Maundy Thursday Sermon

I spoke in my Lenten reflections about the hymn we sing this evening,
The Servant King, by Graham Kendrick.
and that line that says: “Hands that flung stars into pace, to cruel nails surrendered”.
I have to say, I always feel quite emotional whenever I sing that verse,
there is such a stark contrast in the image of hands throwing stars into space
and hands that are nailed to a cross. I find it a very powerful image.

In the chapel at Wychcroft House, the diocesan retreat centre at Bletchingley,
there is an icon on the wall above the altar of Christ the Carpenter.
It is an unusual icon in that it is a very muscular, masculine Jesus,
and the most striking feature about it is the hands. They are large, strong and reassuring.

And, of course, Jesus’s hands were the hands of a carpenter,
they were formed by his trade, which he presumably practiced over many years,
in the workshop of Joseph, his earthly father. Hands that worked daily with wood.

But also, hands that once flung stars into space; hands that blessed;
hands that healed; hands that lifted up children and held them;
hands that wrought miracles; hands that served; hands that broke bread;
hands that washed feet; hands that carried a cross, and were eventually nailed to it.

This evening we focus on the hands that served; that washed feet; that blessed bread.
Tomorrow, on the hands that “to cruel nails surrendered”.
And so it seems appropriate that we begin that journey by focusing on our own hands.
Will we allow our hands to be hands that serve, hands that bless, hands that love?

St Teresa of Avila famously wrote that “Christ now has no hands but our hands”.
This evening will we offer our hands into the service of Christ,
and allow God to serve, to bless and to love through them?
“We are the body of Christ” we say at the sharing of the peace;
“we break this bread to share in the body of Christ” we say later in the Eucharist.
Will we allow our hands to be the hands of Christ?

In a few moments we will be invited to come forward to receive the washing of hands, as the disciples at the last supper were invited to receive the washing of feet.
At this ceremony may we allow Christ to wash, cleanse, and lovingly bless our hands; and as we do so dedicate our hands, our whole bodies, our whole lives
to the service of Christ, to the service of love.

Christ has no hands but ours, says St Teresa, no feet on earth but ours,
Ours are the eyes through which he looks with compassion on our world.
Tonight will we say “yes” to that call?