April 22, 2011

April 21, 2011 Maundy Thursday Sermon

Sermon for Maundy Thursday
April 21, 2011
Michael Coffey



Jesus is making it all clear now.
Even in the sometimes confusing world of John’s Gospel,
you can’t miss it.
It is his great children’s sermon object lesson.
He is revealing word by word, act by act,
what God is about for the aching, lonely world,
for suffering humanity,
for individual persons feeling their way through the darkness.
In John’s Gospel,
Jesus reveals God to those who will see God in him,
because Jesus embodies the truth and love of God.
In the story of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet,
he now makes it all clear:
I have loved you with the very love of God.
Now love one another with the same love.

Jesus gives this new commandment, this new mandate,
this new Maundy:
Love one another as I have loved you.
The order of things in this commandment is revealing and grace filled:
I love you. Love one another with the loved by which you are loved.
Jesus says this same thing in two places in John’s Gospel.
He says it in the text we just heard, John 13,
and then a little later in John 15,
part of the same last night with his disciples,
he says it again: Love one another as I have loved you.

And this time, he says this:

12 "This is my commandment,
that you love one another as I have loved you.
13 No one has greater love than this,
to lay down one's life for one's friends.
14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.
15 I do not call you servants any longer,
because the servant does not know what the master is doing;
but I have called you friends,
because I have made known to you everything
that I have heard from my Father.

Jesus now takes his love for his disciples
to a wonderful, sacred, and holy relationship:
He calls them friends.
Jesus reveals the great depth of God’s connection to us and the whole world,
which we rarely see or trust or live by:
You are my friends if you do this:
Love one another.
Wash one another’s feet.
Take care of each other.
You are my friends if you befriend one another
because that is what I am:
God befriending you.
Jesus’ friendship is embodied
in washing his friend’s feet, taking care of them,
living in humility with them,
and in laying down his life for them,
friendship in the cross, the great foot washing,
where the Lord and Teacher and Messiah
befriends in a way we marvel at.

Yes, he is teacher and Lord.
Yes, he is the Messiah, the Christ, the chosen one.
So how humbling and startling and wonderful
that he says: You are my friends. Call me your friend.
Befriend one another, for God is befriending you.

What could be more startling and wonderful and healing
in our world today
than to hear this one, clear, powerful message:
You are befriended, friend of God, and my friend.
To be sure, it is a message that comes with the commandment:
Love with the same love of God that befriends.
Befriend one another, be friend of all others!

In this life where each of us
knows and yet longs for
the power of true friendship,
how great and life-giving it is to know the gift of
friends who take care of each other,
friends who embody love instead of only talking about it,
or romanticizing it, or watching it on TV,
friends who go through life and death with you,
friends who wash your feet and welcome you into their home,
friends who come to your bedside when you are sick,
friends who celebrate with you when joy visits your house,
friends who grieve with you when death comes, too.

I am a pretty big fan of Facebook,
and the ways that technology can enhance our fragmented society,
which in part, and ironically, is fragmented because of technology.
But let’s think for a minute
how we have come to think of the word “friend” today,
and how different that is from the friendship Jesus embodies,
and the kind of Jesus friends he commands us to be.
Let’s compare for a minute,
without getting too corny or carried away,
a Facebook friend with a Jesus friend:

A Facebook friend never has to be touched or looked at in the eye.
A Jesus friend has to wash feet and have their feet washed
and looked at another directly.

A Facebook friend can be ignored, skimmed past, or unfriended.
A Jesus friend is loved to the end.

A Facebook friend responds to your unfolding life story in status updates
with a few words typed into a box.
A Jesus friend responds with compassionate action, humility,
and sacrifice of time, energy, and self.

Could it be that the power of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection
is simply to draw us into friendship with God,
and so empower us to befriend one another, befriend all others,
until the whole lonely world is living in divine friendship together,
everyone’s feet washed and welcomed,
and everyone a footwasher?
Could it be that as we fret and worry
about the church today and what it is about
and how it will survive and thrive,
that all we should be doing
is loving one another with the humble love of Jesus,
and befriending a lonely world longing for divine friendship?
You want to understand how to share the good news with others today?
Love them! Love them with the love of God in Jesus!
To show forth the reality and presence of God in this life
Is to do the Jesus thing: love others as friend in the flesh.

Midweek Lent services – we met in homes, instead of feet we washed hands, showing hospitality, welcoming, befriending... a beautiful thing.

He says it today:
Love one another as I have loved you.
Jesus is the very real love of God.
No one else is that in the way that Jesus is.
And yet, Jesus says: Do it! Love with my own love,
which is the very love of God!

Jesus washes feet.
We wash feet.
Jesus loves as humble servant.
We love as humble servant.
Jesus befriends us.
We befriend one another.

It is all made clear now, in the footwashing today,
and in the cross tomorrow:
Love one another as I have loved you.
It is a commandment, but it is a commandment that comes
to those who are already befriended by God in Jesus,
those who have already been washed and welcomed.

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