Thursday, April 17, 2014

Maundy Thursday: Love One Another

We sometimes talk of last words—
“famous last words,” as the saying goes.
          Alexander the Great, on his death bed, was asked to whom he would give his vast empire. He responded, “To the strongest.”
          In contrast, Martin Luther’s final words were, “We are all beggars, this is true.”
          Playwright George Bernard Shaw, went out with the sardonic comment, “Dying is easy, comedy is hard.”

          Tonight, we commemorate not a last word, or last words, but a last command.
          Jesus, on the night he was handed over, said to his disciples, “I’m giving you a new commandment, and it is this: “Love One Another.”
          Jesus’ last commandment is “Love One Another.”
Let us Pray

          “Love one another.”
          Such a simple phrase, really.
          It even bears a striking resemblance to Bill and Ted’s, “Be Excellent to each other… and party on dudes.”
          And if it was a phrase only “Love One Another”… words only… it would be just as superficial…
          It would be like George Bernard Shaw’s version of dying—it would be Easy.

          But the kind of love Jesus speak of is anything but easy.
          The kind of love Jesus speaks of is like Comedy—it’s hard.
          It’s not cognitive ascent to the idea of love—knowing love—but instead doing love.
          Doing love as Jesus loved.
          As Jesus concretely demonstrated and gave us an example.
          Loving as a master who empties himself and becomes a slave.
          Loving as one clothed who strips down in order to serve.
          Alexander the Great may have passed his empire on to the strongest, but Jesus calls instead for weakness.
          He calls on us to act with the recognition that we’re all beggars, so that we might serve all
—serve our brothers and sisters, so that everyone knows we are Jesus’ disciples.

          We are commanded to love one another.
          Look at the person next to you. (PAUSE)
          Think of your neighbor—on each side of your home, not just the one you like. (PAUSE)
          Remember that person you don’t see eye to eye with about how the church is run. Them! (Pause)       
          Think of the Catholic Ukrainian and Orthodox Russian—that’s the one another we’re talking about.
          The Orthodox Putin and Congregationalist Obama. Despite themselves they’re brothers in Christ.

          We are commanded to love through our actions as much as our words or our emotions.
          It’s one thing to say, “I love you.”
          It’s another to bear with that person through thick and through thin.
          Because this type of love isn’t swooning or seducing.
          It’s the wiping of a fevered brow.
          It’s moving that person across the country or teaching their kid to read.
          We are commanded to act with humility—love with humility.
          To never think ourselves above a task.
          To never think of someone below our station to serve them.
          To meet people where they are.
          To recognize we are all beggars—siblings at the foot of the cross.

          Love in such a way that our Lord, stripped and knelt down before us in service, is honored.
          We are to be little Christs
          With bowl and towel
          Wiping dust off the feet of our friends
          Intimately and kindly making Christ known.

          This last command of Christ is to love as disciples love.
          Disciples of Jesus.
          Jesus who has always loved us, right through to the end.
          Who washes our feet.
          Jesus Christ who loves us.

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