A Lutheran Says What?

Sermons and random thoughts on God, the world and the intersection of the two

Distinguished Love Maundy Thursday Year A April 9, 2020

This sermon was preached on April 9, 2020 at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Holladay, UT. It can be views on Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church SLC YouTube Channel. Click the link here. Please subscribe to our channel to catch all the latest worship services and children’s worship.
The texts were:
Psalm 116: 1-2, 12-19
John 13: 1-17, 31b-35

How do people know I am a disciple of Jesus? Do people know that I am a disciple of Jesus? Do people know that we are disciples of Jesus together? When Jesus states with confidence in John 13: 35 that people will know that we are Jesus’ disciples by how we love one another, I always pause a bit. I mean, I want people to know that I strive to follow Jesus, and I want to show love but there is always that little niggle in the back of my brain that says “hmmmm but is that true?” It all seems so good and easy, you know? All I have to do is show love! Ok, well I can do that. Until…it gets complicated. What does love look like? Does it look like me making everyone happy all the time? Does it mean giving away all my time and money to a charity? Does it mean being nice all the time?

I think that Jesus understands that this is not easy for us. Jesus knows that we are very tactile, literally hands on kind of people. Jesus came to be with us to show us love, true love from God. Love that is more than nice gestures, love that is more than nice words, love that well, is more than nice. Jesus in the gospels shows us love that is beyond sentimentality and niceness. Jesus is often neither of those things. Jesus shows us love that set him apart from everyone else, God’s love that is inclusive of all people and yet is very distinguishing.

Jesus’ love challenged the status quo, such as healing the man born blind on the sabbath. Jesus’ love made people uncomfortable such as Nicodemus. Jesus’ love broke social norms such as talking to a Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus’ love called a behavior what it was, such as Judas’ betrayal. Jesus’ love stooped low to wash feet. Jesus’ love stood up to power and privilege as before Pilate. Jesus’ love hung in torture, suffering and died on a cross. Jesus’ love did what needed to be done not for his own comfort, happiness, privilege, or to be nice, but for the compassion, vitality, wholeness, solidarity and fullness of life for us-all of us. Jesus’ love was serious, tenacious and fierce.

Jesus says that this is the kind of love that will distinguish his disciples, love that holds on, love that is a sacrament-a command that sets God’s people apart so that all people know God’s love. In John’s gospel text, we experience a sacramental meal shaped with deep meaning, seriousness and importance, not for the words, not for the specific food offered, but for the actions. The actions of life-giving love. Jesus washed feet as a servant, but he used his hands with his heart, to show God’s humility, God’s inclusion and God’s mercy to transform small acts into great love. The disciples that were receivers of this love are now to be bearers of this love to the world.

This is the sacrament we celebrate tonight-life-giving, communal love. Jesus commands that our actions distinguish us from the rest of the world, for the sake of God’s transforming love for the world. Distinguishing love that calls us to set aside our own wants and preferences to care for our neighbor. Distinguishing love that says stay home for that sake of those who can’t. Distinguishing love that does what needs to be done for our siblings who are in need of someone standing up and speaking out with them. Distinguishing love that sees the harm from lack of health care and acts to relieve suffering. Distinguishing love that cries out for living wages for families to have housing and food. Distinguishing love that lifts our hands in protest for those not granted equal rights based on skin color, whom they love or where they are from. Distinguishing love that stoops down so that others can know their value. People may not call us nice for this love but we will be called disciples of Jesus, followers of the one who loved to the end, who is with us to the end and out of our ends brings God’s new beginnings of sacrificial love and new life.