Monday, April 19, 2010

“Finding Ourselves!” (John 13:1-5).

S-1180 M.T./3C 4/01/2010 Hymns: (O) #445; (S) words to the tune of 423; L.S. #159; #428; LSB #550

Texts: Exodus 12:1-14; Philippians 2:5-11; Luke 23:1-56

Theme: Finding Ourselves!” (John 13:1-5).

Question: “How well do you fit with others?” (7th in sermon series of Life Together).


In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. The text for our M.T. is from the Gospel Lesson: “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside His outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around His waist. Then He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around Him.” (John 13:1-5).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

People of God, chosen and beloved, sometimes you find yourself in a place where it becomes clear how God wants you to live your life. One such place for me was the Mcgreevy Clinic in Sioux Falls. It was in the early 80’s and I was working with my brothers in the painting business. As painters working on this clinic we were part of many laborers. All the workers would take their breaks and lunches together. One man in particular got under my nerves. Listening to this Plummer made my ears hurt at his vulgar language. Day after day he would speak, loudly and coarsely about everything. Listening to his colorful language bothered me a lot especially when he would use God’s name in vain.

I prayed to the Lord to give me strength to witness to this man about the Savior’s love displayed on the cross. I was looking for the perfect opportunity. I prayed for the right moment, using the right words. But I was afraid. What will the others say? How will they react to what I would share with them?

The opportunity came one day. And I thought, “Lord, this is it, isn’t it! This is the time to talk about You, isn’t it!” I was a little worried, my hands began to sweat, I felt a lump in my throat if all he would hear as I began my witness was Blah-Blah-Christian-Blah-Blah. But I knew I needed to speak and speak well. I began, “May I ask you a question?”Sure was his response!” I continued, “Are you a Christian?” “Of course!” was his answer. “Do you speak like this at home to your wife and children?”Why no!” was his response. Then I asked, “Then, you are able to control your tongue so that you don’t have to use such foul language every time you speak.”I suppose I could,” I told him as Christians we should always attempt to honor God. I spoke of the Savior’s love and His death on the cross and what He accomplished for us. How our lives should reflect that we are new creatures to bring glory and honor to His holy name. If we are Christians how can we use His name so thoughtlessly and carelessly? Now, I’m not sure what impact, if any, my words had on this plumber. But it was an affirmation in my life that I had done the right thing for the Lord.

Maybe you’ve tried to share your faith and got a roll of the eyes, a polite suffering through your witness, or just outright rejection. You thought all the other person could hear was Blah-Blah-Christian-Blah-Blah. But maybe, like my experience at the work place, it went pretty well, at least far better than you imagined it would. And maybe that experience helped you to understand more clearly that God wants you to stand for Him, and He will help you to do that. That caring conversation helped you discover more about yourself and your place in this world.

Today is Maundy Thursday. Maundy Thursday is the day Christ instituted the Lord’s Supper and told this is New Command for us. Maundy Thursday helps us discover more about how God wants us to live our lives.

John chapter 13 begins, “It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for Him to leave this world and go to the Father.” In other words, Jesus knew His death was near, very near…the next day. What would you do if you knew that you would die tomorrow? PAUSE. This is what Jesus did: John writes, “Having loved His own who were in the world, He now showed them the full extent of His love. The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under His power, and that He had come from God and was returning to God; so He got up from the meal, took off His outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around His waist. After that He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around Him.”

That Maundy Thursday the first disciples found themselves served by the Son of God. Jesus knew that He was going to die tomorrow and what did He do? He showed His love by the menial service of washing the disciples’ feet. But Peter balked. “It was as if Peter says: “I’m in charge here! I’ll pick and choose how I relate to you, Jesus!” We might say that Peter was an individualist, a good-hearted individualist, but still someone who wanted his will, not God’s, to be done. Jesus challenged Peter’s individual judgment. Tonight Jesus challenges you and me: Do you choose how you will relate to Me? And if you think you can relate to Me in any old way you choose, is that how you’ll relate to one another?

This is the most challenging time of this evening’s sermon. Listen to the Bible. Jesus “came to Simon Peter, who said to Him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus replied, ‘You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’No,’ said Peter, ‘you shall never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no part with Me.’”

This was evident to me this past Tuesday as few of us traveled to the Jehovah’s Kingdom Hall to listen to them express what benefit is there in Jesus’ death. It is interesting to note the use of words just like us but mean something totally different. They want Christ on their own terms. He is only a sacrifice, but not God. They can pick and choose what portion of Scripture applies to their individual person. Oh, they are polite, they dress well, but their hearts are far from the crucified One. Did you know that they observe and commemorate His death, but not His resurrection? How absurd that is. These people want to do only what they want to do but not adhere to the whole counsel of God. In my conversation with them, I asked, “Why do you observe His death, but not His resurrection?” There response was, “He didn’t tell us observe His resurrection but His death!” How tragic. I shared with them the words of the apostle Paul from the great Resurrection chapter “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14). Without the resurrection we have nothing. I further added. What you are doing in your individual practice is like a woman who is pregnant but doesn’t give birth. What benefit is there in this pregnancy? NOTHING! We want to be individualistic in our approach to Christ. But Jesus goes against this do-your-own-thing individualism. “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

Our life together as a church is not a voluntary association of independent individuals. It’s not for us to decide how we relate to Jesus or to each other. Jesus says, “You did not choose Me but I chose you” (John 15:16). Peter backed right off. “‘Then, Lord, not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!’ Jesus answered, ‘A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean.’” By washing their feet Jesus was giving the disciples a sign. They were cleansed…we are cleansed…by His coming, by His passion, by His death for us, by His resurrection and going back to the Father, and by the cleansing work of His Holy Spirit in our lives. Your Baptism cleansed you. No one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit,” says Jesus (John 3:5). This Word you are hearing cleanses you. My words are spirit and they are life,” says Jesus (John 6:63). The Meal we shall shortly receive, the Supper of our Lord, is our cleansing. “I Am the bread of life. He who comes to Me will never go hungry, and he who believes in Me will never be thirsty,” says Jesus (John 6:35).

Maundy Thursday is where God works in our hearts and find us to be used for Him. What God does this evening is show us again who we are. Our sitting together to hear Jesus’ Words, our gathering at His table, is a visible sign that our life together is not autonomous individuals who voluntarily came to church, but we are made one body, washed by our servant Savior, brought together by Him and the Holy Spirit.

Social commentator Robert Bellah wrote, “We find ourselves not independently of other people and institutions but through them. We never get to the bottom of ourselves on our own. We discover who we are face to face and side by side with others in work, love, and learning” (in Stanley Grenz and John Franke, Beyond Foundationalism [Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2001], 203).

Listen again to this from John 13 -- “When [Jesus] had finished washing their feet, He put on His clothes and returned to His place. ‘Do you understand what I have done for you?’ He asked them. ‘You call Me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I Am. Now that I, Your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.’”

Let me close by going back to that much younger Nabil Nour. Remember how I was worried that all the workers could hear was “Blah-Blah-Christian-Blah-Blah.” But that wasn’t the way they reacted. They were pretty respectful. Perhaps they knew that I cared. The experience taught me that God is awesome; that He’s at work in the details of life. Maybe the conversation changed me more than the others, because it forced me to acknowledge that God is in loving control and I’m not; but always to be open to be used by Him to serve others.

The earliest Christians gained a reputation for loving and serving one another. This Maundy Thursday God finds us. We are the people who have been washed and loved. He even finds us so that we may love and serve others in His name and for His glory. Amen.

Now the peace…


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