St Peter's School
In School, the first signs that the current pandemic was beginning to change the normal patterns of our daily lives was the appearance of extra bottles of hand-sanitiser and posters reminding us of the correct way to wash our hands. From the outset, attention to the washing of our own hands has been one way in which we have all been able to intentionally join in with working against the spread of the virus.
Today is Maundy Thursday which both begins and ends with acts of washing. When Jesus gathered with his disciples for the Last Supper, he began the meal with washing their feet. This simple act of service encapsulates, in a single moment, a life dedicated to actively caring for others. The friends would then eat together and go to the Garden of Gethsemene where Jesus would be arrested. At his trial before Pilate, unsure of how to handle the situation, Pilate too washed his hands. And so the phrase “to wash your hands of something” has come to express an intention to have nothing more to do with a situation, a sign of turning away from your responsibilities.
But I wonder whether there are moments when washing our hands is, both literally and metaphorically, the best thing that we can do. Perhaps there are moments when the situation is outside our power to change it and we have to simply surrender our own desire to control.
In his book, The Stature of Waiting, W.H. Vanstone suggests that Maundy Thursday tells the story of Jesus’ move from action to passion, from busyness to stillness, from doing to being, from caring for others in their suffering to suffering at the hands of others.
This move from action to passion is one that takes place in our own lives too. It means recognising the uncomfortable truth that we don’t always have to power to control the situations that we face or to make things happen as quickly as we would like and so sometimes the only thing we can do is wait.
Please join me today in praying for those who continue Jesus’ foot-washing ministry of caring for others: for those in the medical profession working with patients; for researchers who look for a cure; for our armed forces and emergency services as they seek to hold before us a vision of a more peaceful world and for churches across our world. And please join me in praying for all those who can only wait: the sick and those who will die today; the lonely and all who find themselves at home; for schools, shops and businesses that remain closed.