Everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another

Father, may these spoken words be faithful to the written word and lead us to the living word, Jesus Christ our Lord

Today it is Maundy Thursday, when we remember one of the most powerful and challenging lessons that Jesus set for us, the washing the feet of his disciples to show them how they are to serve others and how to serve each other. 

The word “maundy” comes from a Latin word mandatum. Which means mandate or commandment. Tonight we remember the commandments set out for us to do as Christ’s disciples. We will re-enact the symbol of peaceful, humble, patient love that Jesus showed to his disciples by washing their feet. We will share in the last supper, and we will remember how Jesus commands us to use love to break down boundaries and barriers for all.

I’d like to think about what we do when one of our friends is in need? What do we do? 

I don’t think that going around to wash their feet would be one of the top choices to do. 

Nowadays if we have a friend who needs support or a listening ear, we would invite them round, put the kettle on, maybe offer a biscuit. These simple acts of hospitality and love not only say that we are interested in that person but that we love and care for them.

This is exactly what Jesus was doing for his disciples. By washing their feet he showed them hospitality, he showed them love, and he showed them what service really means. By being their leader and then serving them by washing their feet, Jesus opened their eyes with his humble love. 

But it can be hard to receive such an act of humble love, Peter certainly felt that he couldn’t possibly let Jesus wash his feet. “You shall never wash my feet” he says. 
However, many of us may feel the same when it comes to people offering us help, perhaps we answer too quickly when help is offered, perhaps we don’t want to raise a suggestion that we can’t cope, or that it may show weakness to accept help. “I can do this myself” “no I’ll be fine” “no I don’t need your help” “honestly I’ll be fine” 

In fact we all need our feet washing and we need to be a church that is willing to wash feet. We need to let our barriers down and let ourselves be served to so we can serve to others. This is what Jesus was doing as he washed the feet of his disciples, he was breaking down barriers with love, his never ending love, the peaceful patient grace of our lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus says at the end of the foot washing,
“I give you a new commandment that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another”

By serving each other we are channeling the love of Jesus through ourselves. Every time we show love to others we are bringing the light of Christ with us, that light which brightens the darkest of situations.

On this night, when Jesus knew he was about to be betrayed, when he knew that this would be his last supper with his friends, he still showed love. 

This is what we remember tonight, that love is an important commandment of Jesus, that we remember that Jesus is our friend and he longs to sit with us and wash our feet, so we in turn can have the love to wash others. 

We remember that we are Jesus’s friends. By following his commandments, his mandate of love, we show everyone we meet that he is in us and we, following his lead are in him.

“Everyone will know that you are my disciples , if you have love for one another.”

Amen

I am he, the one who is speaking to you

Today’s gospel is the reason why I named this blog “sitting at the well”. When I was thinking about how I would share my thoughts and writings, I had a vision of sitting at the well with Jesus, just like the Samaritan women did. 

I often think about that moment that they met. I think of all the different emotions that were felt as they spoke. I believe that not only was the woman transformed by their meeting but Jesus also took away learnings about human ways and feelings. There is such a powerful emotional connection to our Lord, he burns with love inside of us because he knows exactly how that feels. He knows the agony of when we are lost and on our knees, and he feels the joy and love that we feel through community and friendship. 

I keep thinking about my meeting with Jesus at the well. He would tell me about my life and I would squirm uncomfortably, but then we would talk in the sunshine. The water would shimmer in the well, the birds would sing from their branches. I think about him taking my hand and twirling me around in dance, I love thinking about him as the “Lord of the dance” how he would share our joy through music and movement. There’s a intimacy about dancing, you have to move together, you have to work together to keep up the flow and movement. This is why I love the idea of dancing with our Lord, because we have to move with his leadership but he also likes to see what we can do with his guidance too. 

Dancing around the well bends the gospel story a bit, but it’s the encounter that changes us, even if we sat there too scared to talk and nothing comes out of mouths, Jesus waits patiently for us waiting to offer him a drink, inviting him into our lives, breaking down the barriers and boundaries around us so we can sit and eat with him in his kingdom one day. 

Of whom I am the worst

I’ve been frozen for a while. Actually since I received my date for BAP I seemed to clam up and be rigid with fear. I would look at the envelope that contained all the information I need about the assessment and tell myself that I would read it another time, I’d look at it another day. In reality I was so worried about it all, I’d stopped listening. I was making my own scenarios in my head, I was bogged down by the jargon and the box ticking. What was I doing it all for? Why on Earth is God bothering to waste his time on me? I am so flawed and sinful, how can I even think of serving God’s people? 

I thought of St Paul who says,

 ” Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.” 1 Timothy 1:15-16

I’d become frozen in my sin and unworthiness. 

I’d forgotten that my sins, although grievous to me, are a testimony to God’s saving hand, that all my experiences are used by God in his mission. If God can forgive and save me, then I am a testimony to that hope he brings us all. Perhaps I need to restock.

I was hungry for some time with God. 

Last Saturday I attended evensong at the cathedral, where my daughter sang with the choristers. This was a well needed spiritual feed. Spending time surrounded by the beauty of the liturgy, the glorious sound of the singing, and the buzz of God’s word speaking to me, hit a reset button in my heart which melted my frozen self. On Sunday I gave the talk for the afternoon congregation and enjoyed spreading the good news of Jesus, on Monday I led our Lent group which I was particularly nervous about which went well, on Tuesday I did the talk for morning prayer and today I had a meeting with my fellow chaplains at the hospital. 

Oh how much I love doing these things in the name of Jesus! This is why I’m going for assessment, because this is my life, this is who I am, my life is not complete without serving and bringing people to sit with our God at his table. 

I managed all these things because I opened up my heart and my insecurities and let God take them. I prayed to God to help me because I cannot do any of this without him. I cannot do this without his hand in this. 

When I jump into the water he is there offering his hand out to me to walk with him on the sparkling surface.

Yes I am a sinner, of whom I am the worst, but I’ll show you how Jesus can save you, like he has saved me.

Hide me in the shadow of your wings

Last week for Ash Wednesday I walked to church in the dark. Now it’s not normally something I’d do, but I couldn’t use the car because the amount of petrol in it had to last until the end of the week. I wasn’t amazingly happy about this because I hardly drive the car, in fact I drive it once a week on a Sunday morning. For the rest of the week I walk everywhere and get the train to university. Anyway, I left the house in a huff. I had 25 mins to get from one side of Ashton to the other.

Usually I would walk with my headphones in but at night I thought this would not be that wise or safe. So I walked through the eerie quiet of the town centre. It seemed very dark in places and very still. I began to feel a little uneasy. Does church really mean that much to me that I am happy to walk there in the dark, alone? 

As I walked through the light provided by the streetlights, I noticed I had two shadows on the floor. This was probably because of the angles of the different light sources, my GCSE A in science was coming in very useful! However as I left the town the lights became less frequent and it became quite dark. I looked at the floor and I still had two shadows. I started praying in my mind over and over again, Lord please keep me safe.

It became darker still towards the entrance to the park where the church is, but I still had two shadows. I quickly looked over my shoulder but there was no one there. As I reached the church I had an overwhelming feeling of thankfulness and relief. I knew Jesus had been walking with me by my side.

I realised that no matter how difficult or scary this journey is, in following Jesus’s call on my life he is there every step of the way. When I’m feeling scared or anxious about leading he is stood there with me holding me up. When I’m on my knees with my face covered he’s there ready to help me up.

This journey to BAP is flexing my already broken bits of me, the cracks that have been filled have started to open again. My brokenness on display, my neediness to rely on the Lord visible to all. If Christ can be seen in me, it will be through my cracks, my ability to keep going with his strength, to keep serving those who I irritate with a smile on my face, to extend a listening ear to those who are also broken too, to spread his good news to those who have none.

No matter what happens, what outcome BAP might bring, I will always have two shadows, and one is from the man who saved me.

Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand

My favourite TV programme at the moment is The Great Pottery Throw Down on BBC2. It’s basically the Great British Bake Off, but with clay. I love watching the clay turn into such amazing and imaginative pots. The people competing have made giant clocks, flower pots, vases, sake sets, so many great things that have been transformed from the lump of dull clay on their wheels.

There are many different stages to make a pot (that I’ve observed) there are long gaps between each stage. Every time I watch the show I am drawn into the creative process, the slight extra pressure in one hand can completely change the shape and formation of the final product. 

I can’t watch the show without thinking about this passage in Jeremiah 18:1-6,

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him.  Then the word of the Lord came to me: Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done? says the Lord. Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.
I think about us being delicately moulded in God’s hands. I wonder how we twirl around the wheel, do we dance together? I imagine us hand in hand as the wheel turns, times where he sits back and admires his work in us, smiling with joy. But I imagine there are times where we wrestle with him and he wrestles with us. There are times where we try to be the potter and start to take over the wheel and mould ourselves with our own agendas. Moulding ourselves starves us from the intimate dance we have with God, there is no interaction, we twist wildly on the wheel until our fragile form comes undone and we are once again a lump of raw clay.

But clay is very versatile and can be reworked, so our patient Heavenly Father pops us back on the wheel and waits for us to become recentred again. Slowly we begin to dance, changing, whirling, transformed by his love. This process is a lifelong dance, I don’t think we will ever be the finished pot until we are raised at the end. 

I’m spending this lent making sure I’m as centred on the wheel as possible through prayer and making space for quiet times. According to the judges on the The Great Pottery Throw Down, having well centred clay allows the potter to create lots of different forms. 

I want to dance around that wheel with God, to mould and transform me every day that I walk this journey with him. I have faith in him to stop the wheel when I’m trying to take over. I have faith in him that he will listen to me too when we wrestle as we spin.

Our God is faithful and he delights in us. We need to remember that if we try to be the potter, we miss out on that intimate dance with God, but if we come back and stay centred on his wheel, our faithful God turns us, reworks us, and the opportunities for transformation are endless.

All my fresh springs are in you 


I love being by water. It doesn’t matter if it is the sea, a lake, a stream, or a pool, water has always fascinated me and brought me great joy. As a child I would annoy my parents with my need to always be in the pool if we went on holiday. From the moment we arrived to the moment we left I would spend as much time in the water as possible. I think my love of water was due to the feeling of excitement and freedom I felt as I floated and swam. Although I don’t get much time to swim, my love of water has stayed with me as an adult, my favourite place to go is the Lake District where the water can be as still as a mirror. There are times where I have stood at the edge of ullswater lake and seen a near perfect reflection of the dramatic hills that line the shores. It really is breath taking and I find it amazing that all the little streams of water that cascade down the hills come together and form such beautiful pools. 

Reading the psalm today the last line “All my fresh springs are in you” stuck into my mind. It made me think about the feeling of excitement of doing something new, or finding out a new skill, or meeting a new friend, or having fun at church. I thought about how these small experiences trickle down like the streams, into a larger pool of joy, one that sustains us and fills us so that we become full like the glassy lake, a reflection of God’s love outpoured to those around us. 

These “fresh springs” that we experience are from God, his love and forgiveness filling us. When we draw close and sit at his feet, we realise that all good things come from him and we are revitalised by the fresh springs of his life giving water. 

Sometimes we find it hard to recognise God’s hand in the things we do and experience, and we find it hard to stop and say thank you. Today is Shrove Tuesday, famous for pancakes but also an opportunity for penitence, an opportunity to say sorry to God. I have had experiences that have been wonderful and it hasn’t been until later on when my eyes suddenly focus and I jump back and say “it is the lord!” 

Let’s take this opportunity to think about those times we didn’t recognise him and lift it up in prayer today. Let us keep our eyes open as we walk together through lent and let us be nourished and sustained by his life giving water so we can open our hearts and truly say “All my fresh springs are in you.” 

Today’s trouble is enough for today

Our curate this morning asked if we took our worries to God before worrying about it all ourselves. I though this was interesting as I always feel a little silly telling God how much I need my family car, or money to eat with or a new tumble dryer. I mean, does God care about my tumble dryer? Does he know what it does? Has he seen me trying to dry seven lots of clothes on the radiators with a smile on my face. I’ve not been angry about the lack of drying facilities, it’s just one of those things. 

But when the house is quiet and I draw close to my Lord, I whisper into his ear my worries. I imagine sitting with him on my sofa as I lean into him feeling soothed by his presence. I thank him for keeping us sustained, because I know without his support we would certainly be in a much worse position. I thank him for giving me the wisdom to be able to think through problems calmly without getting upset or overwhelmed.

He knows my thoughts, he knows his plans for me. But does he know about the tumble dryer? 

I continued to try and not think about the piles of clothes and just got on with it. I asked my mother to help dry some towels, but she struggled for time. So the towels are piling up, the boiler is older than my eldest child. Anyway I keep going and keeping a wary eye on the boiler pleading it keeps going, praying that these seemingly trivial things blow over. 

At one point, after praying, my brain questioned my logic, “have you just asked God, creator of heaven and earth, the alpha and omega, for help with drying your washing……..?” 

Yep.

But that’s our God, he listens to all our worries. In the Gospel set for today, we are loved so deeply that we are told that worrying is unnecessary. That worrying over clothing is not needed as God clothes his creations with his own hand. This gospel reading is timely indeed, as on Thursday my lovely Aunt rang me to say she’d bought me a new tumble dryer. I was gobsmacked by her generosity and by her love for us. She said she didn’t want to see us struggle, that I didn’t need the extra stress of worrying about drying the clothes, that we needed help that she was happy to be a part of. 

This is our God, these are the worries that Jesus felt in his human life, he has felt our anxiety, our stresses, our emotions and our pain. His provision is more than a physical thing (like my tumble dryer) it’s about taking the burden from us to let us keep moving forward. To keep us sustained whilst walking this Christian life that we have chosen to journey with our Lord. 

Praying about our worries to our God is necessary, he sees past the physical, he sees into our souls and that is where we find our peace, where we find his peace and his endless love for us.