Normally, we would not make so much out of so little. They are just simple, regular, ordinary, everyday tasks. We repeat them daily without paying much attention to them. They are of casual importance. When asked what we did on a given day, we never mention them; they go unnoticed. We do not normally make so much out a meal and a bath, but on Maundy Thursday, we do.
There are certain occasions when a meal and a bath are important. When a friend is ill, weak from a long sickness and unable to take care of himself, and he lives far from family, we seal our Tupperware tightly and place a loaf of bread in a grocery bag, and we drive to his house. We find ourselves feeding our friend soup and breaking off pieces of bread for him to eat. A meal can make a difference.
After spending several days in a hospital room, having been admitted as a result of a sudden emergency, and having undergone days of tests, pricks, and scans, we finally get enough strength to stand up and get out of the bed, disconnected finally from every line and wire, and we take our first shower in a week. We are renewed not only on the outside, but also on the inside. A bath can make a difference.
It is like sitting down with a group of children on Wednesday night at church in those small chairs in the children's wing and enjoying a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. You realize that it has been years, even decades, since you had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. In looking across the table at the precious faces of the children, you realize that you are looking in a mirror of your childhood, when the church nurtured you in your faith. A meal makes a difference.
It is like coming home from a week of camping, and you have been on the trail for seven days without a bar of soap much less the comforts of air conditioning in the middle of a hot summer. When you open the door to your house, your family can smell you before they can see you. Your daughter refuses to give you a hug, that is, until you take a shower, but then she does not leave your side for the rest of the night. A bath makes a difference.
It is like the tough days at the end of the month when money starts to get tight and the pantry starts to get bare, and you drive down to the soup kitchen that serves lunch every Saturday, but it also extends dignity to everyone who enters its doors. It is also like the man who is often ignored, having lived on the streets for several months and having lost direction and a sense of hope, who can no longer tell that his clothes carry a stench, but who is able to have his first shower in several weeks at a shelter downtown. A meal and a bath can make a difference.
Today, we sit before the meal and the bath of Maundy Thursday.
Jesus sits around the table with the disciples for the last time. He breaks the bread, gives thanks, and says, "This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." Then he took the cup after supper, and said, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." A meal can make a difference.
After dinner, he got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with a towel. He said, "You should wash one another's feet . . . as I have loved you, you also should love one another." A bath can make a difference.
We must remember that a meal and a bath can make a difference, as we come to the table and find the love of God and as we turn from the table to offer God's love to one another.