Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. John 13:1-17, 31b-35 We don’t often talk about Peter’s reluctance to Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. It was a menial task usually left to servants, that is of course assuming that you had servants. Jesus’ act makes clear that this is exactly who we are – servants to one another. A friend of mine wanted to do something for me and I told her it wasn’t necessary believing that it might be a burden for her. She said something I will never forget; “Why would you deny me the opportunity to do what God has called me to do?” Who was I to determine the measure of her gift to me? No act is too small to give and no spirit is too great to receive. Jesus the perfecter of our faith has set the pathway. To lead is to serve and to serve is to lead.
You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you… I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’ John 13:1-17, 31-35
‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we (Pharisees) know? John 6:41-51 Just the other day I said after introducing myself I said to someone that they probably wouldn’t remember my name. She responded, “I’ll remember, I have a best friend by that name.” Today’s reading caused me to realize we often make assumptions about one another based on what we see and what we perceive to know. Admittedly, I am the one who forgets names. Oddly enough, I won’t forget her name because of the same reason. I too have a best friend (since middle school) that has her name. A relationship with God transcends what we think we know of one another because only God fully knows each of us. It is much easier to accept what you perceive to know than to seek out what you don’t know. However, if we accept that nothing is fully known except by God then we should never stop seeking to know one another rather than simply accepting what we think we know or that other people will accept what we perceive to know.
…real circumcision is a matter of the heart—it is spiritual and not literal. Such a person receives praise not from others but from God. Romans 2:25-3:18 I’d worn this combination before, a cute little cross-body bag and a matching scarf. It never failed to get at least one compliment except on this one particular day. I’d been in a store for a little while when a salesperson approached and asked if I needed any assistance. I thanked her and politely stated that I was slowly making my way to the cash register. All the while I noticed that she was alternately looking at my scarf and my bag but she never said a word. Clearly she noticed my fashion statement. How dare she not say anything when clearly I was expecting her to say something – nice! By the time I reached my car I’d realized my vanity. No doubt, we all want people to recognize something about us. Yet when it doesn’t come a whole flood of emotions surfaces to the forefront of our thoughts. Some of these emotions can be difficult to shake off and subsequently overwhelm us into actions we may regret, affecting our selves or some one else. A physical circumcision involves one layer of skin. When we begin the spiritual journey and accept Christ as our savior, the delicate process of circumcision involves multiple layers, some of which will take time to peel away. But God gives us every opportunity to peel back every layer each time we give praise instead of wondering why we aren’t receiving it or looking for it from other people. What God praises has a far greater reward than praise from any one person.
Circumcise, then, the foreskin of your heart, and do not be stubborn any longer. Deuteronomy 10:16-18
O come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Psalm 95
Give the king your justice, O God and your righteousness to a king’s son. Psalm 72 What we choose to hand down to upcoming generations is for us to consider. In the midst of all his troubles, setbacks and mishaps, King David chose righteousness. This encourages us because it shows us that doing what is right has little to do with perfection. Rather returning to God through faith has its reward. No one knows the number of days God gives. Whether the the days are many or few, people will remember how you made them feel. God has the same memory.
Return, O faithless children,…I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. Jeremiah 3:6-18
“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And he’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the promised land . . . So I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man.”
Martin Luther King, Jr., “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop”
…forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead… Philippians 3:13-21 Perhaps, at the time, nobody had more to forget than Paul. Still God used Paul’s passion for the law to glorify His name. Paul’s testimony is one to which we can all cling and be assured that God can and will use us if we just open our hearts to God’s commandments. Press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. Know that as we journey on in our relationships, people can be quite complicated, but God’s love, even in its simplicity is greater than the complications.
Turtledoves are known to mate for life. Often used as symbols of devoted love, of equal significance is the importance of relationships, which can only be achieved when two or more come together. Eventually, peace as the absence of chaos gives way to the relationships we have with one another. They are not always perfect, yet amidst this imperfectness is God’s perfect relationship of love with each of us. According to the Law, two turtledoves were offered as sacrifice for the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:24). I am grateful for that same emblem of love and faithfulness, which continues to be offered and renewed through the gift of the birth of our Lord and Savior everyday.
“Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” ...‘Go and do likewise.’ Luke 10:25-37 The lawyer in this passage of Luke thought he was being rather smart by asking Jesus “Who is my neighbor?” However, his question reveals that what he was asking, is about who is to be the neighbor that he should love. It’s one of those kinds of questions that has the potential to separate and divide the haves and have-nots, the righteous and sinners; if we allow our sense of who we are, to be defined by the world’s standards rather than by God. I like the way Jesus addresses the question with a question after first telling a parable about four men. Jesus challenges the lawyer to identify himself in the parable. Of course the lawyer would not see himself beaten at the side of the road. How many of us would? He could however see himself as the Priest or the Levite. That is until he realizes that both in the story show more folly than compassion as would be expected from a Priest or Levite. At the very least, Jesus’ question briefly forces the lawyer to identify with the Samaritan (considered to be “unclean”). The parable helps the lawyer and us to understand simply, that the one who acts is the neighbor. At all times, each of us is to be the neighbor because in Christ it’s who we are. A scripture from Ecclesiastes 10:1-18 …folly is set in many high places, and the rich sit in a low place, really begins to take shape in times of need. We don’t always have the luxury of determining who will help us. Perhaps one day we may find our selves “fallen at the hands of robbers.” Which of the three would we want to pass by? Is it not the one who acts on our behalf?
Matthew 7:1-2 “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgement you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.”
‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Mark 10:17-31
I remember the first time I met Maya Angelou. I don’t remember the exact question I asked her but it was something along the lines of “What must I do?” However, what I clearly remember was her answer “read.” I have to say at the time I was a bit perplexed on one hand and disappointed on the other. “Read what?” Why hadn’t I asked her something else? Maybe she would have given me something I could use. Today of course I read all the time but thirty plus years ago I only read out of necessity. It’s no wonder I was perplexed. Consequently, for some time I dismissed the advice of someone I still admire today. The old statement about being careful of what you ask for is very important in today’s gospel message. You’re not always going to like the answer that you get, particularly when the answer requires you to do something you don’t really want to do, regardless of how simple or complex. So, you go about finding other solutions to your quest, never fully fulfilling your desire.
The man in the gospel reading called Jesus “Good Teacher.” So we can assume that he valued Jesus’ authority. However, when he was advised to sell everything he had, he was left perplexed and discerning his true desire for eternal life. Honestly for me, asking us today to sell everything we have seems drastic and extreme. This is one of several events where Jesus advises drastic actions, including cutting off body parts (Matt. 5:30) and leaving the dead to bury the dead (Matt. 8:20). But I really believe Christ makes the point that no obstacle tangible or intangible should come between our desires to be in relationship with God. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence (Eph. 3:12). If we are bold enough to ask the question, we must be bold enough to accept the answer that challenges our commitment to God’s will. “Follow me.” Sometimes that means we have to let some things go completely. When we do, God’s graciousness rewards us a hundredfold in this life. Yet with the persecutions we will have to endure, the greater reward is eternal life, that being the assurance of God’s presence with us today and the life to come.
Hebrews 4:12-16 Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Video – Let The Walls Fall – Remember those walls I built. Well, baby there tumbling down. They didn’t even put up a fight. The didn’t even make a sound (Halo – Beyonce). Perhaps it sounds crazy, but the first time I listened to this song, I immediately thought of my relationship with God. I realize that this probably was not Beyonce’s intention (or perhaps it was) and yet it took me to a place of thankfulness and praise for the presence of Christ in my life as the walls were in fact tumbling down without my knowing. It happens one day when you stop to evaluate where you are in life and realize that what you deemed as unsuccessful wasn’t failure at all but a learning experience for growth. Learning to see the face of God in our relationships often requires some difficult experiences. We each have a “wall” or two in our own lives that are seemingly there to protect us when in fact they were meant to be broken down. It is then that we are able to see the glory that has been waiting for us all along, the halo that is in the one and only perfect loving relationship that God has with us. Let the walls fall, I’m putting Christ first!
Ephesians 2:14-20 For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.
2 Corinthians 10:3-5 Indeed, we live as human beings, but we do not wage war according to human standards; for the weapons of our warfare are not merely human, but they have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ.
There is a really good story that comes out of WWII Poland, about a man who was well known for his care and compassion for others and who was deeply loved because of his radical hospitality to villagers and strangers. When the man died, the villagers prepared his body for burial and proceeded to the village church where they asked the Priest to perform the burial service and to bury the man in the church cemetery. The priest, who also knew and loved the man, agreed to conduct the funeral service – but despite many pleas from the villagers, he could not bury the man inside the hallowed ground of the church cemetery because he was not baptized.
Insisting that the rules of the faith were clear and could be not be broken, the priest came up with what he thought was a compromise. He would bury him on church land but just beyond the fenced consecrated grounds of the cemetery. During the night after the grave had been filled and the stone placed, the fence that surrounded the cemetery had been moved by some of the villagers – so that it now took in the grave in which the man had been buried.
We have to be very careful that we don’t build the kind of house that David wanted to build based on the self-perceived elevation of his own glory, or the kind of house that the physical church in this small village became. I believe that God did not intend for his presence to be forever ruled by “walls” but rather guided by the heart. The house that God wants us to build is our relationship with him, so that others may see and have access to this household of faith through his son Jesus Christ, the cornerstone of God’s covenant of promises and faithfulness. Just as the villagers expanded the fence, which enclosed hallowed ground to include the grave of the man whom they loved – so God, through Christ, expands the boundaries to include those who believe in him. We now are the dwelling place for God’s presence, a house without walls, not a house built to divide, judge or exclude, but a house which reconciles us to God and to one another.
2 Samuel 7:1-14a I will raise up your offspring after you,… and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.
Psalm 89:20-37 I will not break my covenant, nor change what has gone out of my lips. His line shall endure forever…It shall stand fast for evermore…
Ephesians 2:111-22 …remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel…But now in Christ Jesus …have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall…