A Servant Love


March 29, 2018 Maundy Thursday

I left you this past Sunday with the words of Paul from his letter to the people of Philipi:

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave. (Philippians 2:5-7)

This evening we enter into the Three Days. The opportunity to listen to our gospel stories of Jesus’ final days. The opportunity to see how in our own deaths, we too rise to new life.

Let us take a moment, and pause. Let us take inventory of where we are.

  • Where we are physically
  • Where we are mentally and emotionally
  • Where we are in our relationships with one another
  • Where we are in our relationship with Christ
  • Where we are this very evening as we begin to contemplate on the cross and our own beings

Physically we are all present in body, in this sanctuary. We are able to reach out and embrace one another. We can feel the pews beneath us. We can see the lectern, the altar, the cross. How are we physically? It is a little later in the evening, after most of us have ate dinner. Perhaps you are tired from a long day of work, completing chores around the house, or running countless errands. Yet, you have made the conscious decision to come and worship this evening.

How are you mentally and emotionally? Are you hurting and trying to overcome loss? Are you living in denial of things that are happening around you and are not quite ready to confront those things? You may be happy, sad, angry. All very human emotions. Emotions that Jesus experienced himself. It could be possible that you are just present. Feeling as though you are just going through the motions.

All are very acceptable realities. It is a reality of who we are. A reality of the human experience. You may have come here this evening seeking an answer to your relationship with Christ. Wondering what these three days have in store. You may very well know what these three days mean, and are looking forward to living every one of them out. You may not know where God is at in your life currently; longing for an experience with the living God that so many others have spoke of.

As we look towards the cross, we may see our own brokenness. In these three days, it is possible to be broken even more. In that brokenness we can be left wondering where to turn.

Your brokenness. My brokenness. They are not unique. It is a part of the human experience. It is part of who we are as God’s children. The disciples place their full brokenness on display. Once again, Peter speaks before he thinks and is corrected by Jesus. His perceptions that he has of Jesus are not correct and he believes that Jesus is above those things that he is about to do. Surely, he is too good to be getting down on his hands and knees to wash feet. Surely, he can find someone else to serve and feed them. We are left wondering, will Peter ever get it.

The disciples that have followed Jesus around for the last few years are not any different from us. They have their own flaws and idiosyncrasies. They think that they are too good to do some of the mission work that Jesus has called them to do. They are left wondering if they have heard him correctly. They have a set picture in their mind of what the Messiah is suppose to look like, and when Jesus speaks of his pending death, they are left in denial.

One of the twelve’s brokenness plays through the betrayal that we will witness during these three days. Judas, out of greed or something entirely different, is propelled to betray Jesus. To turn him over to the very authorities that he knows will lead Jesus to his death. The disciples are far from perfect. Yet, they still follow in Jesus’ path.

It is in this path that they are brought to the upper room during this last Passover feast in which Jesus will participate. Jesus could have easily kicked back and let the others serve him. There most likely was a servant nearby that could have washed everyone’s feet. Surely, there were people to serve the food.

This was not just another Passover meal. This was the last meal that Jesus would eat with his disciples here on earth. This was an opportunity for him to show them what it truly meant to love. To love them so deeply, he was willing to get down on his hands and knees to wash their feet. To show them what it truly meant to be a disciple. There is no job that is below them. By washing their feet, the water is a sign of the community that he has established with them. A community that has been washed clean and loved fully. A community that now is called to lean on each other and to go out and do the same for others. James Lamkin speaks to this love:

Holy Thursday is a call to a juxtaposed life: one of commanded love. In the uniform of a towel, Jesus gives a command, a mandate. “Maundy” comes from the Latin, mandatum. Jesus commands, mandates us to love; but not only to love, but to love as Christ loves. How can this be? Is love not a feeling? Can feelings be commanded? Of course not. However, choices–the choices of loving behaviors, Christlike actions–can be chosen in the strength of Jesus, the towel-girded Christ. (Feasting on the Word, Year B, Volume 2)

We are not just observers to this love that Jesus has displayed.

We are called to do the same in this time and place in which we live today. I think that we can all easily agree that the divisions that we witness more and more are not a good thing. People hold so steadfast to their beliefs that they are not willing to listen to the other side of things and love is the last action in their mind.

Yet, that is the very thing that Jesus is calling us to do for our sisters and brothers. We are called to love. We are called to serve. It is first in the loving and serving of Jesus that we are able to see what it truly means to become a disciple. As we continue to walk in these three days, we walk with Jesus. We listen to the gospels, and we are invited to place ourselves in the stories. Allow them to be a part of who you are as a Christian. There is a mystery that resides in the gospels that we will hear over the next few days. A mystery that calls us to love one another. A mystery that cannot be conquered. A mystery that brings light to the darkness and brokenness of our own souls. It is in this outpouring of love through Jesus that we are prepared to encounter the cross.

Let us pray…Loving God, as we enter these three days, may our hearts, minds, and souls be open to the love that you have poured out abundantly for us. A love that comes to us through our repentance and your forgiveness. A love that comes to us through the waters that cleanse us. A love that resides in the very elements that are broken for us in the bread and the wine. May we embrace and share the love that you have so freely given. Amen

By Alex Steward

I am a husband, father, and pastor within the ELCA. I did not grow up in the church and thus come at this pastoring thing with an unique perspective.

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