Posted on Mar 29, 2018 by Pastor Dave Whetter
As we gather this evening, we begin to bring our Lenten observance to an end, and we gather with Christians around the world to celebrate the Three Days of Jesus’ death and resurrection. At the core of this gathering is Jesus’ commandment to love one another and as we heard Jesus command, we aren’t to love like the world loves, but like Jesus loved. “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” (John 13:34).
But, what does it mean to love as Jesus loved? How does one do that? Well, our evening began with an act of love that none of us are comfortable with, foot washing. Now, when most of us think of foot washing, I’m pretty sure we don’t think about an act of love. I would bet that when we hear “foot washing” most of us think “Yuk!”. We can laugh, but I know people who won’t attend a Maundy Thursday service if there is foot washing. Now, if you are one of those who find this act repulsive, I’m not condemning you, but I am asking you to consider what an incredible act of love this is. You might not want to partake in it, but think about how important an act it was some 2,000 years ago.
In Jesus’ day the major mode of transportation was walking; it was critical to take care of one’s feet, and keeping them clean would have been important. But just like today, the feet were considered to be dirty, not just literally, but figuratively, as well. Washing one’s feet was a “dirty job” (no pun intended) that nobody wanted to do, so slaves did it. But Jesus loved his people so much that he was willing to stoop to the level of a slave to care for his people. As Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, we are called to follow his example as we humbly care for one another, especially the poor and the unloved.
But that is not the only way Jesus showed his disciples, and you and I, how to love. That last night he and his disciples were all together, he spoke of something that they did not quite understand that you and I know today. He spoke of giving up his life. In a little while we will gather at this altar to partake in what we call the Lord’s Supper, or Holy Communion, and in doing so we remember Jesus’ sacrifice of his life, and in so doing, Jesus was calling us to offer ourselves in love for the life of the world.
In both of these cases, Jesus wasn’t offering his followers some suggestions on how to love or how to care for others. No, he actually commanded us to do these things. Today is Maundy Thursday, or in plain English we could say this is Mandate Thursday, or Commandment Thursday. Jesus said, today I give you a new commandment, “Love one another.” This means Jesus commanded us to treat each other with respect, dignity, kindness, and as we will hear on the Sunday after Easter, with forgiving hearts. Secondly, he commanded us to partake in Holy Communion. In the Words of Institution that we all know so well, he commanded us to “Do this, in remembrance of me…”.
So, today we gather to remember the most important thing that we need to remember about God. (Have kids stand up and shout out “God Loves Us”) Yes, as we come to the end of our journey to the cross we are called to remember that God loves us, and because God loves us, we, too, are expected to love each other in the same way.
But to do this, we must be willing to do as Jesus did, and Jesus loved the world by giving himself away. My guess is Jesus really didn’t like the idea of washing his disciples' feet, but he did it as an act of love. My guess is Jesus really would have preferred to live a life that was free from conflict with religious and secular leaders, but because he loved all of God’s creation he spoke out on behalf of the marginalized and the poor and in so doing he gave up a comfortable life. We know from Jesus' own words that if it would have been possible he would have preferred not to die on the cross, but because he loved all of God’s creation and he wanted God’s will to be realized, he was willing gave himself up for our sake.
So often in this world when we hear about things that need to change to help others, our first reason is “what will that mean for me?”. We want health care reform, as long as it doesn’t negatively affect us. We want companies to bring more jobs back to the U.S., but we don’t want to pay higher prices. We want better roads, better education, advanced military for protection, but we don’t want to pay higher taxes. We want God’s Kingdom to be present, but we don’t want to do the work to bring about its reality.
Here at Salem we want great facilities, more ministries, the best programming…, but oftentimes we aren’t willing to do the work, pay the price, or change enough to make these things happen because to do so would mean we have to give our self-interests and ourselves up for the sake of others. And, yet, tonight we gather with Christians all over the world to remember that this is the very thing Christ did for us and that he commanded us to do, as well.
Yet, with all that said, even as we are commanded to love one another, to give ourselves away, today is not about what we have done, or will do. It is not about our sins and failures, things we have done and left undone. No, today and the next three days, are about what God has done, and is doing, for us. Tonight, tomorrow, and Easter are about how much God loves us, and if we can let that guide our lives then maybe, just maybe, we can joyfully find ways to give ourselves away so that we might love as Christ loves us. Amen.