I Choose Love!

Truth and Hypocrisy – Our Choice!
March 31, 2023
God has done what? Are you sure?!
April 5, 2023
Truth and Hypocrisy – Our Choice!
March 31, 2023
God has done what? Are you sure?!
April 5, 2023

Here we are, on Maundy Thursday.   Our Lenten pilgrimage has brought us this far in Holy Week. We have further to go. I’ve been reflecting on Jesus’ practice of healing, of repentance, forgiveness and renewal as we listen again to John’s Gospel story (13:1-17, 31-35) of the last supper; a meal filled with the sour taste of bitter betrayal, grief and anxiety, fierce and resounding love lighting up hearts, forgiveness given and received in gratitude and joy, and new life healed and restored.

You and I have been to different places in our faith in the last few weeks and we now wait quietly on the Lord, praying silently, between the grim reminders of betrayal and denial by Jesus’ friends and enemies, and the breathtaking quality of God’s love and forgiveness expressed in Jesus for everyone, even on the cross.

I spoke last Sunday about Jesus’ steady self-awareness of his choices and their consequences, as he lived God’s love.  We are reminded of his absolute rejection of violence, coercion, hatred and fear.  We hear again in this last meal, his acceptance of the world’s response to him and his message of love. 

The story of the last supper Jesus shared with his disciples; and, our responses to God’s love are reflected in Peter’s chaotic conversation with Jesus.   Betrayal, denial, abandonment, rejection by friends and followers fill Jesus’ final hours.  No-one was with him at his trial in the darkness of the night, at the beatings and humiliations, the political, expedient response from Pontius Pilate and the brutal, casual execution. And yet, when we squeeze open the doors into the story and listen intently, we find God’s love permeating everything. 

Jesus stood up in the middle of the meal, and removing his outer robe, wrapped a towel round his waist, took a bowl of water and began to wash the disciples’ feet.  Peter’s blustering and refusal are quietly silenced by Jesus.  We are shaken by Jesus’ compassion and the quality of love being shown to his friends in the face of his death.  Jesus refused to be distracted, this was one more way and opportunity for him to show love and trust in God. It was time to finish the teaching.

You call me Lord and Teacher – and you are right, for that is what I am.  So, if I your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. (John 13:14-17)

Jesus has once again subverted the traditional social behavioural norms in an act of love and forgiveness.  We, as Jesus’ disciples must do so also.      I remember hearing a story about a barber.  He had experienced homelessness, poverty, fear and despair.  However, he was given real assistance, and when he was once again on his feet, because of this kindness, he decided to do something to repay the grace given to him.  In his free time, he wandered the streets, and when he encountered someone who was homeless, he would sit and listen to their story.  He would offer them a haircut, because when you’re homeless, haircuts are a luxury.  He took his gift and out of love for those who were his neighbours, strangers and friends alike, he offered them a real service.  Over time, he gathered the stories he heard and pulled them together into a book changing the way the members of this marginalized and invisible community are seen and understood. 

Jesus washed the feet of his disciples.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been listening to the stories from the Sleepbus, from those in our community who volunteer in this service.  I’ve been listening to the dreams of parishioners who are trying to do something about homelessness here on the Sunshine Coast.  The volunteering includes listening to stories, cleaning sleep pods and toilets, tidying and making ready for the next homeless person who need a place to rest their weary body. 

Jesus washed the feet of his disciples.

As teacher and Lord, Jesus served his disciples and washed their feet, and he asked his friends to do the same.  If Jesus can do it, so can we.  Humility and vulnerability in service while following Jesus’ example, is God’s love made visible. 

As we witness Judas’ betrayal, the denial by Peter, the abandonment by the disciples and the doubt and grief of all Jesus’ followers, are directly addressed by Jesus but he shows us there is a deeper meaning and purpose in these terrible acts.  Even in betrayal, God’s will is still fulfilled. Jesus affirms there is not act of opposition against God and the kingdom of heaven which can cause God’s love to be subverted for those staying with Jesus.   We are called into sharing joyful, active and resounding love:

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.  Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.  By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35)

We are invited by God to become more deeply aware of who we are and what we are called to do.  To love one another.  Jesus gave this new commandment to his disciples immediately after Judas left to betray him. He knew this was happening.  Jesus reminded us in the face of such sadness and fear, love is not simply about hospitality, but reveals God in Jesus and in us as his disciples, wherever we are, whatever we’re doing. Nothing can turn God’s love away.  We are all loved.

The commandment to love was essential for the disciples to hear at this point.  It was a step towards loving enemies who frightened them or friends who despised them.  Jesus showed them how to love, irrespective of social standing, gender difference, ability and race; and in spite of Jesus’ own hunger, fatigue and imminence of death, Jesus showed them and us how to love differently.

As we contemplate our own experiences of betrayal, denial, abandonment and despair, the message of Jesus’ forgiveness, repentance, renewal and healing shows us God’s love shining in the darkness.  In the spirit of resurrecting love, we can see opportunities everywhere with everyone, in places of disconnection, division and despair, where others will know us and God, by our love for one another.   Let us wash the feet of Jesus of everyone we meet.   The Lord be with you.

Bibliography

Jarvis, C.E., Johnson, E.E. [Gen. Eds].  2013.  Feasting on the Gospels John, Vol. 2 Chapters 10-21.  Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky, USA.

Lucy Morris
Lucy Morris
Anglican Priest, International Speaker, Published Author, Social Justice Advocate and Activist.

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