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Sermons are preached within the context of a particular worship service, and are most meaningful when experienced in that way. We encourage you to view or listen to the entire worship service.
April 14 2022
John 13:1-17, 31b-35
Grace to you and peace, from God our creator, and from our savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
The congregation I served in Phoenix has a preschool, and so most weeks I had Chapel Time with the kiddos. Early on, the teachers and I talked about how to approach Holy Week and we decided that talking about Jesus washing his disciples’ feet was the most appropriate. And we framed it as being one of the ways Jesus taught his disciples about how to take care of each other.
We took it a step further, though, and I actually washed the kiddos’ feet. And it was so much fun – because you really can’t go wrong with telling kiddos to take off their shoes and put their feet in water. They couldn’t get their shoes off fast enough; they wanted to go more than once; they didn’t care if their feet were clean or not – complete opposite of adults.
But the best part, was that they washed my feet and the feet of their teachers. And they laughed while they did it, but they took it seriously.
When I think about those experiences and hold them together with the story of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet, I can’t help but imagine the differences. Mainly the difference in their reactions to what was happening.
On that night, Jesus and the disciples were reclined around the table – enjoying time together, talking with each other, sharing a meal. And in the middle of that meal, Jesus gets up and begins to wash the disciples’ feet. Not only was the timing unusual, but also the fact that Jesus himself was doing it.
We know for sure that Peter said something about it, but we don’t know if any of the others did. But they know something has changed – the excitement that has built over the last few days is gone.
After Jesus finishes, he lets them know that one of them will betray him. And then he gives them a new commandment – to love one another as he has loved them. And, more to the point, he commands them to have love for one another. And that’s an important distinction.
Up until this point in the story, the disciples had either witnessed Jesus serving others or done the serving themselves – but they hadn’t been on the receiving end of it. And it was important for them to actually feel the tender and compassionate love of Jesus so that they could recognize the root of their service – especially because of what would happen over the next few hours.
It’s that love that would hold them together and carry them through Christ’s arrest, trial, crucifixion, and death. Without experiencing Christ’s love for them beforehand, their community would have splintered and fallen apart. But experiencing Christ’s love ultimately defined their community.
It became the foundation of their relationships with one another and with others. It guided them as they learned how to move forward without Jesus’ physical presence – as they learned how to continue his ministry and teachings.
Through their actions and their love for one another, the community of believers grew exponentially and we’re now a part of it. And we know that Jesus’ commandment to have the love for one another that he has for us wasn’t just limited to the twelve disciples.
This is the first time in two years that we’ve had the option of being able to gather in-person for this worship service. In those two years, we learned that the love Jesus has for us is what got us through. It was embodied in you as you made masks for healthcare workers when there weren’t enough from the suppliers.
And then when you made more masks for friends and family members, and people in countries who couldn’t otherwise get them. It was embodied in all everyone who worked behind the scenes to make sure the live streams happened for worship.
Jesus’ love for us was experienced when you taught each other how to do online grocery orders, and did porch drop-offs to make sure that everyone had what they needed without having to go out in public. Christ’s love was embodied in the small groups that formed as you reached out to one another.
And it was embodied every time we gathered for worship, even when our only option was to “see” each other through a camera lens. But Jesus’ love doesn’t only hold us together in crisis moments.
As a faith community, we’re learning now that it’s also what’s holding us together as we continue to transition out of the pandemic. It will hold us together as we consider what we do moving forward – what we hold onto, what we let go of, and what we might do differently. It doesn’t mean we’ll always agree, but the love Jesus has for us is what holds us together as a community as we figure it out.
When I washed the preschool kiddos feet, and when they washed their teachers’ and my feet, they didn’t fully understand the theology behind it; they didn’t need to. And, really, it isn’t that complicated.
Because having Christ’s love for others is more than a commandment – it’s part of who we are. When we trust that, we’re then able to have that love for others. We’re able to embody it for them and share it with them and expand the community.
And when we live this way, we discover that Jesus’ love for us is what holds us together through whatever comes, and ultimately defines us as a community of faith. Thanks be to God! Amen.