The Rev. Jennifer L. Adams – Maundy Thursday 2013 – John 13:1-17, 31b-35
Jesus said, “I give you as a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” Which is really what this week is all about. Floating all around the Last Supper, the Foot Washing, the Crucifixion, the remembrance of the story of salvation and the cries of Alleluia!, tucked inside of so many pieces of this story there are hundreds of theological questions for us to be asking. There are themes to let settle into our hearts and there are rituals that bring these stories home to us. But the bottom line is clear and the tone has been set tonight in the words of Jesus to his disciples. This is about love – all of it is. Jesus loved us. And we’re supposed to love one another. We’ve been commanded to love one another.
And not only that but Jesus also said that it’s our loving that will tell the world that we are His disciples. Catch that? It’s not that we attend church that will identify us as such, although I’m all for it. It’s not that we fit into an exact set of beliefs, although believing is part of what we’re about here. It is simply and fundamentally that here in this place and beyond this place too, they will know that we are disciples by the love that we do. And so tonight is an opportunity to remind ourselves that that’s what matters most.
And I have good news for you. I see you loving one another all the time.
When you unload 5000lbs of food and distribute it to hungry people; when you welcome hundreds of guests, feed them, offer them resources, read to their kids, give out toilet paper and laundry detergent; when you welcome strangers into a place where grace is the rule – then you are doing love.
When you teach Sunday School, lead youth group or are youth group to each other. When you acolyte and help us pray. When you bake bread, set altars and prepare our worship space. When you visit shut-ins or companion people who need you; when you take communion to nursing homes and hospital rooms, in all of those things you are doing love.
When you encourage one another on muddy paths through a foreign country continually in search of the Pilgrims Way with only three miles left to go all the time, you are doing love! When you gather in Bible Study or sing us into prayer. When you mentor families transitioning out of homeless; when you give them shelter, celebrate their successes, comfort them through challenges and then prepare the Grace homes for more families to begin again, you are doing love!
When you sit together in discernment regarding vision or vocation or vestry you are doing love. When you stand up for the rights of those who need you to stand with them; when you make room here and in the larger community for all kinds of people and families and neighbors; when you care for the infants and toddlers of Grace, you are doing love.
When you baptize into the Household of God, pass the peace, share the bread and cup and become Body for the world, you are doing love.
So the gig is up, you Episcopalians who might squirm at the thought of being a truly obedient people of faith! You are actually following the commandment of Christ in this place, not perfectly by any means, but faithfully. Hah! We are doing love here together as disciples of Jesus.
And maybe that in itself is one of the essential miracles of the Holy Week story. When we do love, a We is born – and there is something very holy about that. Through the washing, the serving, and the eating of this holy meal; in our presence at the cross, our witness at the empty tomb, and through our cries of “Alleluia!” a new community comes into being – We are born and reborn over and over again. And all that we do in this place gains life and strength in that rebirth.
And so I challenge you this Holy Week and the weeks that follow to look around this place and see one another and yourselves as the disciples that you are. Approach what you do here and what you do beyond here, approach your various ministries as acts of love. These aren’t just jobs to get done. This is all holy work of a holy people, a people who have been commanded to see love as the only way, the most important truth, and the essence of new life.