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Maundy Thursday

“You realize,” the older man said slowly, looking down at me, “where I came from this would

have gotten me lynched.”

After the shiver ran all the way through me, and my throat unclenched, I replied, “And where

I came from, they wouldn’t have killed me, but they would have ostracized me for sure. And

not because you’re black, but because I’m a woman and a pastor.”

It was around 11am on my first Maundy Thursday serving as pastor at Redeemer, and we

were half-way through a makeshift worship service at Senior Center.  We read from the

Gospel of John where Jesus washed his disciples’ feet. Long, awkward silence greeted my

chirrupy invitation for the first volunteer to reenact the Maundy Thursday ritual. Joe, a leader

in most things, finally broke the tension. “I’ll go first; but I only have the one.” As a teenager

in Chicago, Joe lost the other leg due to damage from a gunshot wound. Before he moved

north, Joe spent much of his childhood in Mississippi. That spring morning in 2011, a white

woman in pastor’s garb washed his remaining foot. His heart-stopping observation changed my understanding of Jesus ever after.

Why do we call it Maundy Thursday? What is this strange “Maundy” word? It comes from the Latin word “mandatum,” which means “command.” And what did Jesus command to his disciples the last time they were together before his arrest, his lynching?

John 15:12
“This is my commandment: that you love one another as I have loved you.”

How did Jesus love us? At great risk. At the greatest possibly risk—to reputation and acceptability, to life and limb. Jesus loved at great risk throughout his entire ministry, showing the possibility and holiness of a gritty love that blasts through categories but still, is love at great peril. Because we had Jesus in common, I got to know Joe. He accepted me as I was, and encouraged me that I could preach the Word in his neighborhood. Years, and many conversations later, I anointed his head with oil and prayed with him as he embarked on the last days of a cancer journey that would take him to death, and then on to everlasting.

John 15:12
“This is my commandment: that you love one another as I have loved you.”

I will miss you today, Redeemer. 
Peace and health in Jesus Christ,
Pastor Lisa

Palm Sunday

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