By Hallie Cowan

Rendezvous with God: Loving to the End

This guide is designed to go along with the themes of Maundy Thursday, the commemoration of the Last Supper, 3 days before Easter.  If you can schedule your Rendezvous before Easter, it might help to spend the day in a liturgical church that celebrates Holy Week.  If they offer a midday or morning service, you can add that to your experience of the day.  You can also spend time with the stations of the cross, remembering Christ’s passion and death.  However, if you can’t schedule your Rendezvous before Easter, the themes are still good ones! John 13 is the Scripture passage used.

Pack:  a Bible and a journal (optional:  paper and crayons, colored pencils, or other art supplies; a blanket; walking shoes.)

Welcome and Settling In  -- about 15-30 minutes

Take time to prepare the space, locate bathrooms, coffee and other essentials; set up emergency contacts and any other business.  (You may want to post a “Silent retreat in progress; please do not disturb” sign).  Pray for each other, together, before you enter into silence.  Keep your conversation brief!  If you are using a church building, check out the art work, stained glass, statues, etc. and notice anything that might aid your time in John 13.

Come into the Lord’s Presence – 10 minutes

Take 5 to 10 minutes in silence to consciously settle yourself with the Lord.  Turn off your cell phone; lay down the burdens, issues and distractions you brought with you, at Jesus’ feet. Settle your body, mind and spirit in the Lord’s presence.  Bring your hopes and fears for the day to the Lord, remembering that He loves and welcomes you as you are.

Greet the Lord, Father, Son and Holy Spirit with this prayer, or your own:

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it note other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen        (Book of Common Prayer, p. 220)

Come into the Courts of the Lord with Praise – 20 - 30 minutes

Take at least 20 minutes to worship.  Begin by praising God with a hymn, songs or Psalms:

"What Wondrous Love is This"

1.What Wondrous Love is this, oh my soul, oh my soul, What Wondrous Love is this, oh my soul; What Wondrous Love is this that caused the Lord of Bliss To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, To bear the dreadful curse for my soul.

2. When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down; When I was sinking down, oh my soul; When I was sinking down, beneath God's righteous frown Christ laid aside his crown for my soul, for my soul, Christ laid aside his crown for my soul

3. To God and to the Lamb I will sing, I will sing; To God and to the Lamb I will sing; To God and to the Lamb, Who is the great I Am, While millions join the theme I will sing, I will sing, While millions join the theme I will sing.

4. And when from death I'm free I'll sing on, I'll sing on, And when from death I'm free I'll sing on, And when from death I'm free I'll sing and joyful be, And thro' eternity I'll sing on, I'll sing on, And thro' eternity I'll sing on.”

Then try something creative to express your love and worship to Jesus. Choose activities that will draw you into God’s presence, and enjoy your time with Him. Here are some ideas:

•  If you are in a church building, praise God as you reflect on a stained glass window, an icon, a statue, a banner or other art work.  What truths about God and His creation was the artist declaring?  What praise is stirred up in your heart?

•  With your Bible, flip through the gospel stories of Holy Week, from the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, to the resurrection, and thank Jesus personally for each act of love you see.

•  Use art supplies to draw or create an image that reflects a truth to praise God for

•  Let the Holy Spirit lead you to worship with dance, or if you speak or sing in tongues, to praise God with your prayer language.

Meditate  and Reflect on God’s Word

Today’s reflections center on the foot-washing scene from the Last Supper that Jesus had with his disciples on the night before he went to the cross.  The passage is John 13:1-30.

Plan your time so that you can spend at least a half-hour in the passage on your own, using the suggested method that follows.  Then use the three meditations to guide you in further reflection.  Take time between the meditations to rest, or walk, or pray, or journal.

Begin by reading John 13:1- 30, prayerfully.  Use whatever style is helpful for you, but this passage is well-suited to the Ignatian method, in which you ask God to use your imagination to speak from the passage to your heart.  “This approach invites us to enter the narrative, picturing the situation and identifying with characters that populate the drama. This may eventually lead us to dialogue beyond what is given in the text, a dialogue that becomes part of our prayer.” (The Spiritual Formation Bible, p.xvi)

Read the passage as if you were Peter, or one of the other disciples in the room.  Or try to imagine Mary’s feelings as she watched and participated in this scene.  Imagine what it would feel like, as a faithful follower, to have Jesus, your Lord and Master, wash your feet, gently scrubbing off layers of clay-like dirt formed from sweat, caked-on dust, grime from fishnets and their contents, and the filth of the city roads. 

As you experience the scene, what do you notice about Jesus? About the disciples? About your own reactions? 

Talk with Jesus about your experience, and journal about your conversation.

Take a break.

Meditation #1 – “Lord are you going to wash my feet?”

“Don’t wash me!” 

There is irony in Peter’s words, as he calls Jesus “Lord” then declares, “NO! You will never wash my feet!”  “No – Lord”  Two words that don’t fit in the same prayer.  Can you identify with Peter’s horror?  The role Jesus intends to play – the foot-washer – is a role for a slave, not for the Master, not for the host of the feast.  It is not even a role the guests would accept from each other.  It is disgusting, demeaning, humiliating.  Perhaps Peter’s first horror is to think that Jesus, his Lord and Master, would be soiled and stained with anyone’s dirty, smelly feet, on this very special, sacred night.  But Peter’s horror becomes even more horrifying as he sees that Jesus intends to wash Peter’s own dirty, smelly feet.  Peter doesn’t deny that his feet need to be cleaned.  But the thought that his Lord Jesus would clean them is too overwhelming – too intimate – too real.  “No – Lord!”

Quiet your heart before the Lord, and ask Him about washing your feet.  What is it that needs to be touched, washed, cleansed, or removed in your life?  Listen for the Holy Spirit to remind you, or show you new insights. Try to be as specific as possible about your need. 

Are you able to let Jesus do that?  If so, ask Him to come and “wash your feet” now.  Wait, watch and listen for Him to do that.

If you feel resistance to Jesus washing you, take some time to ask Him to show you what is blocking your heart from receiving His tender ministry.  Many of us in ministry find it much easier and safer to “give” than to “receive.”  If you are like Peter in this way, listen as Jesus says to you, “unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”  Take as much time as you need to be honest with the Lord about your heart, and to hear His word to you.  Journal about the experience.

Take a break.

Meditation #2  -- “Wash ALL of me!”

When Peter comes to his senses, and understands what Jesus is saying, he responds with spontaneous exuberance. In typical fashion, he doesn’t want to miss anything that  Jesus has for him.  But Jesus challenges his exuberance, just as he did Peter’s resistance.  “You don’t need a bath; you’re clean already! You just have dirty feet.” 

When you get discouraged and begin to notice how much the weight and dirt of the world sticks to you and causes you to stumble, do you ever feel that you have made no progress at all in the Christian faith?  That you really should start all over, because you are not moving forward – in fact maybe you’re really moving backward?

Jesus reminds Peter, “You are already clean.”   Let Him remind you, “You are already clean.”  You have been rescued from the dominion of darkness by Jesus Christ, and you have been transferred into the Kingdom of God (Col. 1:13).  You used to have a heart of stone, but God has given you a new heart made of flesh (Ezekiel 11:19). You have been born again, and you are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)!  This is God’s finished work, not your performance to pass a test.

John 13:3-4 says, “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe and tied a towel around himself.” And then he washed their feet like a slave.   Because Jesus was unshakably certain of His identity and His eternal relationship with God, he had no paralyzing fear that anything could damage or distort that reality (not even crucifixion!).  He did not need to keep His robes on as a sign of His status, or keep His hands clean and untainted to remain pure, or defend Himself, or even consider Himself in any way at all.  Knowing who he really was, he was completely free to humble himself and care tenderly and vulnerably for his dirty-footed disciples, taking up the towel of a slave.

Take time now with this Servant King, to search your heart.  Marvel at who you are – your identity in Christ – and what God has done in you.  Give Him thanks that you don’t need to be washed all over again – because through Christ, you are clean.  Let go of any places where you are trying to defend your honor or reputation (through ministry, or other good efforts) or any places where you are looking out for your own interests, out of fear. Delight with Jesus that there is nothing that can remove you from your place of honor as God’s beloved child in His Kingdom.  Write your insights, feelings, conversation with Jesus in your journal.

Take a break.

Meditation #3 – “I have set you an example”

In John 13:14 Jesus says, “So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.”  What does it mean for us to love Jesus’ followers the way Jesus loves them?  Ask Jesus to show you His heart for the people that you daily come in contact with, as you reflect on the love He demonstrated uniquely for each of His disciples: 

•  What was it like for Jesus to love John, “the beloved disciple” to the end? 

•  Or Mary, his mother, who had been told by God that a sword would pierce her heart? 

•  What was it like to love impetuous Peter -- one moment valiantly defending Jesus, and the next, denying he ever knew Him? 

•  Particularly focus on what it was like for Jesus to love Judas to the end.  The gospels make clear that Jesus knew ahead of time that Judas would be used by Satan to betray Him and send Him to His death.  And yet, Jesus washed Judas’ feet – and broke the bread of the Passover with him.  Even with that foreknowledge, Jesus did not protect Himself from being deeply hurt by this man who appeared to be a committed follower and disciple.  As believers, we can just about guarantee that we will be deeply disappointed, painfully wounded, hurt or betrayed by Christian disciples and friends at some point in our journey.  How do you love someone like that, “to the end”? 

  • What is it like to love people like the disciples who are sinners, rebels, failures and scoundrels, or people who are in deep grief?
  • How is Jesus asking you to love those you work with – your teammates, your students, the fellow believers in your church?  Be specific as you contemplate each close relationship in your ministry life.  Ask Him for the power of the Holy Spirit to enable you both to want to, and to be able to love Jesus’ disciples, all the way to the end.  Journal about your thoughts and feelings.

Take a break.

Closing

As you end your Rendezvous with God, take time to give thanks for your time with Him. Also ask yourself, when will you plan another Rendezvous with God?  What worked well, and what would you do differently?

In the last ten minutes, if you are sharing this retreat with others, debrief your experience as you feel comfortable. Take care to honor each other’s quiet state and the privacy and intimacy of the day. Together, give thanks to God and pray for protection as you go back to the “real world”.

Benediction

The Lord Jesus, after he had supped with his disciples and had washed their feet, said to them, “Do you know what I your Lord and Master, have done to you?  I have given you an example that you should do as I have done.”

Peace is my last gift to you, my own peace I now leave with you; peace which the world cannot give, I give to you.

I give you a new commandment: Love one another as I have loved you.

Peace is my last gift to you, my own peace I now leave with you; peace which the world cannot give, I give to you.

By this shall the world know that you are my disciples: That you have love for one another.

Amen.                (Book of Common Prayer, p. 274)

Printable Version: Rendezvous with God- Holy Week-PDF