I wonder what love really looks like? So often I think we are drawn to the idea that love looks like a touch or a gift or a hug—an outward expression of affection. But unless that outward expression is driven from an internal recognition and desire that love is about setting aside one’s self for the glory and improvement of another then I don’t think it is really love. Jesus sets aside self—he sets aside all that he knows to be right and good and true and beautiful—in order to improve us. He knows what will happen in the days to come, and instead of being right or vindictive or running away, he faces his fate with a steadfast heart filled with love for his disciples, for all of us, determined to do what is truly right and good and beautiful—the sacrifice of his life for ours.
Most of us don’t know that type of humility. We might line up with Peter and claim our offense that our Lord would act as a servant and wash our feet simply because we don’t understand it. Instead of trying to dig beneath the surface and recognize the purpose of Jesus’ self-emptying love, we want to control it by countering with “not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” in an attempt to tell Jesus what to do. How passionate we are about controlling the things we don’t understand?
Or maybe we are a little more Judas than we are willing to admit. Judas wanted a Messiah that would defeat the Romans and bring glory back to Israel with power and military triumph. What he got was a Messiah who spoke words of peace and good will. Judas could no longer trust that Jesus would fulfill Judas’s expectations of what the world should look like and so he took matters into his own hands; meeting with the leaders of the people in secret and manipulating the outcome behind the scenes. When things don’t go our way, how quick are we to sabotage another? How often do we attempt to garner support to our cause? How power hungry are we at our core?
Or we might relate to one of the disciples. They are doing the work they have been entrusted too. They enjoy their place at the table and they have a bit of a “go-along-to get-along” approach to all of this because they aren’t really sure what is happening but they know it is good and they want to be a part of it. The challenge in that is one of passive participation versus a more active and discerning role. Jesus is molding and shaping these chosen few to carry on the ministry and spread the Good News when he is gone. Eventually they will be emboldened to take up the work he has given them but it will come at a great cost and his sacrifice on the cross. How often are we willing to sit back and allow the loudest voice to speak for all of us—regardless as to whether or not it truly reflects what we believe or desire or feel God calling us to do or be?
Love requires a little humility and a whole lot of honesty. It requires us to let go of our need to control things and trust that maybe there is a better way even if we don’t understand it or can’t see it. It requires us being honest with ourselves and our motivations. Instead of attempting to control other people, we let things play out and trust that other people might be able to make decisions and be who they are meant to be. It requires our active participation not a passive aggressive stance in which we allow others to fail or carry our load because we can or even take a stance in which we find it uncomfortable to speak up, especially on behalf of someone else, even if that someone else is Jesus himself.
We are smack dab in the middle of Holy Week and looking dead ahead at the cross. It seems a little more real this year than it has in years past—maybe because we’ve had to give up so much, sacrifice our togetherness so that we might be able to be together again in the future. And yet, in so many ways I have seen true love blossom in this holiest of times. I’ve seen us care for one another, share toilet paper, reach out through Facetime and Zoom, encourage one another by decorating our doors with palm crosses and our windows with teddy bears and tying ribbons around the trees in our front yards. We’ve strewn our palm branches and shouted our “Hosanas!” now it is time to offer our hearts in humble love.
To take on a servant’s heart is to recognize the power and privilege of a life filled with abundance and all the toilet paper one might need and to let go of the need to control and manipulate another person or the circumstances of our life together. Instead of control, love is about embracing the humility to give unabashedly and unequivocally with no other purpose than the glory and improvement of another over and beyond ourselves. Our job is not to be the Frodo’s of this world—the one’s who will bear the burden of salvation. It is to be the Sam—the one who does whatever they can to see that the work of he who saves will be done. That job doesn’t necessarily come with a lot of accolades, awards, or even honorable mentions—but it is the command our Lord Jesus Christ has given us, “you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Amen.
Maundy Thursday Year A: Psalm 78:14-20, 23-25; Exodus 12:1-14; I Corinthians 11:23-32; John 13:11-15
Church of the Ascension – Montgomery, AL
Thursday, April 7, 2020
Rev. Candice B. Frazer