With everything that has been going on in my life over the past month, I have seen a number of parallels with the Lent of two years ago. Entering into a battle with cancer, working with doctors and nurses, and holding onto the promises that Christ makes to all of us while preaching his love and new life to others.
So today I am posting a sermon from two years ago. It is the Maundy Thursday sermon that I preached as I was getting ready for surgery. I know that this is a day early, but tomorrow I will be undergoing a couple of tests and I am not sure if I will be able to post or not.
Let me know what you think.
Maundy Thursday Sermon – April 1, 2010
Not long after I became a father, a friend gave me some advice. He said, “Your children will be your greatest joy and your greatest challenge. They will make you smile and cry on the same day. They will fill your heart with joy, and your heart will break when they stumble and fall. But there is one key to being the best dad that you can be - love them. Just love them.
Words that have echoed in my head over and over throughout the years, love them, just love them. For it is in that love, in that wide embrace of grace, that relationships are built, restored, and flourish. It is in that love, that life-giving love, that the face of Christ shines through and we are given a glimpse of the glory of God.
Well, tonight, this Maundy Thursday, is all about love. It is about the love that Christ demonstrates for his disciples and us. It is about the love that flourishes in this body known as the church. It is about the love that we are called to share
Love them, just love them.
And it all starts with an ordinary little action. You see, Jesus uses this ordinary action, the washing of feet, to demonstrate an extraordinary love. And he calls his disciples, he invites you and me, to do the same.
Back in Jesus’ time, people commonly washed their own feet. When guests arrived at someone's home with feet covered in dust from the road, a good host would offer them a basin of water. The host would not do the washing, but would provide the water so that the guests could wash their own feet. In some cases the host would have a slave wash the feet of the guests. But it was understood that no free person would stoop down to wash the feet of another free person. Hospitality meant offering water and perhaps the services of a slave. It did not mean doing the washing.
For a free person to wash someone else's feet meant that he or she was taking on the role of a slave. The only reason someone would do this was to show complete and utter devotion to another person. That is what Jesus does here.
He assumes the role of a slave to show the depth of his love for his disciples. Love them, just love them – and he does this by serving them. And his love does not stop here.
No, Jesus continues to live out the love he has for us by inviting us to share in a meal. He gathers with us at a table. He breaks some bread. He lifts a cup and he says to us – this is me.
This is my body, this is my blood. This is what gives me life. And when you eat and drink of this, when you share in this meal, it will give you life, too.
Yes, in this meal we are given the strength that we need to make it through all trials or struggles we may be facing. We are giving the gift of knowing that the God who called us by name, the God who claimed us as his own, is also the one who showers us with grace and forgiveness. Yes, God is the one who wipes away our sins, cleanses us, and empowers us to go out into this world that he has created and live as little Christ’s for other.
Love them, just love them.
Yes, Jesus does this. He loves us by giving his very being to us and reminds us every time we share in this meal, he is present. He is here. Through his body and blood he is recreating, forgiving sins, and creating a new life in each and every one of us. Talk about love!
He then loves us, just loves us, by encouraging and calling us to community building. You see, in telling the disciples to wash one another's feet, in calling us to share in a meal, and in commanding us to love, to love as he has first loved us, as we hear at the end of the gospel reading (John 13:1-17, 31b-35), Jesus is inviting us to be about community building.
For in the serving of each other, in the eating with each other, in the loving of one another, a community is created. A community that we now call the Body of Christ. And it is in this body that the love of God is reflected. Reflected to those gathered here, and reflected to those who are not yet a part of the body. Reflected to all of creation.
Over the past month I have come to see this love, this amazing love, with new eyes. With all of the struggles, with all of the sorrow, with all of the questioning and the crying out, God has spoken to me through this great body of his. This has forever enhanced the way I see this Maundy Thursday. For I have seen the service of Christ shared with me and my family by you. In prayers, cards, and the wonderful hugs. I have gathered at this table with this great body. Shared in the meal that promises to bring hope and healing. Knowing that I gather with others who are struggling as well, that we all gather to receive that body and blood that we so desperately need. And I have experienced the love, the life-giving love of Christ, for I have seen his face, and I have seen it in you.
Love them, just love them.
That is the mantra of Mandy Thursday. A mantra of love, a mantra of compassion, a mantra of new life.