On Thursday this week I went up to London. It was Maundy Thursday, the day that Christians remember Jesus washing his disciples feet on the last night of his life.
As he gets ready to leave his friends, with one last chance to make his point, he chooses to kneel down, in front of his muddled, mixed up, messy disciples, and he washes their feet. And then he tells them to go and do the same - to go and to be servants to the world, in his name. And ever since, on the Thursday before Easter, Christians have remembered that commandment by washing peoples feet.
And this Maundy Thursday, I went to London to wash peoples feet. And specifically, I went to wash the feet of the people camped out at Marble Arch as part of the Extinction Rebellion protest.
You’ll have seen them in the news, thousands of people who have blocked key streets in London and other cities around the world. And they have done so to wake the world up; to say - climate change doesn’t just mean some warmer summers for us, it means suffering and death for millions of people, in particular the poorest and most vulnerable. And it means the loss of species and habitats that will never be recovered - including most likely the beautiful countryside that we enjoy around us here. And it means the mass movement of huge numbers of people around the earth, as more and more areas become unsustainable or uninhabitable - mass movements which will affect us all.
And Extinction Rebellion want us to wake up to the truth of this impending disaster. Now you might support their methods, or you might not - but what is undoubtedly true is that they are doing this for all of us. Those people who have chained and glued themselves together are acting sacrificially for us all.
And Christians are there too. You might have seen images of the 73 year old priest who was arrested at Oxford Circus. Or the group who prayed on Good Friday in St Pancras Station.
And earlier this week, an invitation went out for Christians to come and wash the protestors feet. And I wanted to be there.
I wanted to be there because Jesus told us to wash feet, and I want to live like Jesus told us to live.
And I wanted to be there because I can see that climate change is real, and we’re sleep walking into a disaster, and something has to change.
And I wanted to be there because it’s too easy for vicars, for us all as Christians, to get stuck in church buildings, doing churchy stuff and to forget that Jesus came to save the world, not the church.
And I wanted to be there because Jesus wanted to serve people on the edge, and he did bold things that caused trouble for the sake of others - and although I’m not 100% convinced by all their methods and demands, I am sure those protestors are doing something bold on my behalf and on behalf of my children - and for all of us.
And so I found myself kneeling down on the pavement in Marble Arch, with a bowl of water and a towel, washing feet. I washed the feet of a bloke who had just resigned from his well paid job because he wanted to be part of something positive for the world and the first thing he did was to join the protest.
And I washed the feet of a young Christian student, befuddled by lack of sleep, and a bit smelly, but still full of joy, after being up all night on Waterloo Bridge.
And I washed the feet of an older woman who had recently arrived with her grand daughter because she wanted to ‘do something’. She was full of guilt for all the ways that she fails to live a good eco-friendly lifestyle, but she wanted to do something.
And I could understand that. My lifestyle is far from perfect too. I turn the heating up when I get cold, I use way more plastic than is good for the oceans, I drive instead of cycle because the hills round here are really steep. But I could see something inspirational and hope-filled in those protestors. They’re not claiming to be perfect or to have all the answers, but they do have hope. And we all need hope.
And Easter is a celebration of God-shaped hope. Not some kind of ethereal, easily achievable hope, which we can access by thinking more positively or by being a bit nicer. Easter is about the kind of honest, dirty handed hope that emerges out of the messy, muddled lives that we all live.
Jesus crucifixion reminds us that the world is a mess. That we humans have a terrible tendency to break the things that are best in our lives; it’s what we do. We hurt the people we love, we destroy the creation we’ve been given, we mess up the potential that’s offered to us. We even managed to crucify pure goodness when He came and walked amongst us.
And resurrection is God’s response. Resurrection says, death will never have the final word. Your disastrous, sinful tendencies can never run my well of hope dry. Your mixed up motives and habit of ruining good things, will never be enough for me to give up on you. Resurrection says, in the midst of the worst times, the most difficult challenges, the deepest darkness, I am at work to bring new life and new hope. Resurrection says, Jesus is light that is brighter than the dark. Jesus is power that is stronger than death. Jesus is hope that will never be extinguished.
And on Easter Day, you are invited to trust in that truth. To trust that God hasn't given up and that he never will. To trust that Jesus, who carried all our mess ups to the cross, is strong enough to carry us still. To trust that, if we give him our lives, we too can be part of his hopeful-resurrection revolution. Not by having all the answers, but by trusting in the one who does. Resurrection is a promise that God has all the answers, and our job, our task, is to be a pointer, a signpost to that hope.
Whether it’s in climate change or something completely different, every person here, is called to be a signpost of resurrection hope. What that means will be different for each of us, but everyone of us is called.
So I don’t wish you a Happy Easter today. I wish you instead a hopeful Easter, a hope-filled Easter. Not because everything’s alright - because there’s so much that isn’t ‘alright’, and not because there’s a nice neat answer to our problems, but because Jesus is alive and at work in the messy, muddled thing that we call life.
And where Jesus is at work, hope is present.
Where Jesus is at work, resurrection happens.