Exodus 12:1-4,(5-10),11-14;1Corinthians 11:23-26;John 13:1-17,31b-35;
Psalm 116:1, 10-17
Preached by Reverend Lynn Anderson
In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen
The e-mail from my fellow deacon, Rev Warner, came in late March stating that he and the other clergy from St Augustine were requesting that I consider preaching on Maundy Thursday. Sure, I fired back, I would be honored. Honored to be asked because this day is considered the “Deacon’s Homily.” This is the scripture in which Jesus models servanthood. The Deaconate is known by most as the “servant ministry.” One of the reasons that is true is that as part of a Deacon’s Ordination in the part called the Examination, the Bishop says to the ordinand,
“My sister, every Christian is called to follow Jesus Christ, serving God, the Father, through the power of the Holy Spirit. God now calls you to a special ministry of servanthood directly under your bishop. In the name of Jesus Christ, you are to serve all people, particularly the poor, the weak, the sick, and the lonely. …You are to interpret to the Church the needs, concerns, and hopes of the world….At all times your life and teaching are to show Christ’s people that in serving the helpless they are serving Christ himself.”
One of the questions we are asked is: “Will you look for
Christ in all others, being ready to help and serve those in need?”
Is “looking for Christ in all others, another way of saying ’LOVE ONE ANOTHER’? Is not our Gospel lessen tonight “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another; that you too love one another, as I have loved you; it is by this that all will know that you are my disciples – if you have love among each other.”
The parallels in the lessons and particularly the Gospel tonight and the words during the ordination service for the Deacon are clear to me. Reflection on the lessons for tonight began a wrestling match within me as strong and as tiring as that endured by Jacob..
It has been said that each and every one of us has one homily message in us and we keep saying it in different ways. Sometimes we say it in words, literally as a homily and always we give “our homily” by our actions. That one message is the central point of our own belief system, the driver of our actions. I have known that my one homily most simply put is “Love one another” So; I was on solid ground with the “new Commandment” right? This was my chance to give my one homily full out. But I quickly discovered in my wrestling that although I believe that Love one another is the answer, the commandment to the believers that matters most, it is also the most difficult to discuss and the most difficult to carry out. The stumbling block for me was,” as I have loved you.”
Jesus knew this was the last night of his life and his last chance to help his disciples whom he loved understand. Perhaps the path to understanding this “”new command or (mandate)” is to work on describing how Jesus loved his disciples. In his study of the Gospel of John, William Barclay who wrote extensive bible studies from the 1960’s until his death, describes this love with four adverbs. He describes the love of Jesus for his disciples as selfless, sacrificial, understanding, and forgiving. Who among us can consistently love selflessly, sacrificially, understandingly and forgivingly? Those are some very difficult targets for humans. But Jesus of course understood humanness. Barclay summarizes the love of Jesus, this way.
His love was selfless. He never thought of himself. His one desire was to give himself and all that he had for those he loved.
His love was sacrificial. There was no limit to what his love would give or to where it would go.
He loved his disciples with understanding. He knew them very well. He loved them not as he “imagined them to be,” but as they were. The heart of Jesus is big enough to love us as we are too.
He loved them with forgiveness. Peter denied him. Judas betrayed him. None of them ever seemed to understand him. In the end, they were cowards that deserted and hid. But Jesus held nothing against them. So we too must consider that real love, enduring love must be built on forgiveness, for without forgiveness, love is bound to die.
So, what does all of this mean for us, and for our relationships with one another? After he had washed their feet, he 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. He goes on to tell us that it is by this, following his example that the world will know that you are my disciples.”
If we are to take this seriously, if we want to be Disciples of Christ, we had better learn to love the people in our families, our circle of friends, our parish, our workplaces, our neighborhoods and our lives. Love even the ones that we don’t like much, the ones that God puts in our way, the ones with whom we might prefer not to even have dinner. The aggravation we feel, the angst we generate abates when we begin to look for the Christ in each other. When we begin to open to all that the Father Gives, peace enters and the wrestling is over.
Help us God, to learn to love as Christ loved. Help us to forgive those who have wounded us. Help us to remember they are limited people with a limited ability to love, just like us. Receive our lonely, broken hearts, God and know our desire for healing and mercy. Amen