place, Jesus explains his plan. By moving into a space reserved for servants, for those with less power, Jesus shares his calling: to love deeply and self-sacrificially, putting himself last in order that he might serve.
We are often invited to remember this passage alongside those in the other gospels, which speak of Jesus sharing the Lord’s Supper for the first time. When viewed together, these practices Jesus offered to his disciples as examples of how to live in the light of his teaching influence each other. As Jesus asks his disciples to remember him in ritual, repentance and community, he also invites them to do so through service: to move themselves to sit at the feet of those they live amongst, in order that in displacing their own power, they might lift others up.
In the light of Living Lent, we might ask today: where are we willing to be displaced, in order that we might serve?
As we recognise the ways in which our lifestyles prioritise our benefit at the disadvantage of others, where are we willing to value abundant life for others by removing ourselves from the place of power?
This becomes more necessary, if not more complex, when we begin to recognise our complicity in the climate crisis, especially for those of us living in the global North.
In order to right a wrong, in order to rebalance a tilted system, where do we need to loosen our grip on privilege so that others might be offered relief?
This could lead us to ask ourselves some difficult questions. As I continue my journey to reduce my climate impact, what am I still holding tightly onto which might keep me firmly seated in a place of power?
As Jesus takes off his robe, ties a towel around his waist and seats himself at the lowest point, he calls us to a radical form of love. A form of love which turns the expected ways of the world upside down, which rejects the pattern of privilege befitting privileged, and poverty leading only to poverty. A love which chooses to live differently, so that others might live.
Today, as we remember this moment, and Jesus’ calling to remember him in our thought, word and deed, may we ask ourselves:
How can we respond to the calling to live our lifestyles as an act of service? What might we need to let go of, to loosen our grip on power and offer the space to another?
Where does radical love need to rebalance the system?
Hannah Brown is the JPIT Intern for 2018-19. Her role involves managing JPIT’s social media, working with the Peace and Justice Forum and collaborating with the team to research and communicate key areas of JPIT’s workplan. She recently graduated from the University of Nottingham where she studied English Language and Literature. She has a background in local church partnership and engagement.