About two weeks ago, we read in the lectionary the verse John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish, but may have life eternal.”
Tonight we read another lesson about love in today’s lectionary; Jesus says, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you should also love one another.”
The lesson that we hear tonight in verses 13 through 15 are quite clear: 1.) I’m your Lord and Teacher. 2.) I’ve just washed your feet in an act of supreme servanthood. 3.) This is my example of love for you – go and do likewise.
The Master has taught us to serve others as he has served. This is how he loved us and this is how we are to love each other – through servanthood.
A famous Spanish priest whose writings I studied for many years said, “Love is deeds, not sweet words.”
Love is about service. It’s not about charity. Charity is good, and can be done by anyone.
But service, sacred servanthood, is a theology, it is a spiritual path. It is a way to God, and it is a way of God. Jesus taught us so in our readings tonight.
We can love and serve in many ways. Big ways like cooking people free meals, running a food pantry, speaking to our leaders with prophetic voices in the halls of government.
Do we also consider the smaller, but no less important ways? Like a kind word of thanks to someone who does their job quietly and well? Or a visit to someone who is lonely or is a shut-in? Or simply doing our work well-finished before passing it on to the next person? They may seem tiny, but if done with “right intention”, with love for God and love for God’s children, they are mighty!
Tonight we are going to do something not much done today, but done continually in 1st century Palestine – washing guests’ feet. Because people walked about the streets in sandals back then – streets filled with mud and garbage and sewage – washing feet was the lowest jobs imaginable.
Which is why Jesus did it – to show the meaning of love: love is deeds, not sweet words.
Let us be generous tonight. Give yourself to the moment and allow someone to wash your feet, and wash someone else’s feet. Let us imitate Christ tonight. Surely it is an act of love and communion that is holy and sacred. We come to know God in the breaking of the bread, and we come to know God in serving one another. We cannot love God if we do not love one another. Let us imitate Christ tonight, and love one another as he loved us.
This sermon given at St. John’s -Tower Grove on Maundy Thursday, 2015