Easter 5-C/May 5, 2019/Community Lutheran/Pr. Joe Vought
The Gospel takes us back to Maundy Thursday of Holy Week. Jesus celebrates the Lord’s Supper with the disciples and washes their feet. The phrase, “When he had gone out,” refers to Judas going to the chief priests to betray Jesus. And Jesus, does not run for the exits, but shows his disciples how Godly love and courage serves in a broken world. Jesus ministers to them: the ones he called, who followed, witnessed miracles, those he taught and misunderstood him. Now we may call Judas a betrayer, but none of the other disciples were faithful. Holy Week services are hard to attend. Who wants to be reminded of faithless followers or a Savior who suffers? Better to show up on Easter for a happy ending. So I am preaching part of the homily I preached on Maundy Thursday. On the last night of his earthly life Jesus shows them and us the amazing grace, love and courage of God. He feeds them, “Take, eat this is my body, Take drink this is my blood for the forgiveness of sins…” Then he stoops to touch and wash the feet of those who would run away.
It reminds me of a story: a group of students were asked to list the Seven Wonders of the World. There was some disagreement, but the following got the most votes: 1. Egypt’s Great Pyramids 2. Taj Mahal 3. Grand Canyon 4. Panama Canal 5. Empire State Building 6. St. Peter’s Basilica 7. China’s Great Wall. While gathering the votes, the teacher noticed one quiet student hadn’t turned in her paper. So she asked her if she was having trouble. The girl replied, “Yes, a little. I couldn’t make up my mind because there were so many.” The teacher said, “Tell us what you have maybe we can help.” The girl hesitated, then read, “I think the Seven Wonders of the World are: 1. to touch 2. to taste 3. to see 4. to hear 5. to feel 6. to laugh 7. and to love. The room was full of silence.
Jesus touches and washes the disciples’ feet. He feeds them with his love and forgiveness in bread and wine. In every liturgy this is what we do. We touch and serve each other passing the Peace. In every Eucharist we feed each other with Jesus. We do so in the fervent hope that we will become like Jesus.
Because Jesus brings forgiveness and love, we dare to be like Jesus: “I give you a new commandment that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you should love one another.” The Glory of God is to be our glory. Jesus says, “If you love those who love you, what difference does that make? Even pagans do that. But love your enemies, pray for those who persecute, give to those who cannot repay you.” Love is easy when life is good. But ever loved someone when it was just the right thing to do? Ever wanted to reconcile with someone but they wouldn’t? Ever had your heart broken, betrayed?
Scripture commentator Debie Thomas says: “Most of the time we want to be safe. We choose people based on our preferences. Do I know how to love as Jesus loved? To feel a depth of compassion? To experience a hunger for justice to rearrange my life? To empathize until my heart breaks? Becoming vulnerable? Those things are hard and costly. And yet this was Jesus’s dying wish. Which means we have a God who wants every one of his children to feel loved. Not shamed. Not punished. Not judged. Not isolated. But loved.”
How dare we love like Jesus? It’s hard, but we know it when we see it. There was a family who had two children, Jane, 12-years old, and Josh, who was 5. The family learned that Jane had leukemia. The doctor told the parents Jane needed a blood transfusion from a matched donor and Josh might be a good candidate. So Josh was tested and found to be a perfect match. The father went to Josh’s room one night and asked him if he would give Jane a transfusion so she could live. Josh asked if he could think about it and let him know in the morning. The next morning, Josh said he would give her his blood. Later that day they went to the hospital and Josh & Jane were hooked up for a blood transfusion. After 10 minutes, Josh’s father went over to Josh and asked him how he was doing. Josh said that he was all right, and then he asked, “When will I start to die?”
If the world we live in is ever going to be redeemed and healed from its warring madness, competition, rivalry and tribalism, it will happen through the sacrifice and courage of Godly love. Like Jesus or a little boy named Josh. Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you.” May God give us Godly courage, greater faith and abundant love to love like Jesus. Please join with me as we pray together the prayer of St. Francis:
Lord, make me us instruments
of Thy peace;
Where there is hatred,
let us sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light; and Where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled, as to console;
To be understood as to understand; To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; And it is in dying to ourselves that we are born to eternal life.