Sunday, April 28, 2013

Jesus Lives—In Our Love!

(A sermon based on John 13:31-35 for the Fifth Sunday of Easter)

The great Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu (6th century BCE) said,

“If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present.”

It is, like most pithy sayings, an oversimplification—some depression and some anxiety can have a biological and chemical basis, for example; but it is also, like many such sayings, packed with truth.

It is also a saying that a Christian can affirm, although probably not without some elaboration.

Here is one necessary elaboration: “If you are at peace you are living in the present because you are living in love.” That is a necessary elaboration because living in love is the necessity if a Christian is going to live a life of peace.

The Apostle Paul famously said, “Now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). For as long as I can remember I have said—and not incorrectly, I think—that love is the greatest of the three because it is the one that will exist all through eternity. We won’t need faith and hope in eternity because we will see and know completely, but, since God is love, we will live in love for all of eternity.

But we need to see that there is more to it than that.

We need faith now because faith can be the remedy for depression. That is especially true for a depression that comes from things that have happened in the past. All of us have hurt ourselves and hurt others through things we have done or have not done; all of us have sinned against God, against others people, and against ourselves. That knowledge can drag us down into depression. But faith—the trust that Jesus did indeed die on the cross for our sins and that we are by God’s grace indeed forgiven—can help to resolve our past so that we can live fully in the present.

We need hope now because hope can be the remedy for anxiety. Anxiety can visit us because we are worried about the future; we are worried about things that haven’t happened but that might happen. Such worries can drag us down into anxiety. But hope—the assurance that because of the resurrection of Jesus our future is in God’s hands—can help to resolve our future so that we can live fully in the present.

So the key to the situation is living in the present. Through the gift of faith we can overcome the paralysis of feeling guilty about the past; through the gift of hope we can overcome the paralysis of feeling anxious about the future. That leaves us living in the present which is, after all, the only place we are and can be. And living fully in the present comes down to living in love that frees us from spiritual and emotional paralysis and sets us free to give ourselves away.

On the last night of his life on earth, Jesus did not cling to his past; while he had nothing to feel guilty about he could have waxed nostalgic about the eternity that he had spent in loving fellowship with his Father and the Holy Spirit but he, in great trust, left his past behind both in reality and in the way he approached life. He also did not think anxiously about the future; while he would pray “Father, if it be your will, let this cup pass from me” he would also pray “Nevertheless, not my will but your will be done.” He, in great hope, trusted his future to his Father both in reality and in the way that he approached life.

And that left him living in the present. He was fully present in the present, loving his disciples and being open and vulnerable with them until the very end.

He laid down his pride for them, washing their feet as if he was a common servant.

Then, finally, he laid down his life for them, dying on the cross as if he was a common criminal.

And he called us to do the same. He called his disciples, including us, to love like he loved, to love by laying down our pride and our lives for each other. When we do so he lives on through and in us. But we can only live such lives by living in love which causes us to be fully present in the present with each other.

As the twentieth century theologian Emil Brunner said, “And to become a loving heart instead of a worried, self-centered heart meant to become ‘present.’ The man who receives Christ in faith receives presence, because God’s love is presence. By agape he now has become capable of being ‘with’ his fellow men.” [Emil Brunner, Faith, Hope and Love (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1956), p. 74. I am indebted to the chapter “Love” for many of my thoughts in this sermon.]

It is so simple and yet so complicated, so easy and yet so difficult.

First, we pay attention to the fact of each other.

Second, we think more of others than we do of ourselves.

Third, we operate from the premise of wanting to give ourselves up rather than of having to do so.

Fourth, we do what we can do.

Fifth, and foremost, we live out the love that is ours because Jesus Christ is present with us. It is only because he is present with us that we can be fully present with each other.

Jesus told his disciples that they could not go where he was going; they were going to have to stay where they were and while they were there they were to love one another.

We’re still here. How will we live? How will we love?

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Jesus Lives—In Our Service!

(A sermon based on John 21:1-19 for the Third Sunday of Easter 2013)

You have likely heard the quote “Failure is not an option.” It’s a nice thought and it would be a good motivator in a time of crisis when all energies need to be focused on finding solutions that will help a person or group work toward a positive outcome.

If you really think about it, though, you have to admit that it doesn’t hold up. Failure is always an option; sometimes it comes despite our best efforts while sometimes it comes because we choose it by our failure to give our best effort.

I like this Chinese proverb better: “Failure is not falling down but refusing to get up.” Sometimes we will not succeed but we don’t truly fail unless we don’t get up and try again. I remember reading about a monk describing life in the monastery to a writer: “We fall down and we get up again. We fall down and we get up again. We fall down and we get up again.”

When it comes to talking about who we are as it compares with who we can be, I find myself in a quandary. As a follower of Christ, as a pastor of the Church, and as a proclaimer of the gospel, I feel like idealism and realism are having a tug of war—and I’m the rope.

I must tell you that we who are growing up into Jesus Christ can be making a lot more progress toward who we are coming to be in Christ than we are willing to believe. I do us a disservice if I do not tell you that we need always to be moving upward; I do not tell you the truth unless I tell you that we all have a long way to go and we can go farther if we desire it. That’s the idealism—we can and should be becoming all that we are meant in Christ to be; we can and should be doing all that we are meant in Christ to do. We walk in newness of life and the Spirit of God is in us; therefore our expectations of ourselves should be high and we cannot excuse ourselves if they are not.

On the other hand, I must tell you that along the way, failure is an option. That is not an excuse; it is a fact. We do fail along the way even if we are doing our best, which we often are not. We will at times not be who we could have been; we will at times not do what we could have done.

Everybody fails. Some of us seem to have the ability to deny it or to justify it so that we don’t have to face up to our fallibility while others of us seem paralyzed by the possibility of failure.

Odd as it may see, though, there are times when our failures can work out for the best. That is some of the best of the good news.

And so we come to Simon Peter.

On the night that Jesus was betrayed, Simon Peter told Jesus that he would lay down his life for him to which Jesus replied, “Will you lay down your life for me? Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times” (John 13:38). While John does not record Peter’s response, both Mark and Matthew tell us that Peter insisted he would do no such thing—and I am sure that he meant it.

And in such sureness can lie the problem. Why? For one thing, if you are sure you won’t fail, you won’t be on your guard against failure. For another thing, if you are sure you won’t fail, you might not quite believe it when you do and try to blame everybody but you for your failure. For a third thing, if you are sure you won’t fail and you happen not to in a particular situation in which failure might have been expected, you just might find yourself tending toward the very non-Christian characteristic of arrogance.

And arrogance is a real problem in the life of a follower of Christ because it makes us real interested in how good we look doing good things; it causes us to become, to use Mark Twain’s memorable phrase, “good in the worst sense of the word.”

This is why I suggest the perhaps shocking possibility that Simon Peter’s failure was in the long run good for him and why our failures can in the long run be good for us. Peter needed to learn—and we need to learn—that despite and maybe even because of our failures we can become more effective servants of the Lord and more effective ministers to people.

So it came to pass that early that morning beside the Sea of Galilee, as Peter stood shivering in his wet clothes beside the fire, Jesus asked him, “Simon, do you love me more than these?” Now, the “these” could have been his fishing implements or they could have been the other disciples. Regardless, the point is that Jesus was asking Peter, who had failed so miserably just a few days before, if he loved Jesus.

How the memory of his failure must have rushed back on Peter as he tried to answer the question without bursting into tears. As we listen in on their conversation, it is helpful to know that different words for “love” are used, namely, agape which means God’s love and philos which indicates a friend’s love [Here I agree with Scott Hoezee, “Third Sunday of Easter, Year C,” in The Lectionary Commentary: Theological Exegesis for Sunday’s Texts—The Third Readings: the Gospels (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001), pp. 600-601]. Jesus initially asked Peter if he loved him with agape love; Peter replied that he loved Jesus with philos love. Jesus told Peter to feed his lambs. Then Jesus asked him a second time if he loved him with agape love and Peter answered again that he loved Jesus with philos love. And Jesus told him to tend his sheep. Finally, Jesus asked Peter if he loved him with philos love and Peter, while saddened that Jesus had asked him a third time (and perhaps that Jesus had moved from using agape to philos), said that Jesus knew he did.

Jesus challenged Peter with a most difficult and challenging question; Peter gave Jesus the best and most honest answer he could. Finally, Jesus met Peter where he was and told him, in effect to do the best he could. The time would come when his philos love would become agape love. Meanwhile, Peter was to serve.
You see, God uses failures, and God may be able to use failures better than God can use anybody else.

This is one of the best parts of the good news about the resurrection.

Yesterday I was listening to Neil Young’s song “Old Man” in which a (then) young man sang to an older man, “Old man, look at my life; I’m a lot like you were” and I realized that I now heard the song from the perspective of the older man. And that’s why the following story means more to me now than it once did.

Dr. Carlyle Marney was one of the great Baptist preachers of the last century. Once, after speaking to some college students, he was asked by one of them to say something about the resurrection of the dead. Marney replied, “I will not discuss the resurrection of the dead with people like you. Look at you all – - – in the prime of life. Never have you known honest-to-God failure, heartburn, impotency, solid defeat, brick walls or mortality. . . . What can you know of a world that makes sense only if Christ is raised?”

Well, lots of us know. And the rest of us will know.

The world only makes sense if Christ is raised. We who have fallen head-first into failure and who have been picked up by Jesus and told to serve anyway know how important that great truth is …

Jesus Lives—In Our Lives!

(A sermon based on John 20:19-31 for the Second Sunday of Easter 2013)

[Note: the Abraham Baldwin College Chamber Singers led us in worship so I offered this brief message.]

Jesus is alive! And it is because Jesus is alive that we are alive! And it is because Jesus is alive and we are alive that we can offer Jesus’ life to other people!

The story in our text is set on Easter Sunday evening; Jesus appeared to his disciples who were huddled behind closed doors. There he gave them some gifts that would be necessary for their successful continuation of Jesus’ ministry.

One gift he gave them was his presence. He came to them and let them know that he was indeed alive; he gave them an experience with him.

Another gift he gave them was his peace. In his greeting “Peace be with you” was an affirmation of the ever-increasing wholeness and well-being that was their because of his life, death, and resurrection.

A third gift he gave them was the Holy Spirit. He conferred that great gift on them so that they would always know the presence and power of God.

A fourth gift he gave them was a commission. He sent them as the Father had sent him to offer hope and life to the lost and hurting.

Jesus has given us all those same gifts. We too are blessed with his presence, his peace, his Spirit, and his commission.

The next Sunday, after Thomas, who had been absent on Easter evening, was given the opportunity by Jesus to view his wounds and then expressed his faith in Jesus, Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” What he meant was that after those who had been eyewitnesses to his resurrection had all died out, subsequent generations would have to believe in him based on the testimony—based on the lives—of those who bore witness to him.

What will they see in us—what do they see in us—that will help them to believe in him? How will they see him in us? They can’t see his presence, his peace, his Spirit, or his commission—although our inward possession of them might sometimes shine through us. What can they see?

They can see his wounds in us. They can see the wounds that we bear for serving and following him. Provided, of course, that we are willing to be wounded for his sake …

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Holy Week Lingers—When We Live

(A sermon based on John 20:1-18 for Easter Sunday 2013)

Most of us have been there. Someone we love has died. The burial has taken place and we are still in that state of shocked numbness. The day after the burial, the first day that our loved one’s body lies in the grave, is a long and dark day. Maybe a lot of our family and friends have dispersed, returning necessarily to the routines of their lives. Or maybe a few are hanging in there with us for one more day, hoping against hope that they can do something to help.

The Saturday that Jesus’ body was in his tomb was such a day. The disciples huddled in hidden rooms, no doubt wondering if they might be next. Jesus’ followers were understandably crushed. As the travelers on the Road to Emmaus told the man who walked with them on Easter Evening, a man who was in fact the resurrected Christ, “we had hoped that he was the one who was to redeem Israel.” Was he just another of those messianic pretenders that came along with great regularity in Israel? Was he just another rabbi whose sense of calling led him to go too far? Maybe none of us know what it is to give yourself over completely to a person or to a cause and then to become disillusioned by the reality. But that was where the disciples may have found themselves.

Maybe they should have seen what was coming. Jesus had certainly given them hints and a couple of times had actually come right out and said it. But I think that we don’t want to be too hard on the disciples. After all, it’s not the kind of thing that you grasp readily. Furthermore, it’s not as if we are all today living the kinds of lives that you would expect someone to live who has met a resurrected Savior and whose life is lived in the light of that resurrection. It ought to make quite a difference, you would think.

So it came to pass that Mary Magdalene, whose life had been transformed by the grace of Jesus, went in what we can imagine to be great sorrow and great grief to visit the tomb of her teacher. It was still dark, John tells us, and in the dark is where Mary was in more ways than one. I imagine it as a quiet morning, the pall of Friday’s tragedy still hanging over the land, the birds trying as hard as they could to pierce the gloom with their songs, the sun stubbornly insisting on shining and thus forcing the world to go on. Through the darkness she trudged, her head held down. Lifting her eyes as she arrived at the tomb, she saw something she had not expected to see—the stone had been rolled away.

If you’ll allow me a little imagination here, I see heaven being all abuzz as it had been ever since it had happened. Heaven had seen God do some amazing things over the years but never had heaven seen anything like this. Never had the power and the grace and the love of God flowed out in such excess; never had there been such rejoicing and such praising and such singing, not even when Abraham and Moses and David had come home. They had heard Satan’s screams claiming that it was unfair; that had been fun. All that remained now was the human reaction. People were so unpredictable. As Mary Magdalene arrived at the tomb, I can imagine Michael nudging Gabriel in the angelic equivalent of his ribs and saying the angelic equivalent of, “Wait for it.”

We don’t know what Mary’s immediate reaction was. Did she cry out? Did she have to catch her breath? This much we do know. Things started to happen. She ran to tell, rushing to find Peter and the Beloved Disciple to give them the only report that made sense to her: “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Blood was starting to pump again. Peter and the Beloved Disciple got into a foot race to the tomb, the other disciple arriving first and looking in but not entering, Peter arriving second but went into the tomb first. The Beloved Disciple “believed,” we are told, so something was beginning to dawn on him. Yet, shockingly (at least I am shocked), “the disciples returned to their homes” (v. 10). Maybe they needed to contemplate. Maybe they were still confused. But they wouldn’t stay at home for long.

Mary, on the other hand, remained at the tomb, weeping. She continued to grieve over what she presumed to be the fact that Jesus’ body had been taken. Mary’s a good role model for us here. Utterly confused but absolutely devoted, she hung in there and kept asking her question. She asked the angels whom she apparently didn’t recognize as angels. She asked Jesus whom she clearly didn’t recognize as Jesus; she thought he was the gardener. All she wanted to know was where the body of her Lord had been taken. Finally, when Jesus called her by name, she realized that his body had been taken right out of the jaws of death and right out of the grip of despair and right out of the clutches of defeat. And in that incredible moment when Jesus called her by name and she called him by name, thereby establishing the first personal relationship between the risen Lord and a believer, everything changed. For Jesus’ disciples, despair would give way to hope, fear would give way to courage, failure would give way to restoration, and misunderstanding would give way to clarity.

Why? Because death had given way to life. Because when Jesus rose from the dead and entered into a personal relationship with his disciples as the resurrected Lord his life became available to them in a new way. Before long we’ll arrive at the Day of Pentecost and we’ll see again the empowerment of the church by the Holy Spirit, an empowerment that is still ours today. When Jesus rose from the dead that Sunday morning, in a very real way his disciples rose from the dead, too. Their dead faith rose, their dead hopes rose, their dead dreams rose—and they had risen to a new and better life because now they understood that Jesus was in fact the Messiah through whom God’s great victory had been won.

I’m not much on trying to argue with someone over the reality of the resurrection. I believe with all my heart that I have a personal relationship with the risen Lord and that by grace through faith he is present in my life and that he will never leave me or forsake me. Still, if I were looking for something with which to prove the resurrection of Christ, I would point to the disciples. What could have possibly transformed that rag-tag, scared, clueless, hopelessly inconsistent gang of misfits into a force that literally, in just a few decades and along with Paul and others, spread their faith across the known world? What could have changed those disciples who fled when Jesus was arrested into people who would gladly give their lives in service to their Lord? Nothing explains it like the resurrection of Christ. Nothing else could have changed them so and given them such singleness of vision and such clarity of purpose. Nothing else could have given them such a life.

Do you know the resurrected Lord today? He is the life that you need. You can live as God intends for you to live; in Christ God will work to make you everything that God intends for you to be. In Christ God will forgive you of your sins, set you down right in the middle of eternal life, and give you comfort and strength beyond your wildest imagination. But he will also give you a life of purpose. He will give you the willingness and the desire and the gifts to be what he needs you to be in his kingdom. If you do know the Lord, if you are a believer, then I want you to ask yourself these questions. Are you really living? Are you being open to all that God wants you to be and do?

When Jesus rose from the dead he brought life to his followers, too. Holy Week lingers when we live …

Monday, April 1, 2013

Holy Week Lingers—When We Suffer

(A sermon based on John 18:1-19:42 for Good Friday 2013)

Our Lord suffered terribly on Good Friday. He suffered physically—the flogging, the crown of thorns, the crucifixion. He suffered emotionally—betrayed by one of his disciples, denied three times by one of his closest disciples, abandoned by all of them. He suffered spiritually, feeling abandoned by his own Father.

The Old Testament prophet reminds us, “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5 KJV). In Jesus’ suffering and death we find our healing. We are healed by his stripes in so many wonderful ways. First, our sins are forgiven. Second, we are able to enter into a full and free relationship with God. Third, our guilt is taken away. Fourth, we don’t have to be afraid of death. Fifth, we are enabled to live as disciples whose obedience to God is always growing and whose personal relationships are always deepening. The list could go on and on.

But there is one thing that could not appear on the list. We cannot say that as a result of Jesus’ death on the cross we will no longer suffer. For our stripes to be healed means that our sins are forgiven. As long as we are in this world, though, we will be in a fallen world and so there will always be pain and suffering that comes along unbidden and certainly unwelcome. Sin and evil and their consequences are still present in our environment and so things like illness and injury and tragedies and stresses will still come our way, and please understand that I mean that in the loosest sense possible. I am not saying that every bad thing is the direct result of some sin we or someone else has committed; I’m just saying in the broad sense sin’s consequences do touch us.

Still, Holy Week lingers when we suffer. It lingers because we can know the fact of the presence of God in our suffering. William Placher has said that because of the cross, “nothing that can happen to us—no pain, no humiliation, no journey into a far country or even into the valley of the shadow of death—can ‘separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Rom. 8:39). The cross shows that in Christ God is with us, no matter what” [William C. Placher, Jesus the Savior (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2001), pp. 128-129]. On this side of heaven we will never fully understand how our suffering can be transformed into something that serves God’s purpose—but it can; just as surely as the death of Christ transformed an ugly and brutal thing into the most powerful statement of God’s love, it can. But we live in hope and trust that, as the old song puts it, “We’ll understand it better by and by.”

Holy Week lingers when we suffer in the ways that all people suffer if we remember a few facts. First, God loves us. Second, God is with us. Third, suffering never has the last word in a Christian’s life. Fourth, suffering (or better put, the way we deal with our suffering) can give us an opportunity to display our Christian faith.

But there is another way that suffering can come to the Christian that we don’t like to talk about (at least I don’t) because it makes us uncomfortable. As Walter Brueggemann put it, “The cross places suffering at the heart of God’s character and at the heart of meaningful, faithful human life…” [Walter Brueggemann, “Editor’s Foreword,” Charles B. Cousar, A Theology of the Cross (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990), viii, cited by Placher, p. 111]. There is a sense in which suffering is, while never to be sought after, nevertheless something to be embraced. This kind of suffering comes when we suffer for doing right; it comes when we suffer for bearing real witness to who Jesus is; it comes when we suffer for truly displaying the heart of God in the midst of a world that can’t take it. Jesus died on the cross but we also have to take up our crosses and follow him. Paul talked about one being resurrected provided that he had suffered with Christ. Jesus assured his disciples that if the world had rejected him it surely would reject them, and that possibility is multiplied by many times if we not only bear his name but bear his heart and his spirit and his teachings.

Such thinking properly understood will not lead to inappropriate martyr complexes; not all who think they are suffering for doing right in fact are. Still, it’s worth pondering on this ironically named “Good” Friday. Jesus was the most loving, most accepting, most compassionate, most forgiving, most peaceful, most graceful (by which I mean “full of grace”) person who ever lived.

His society couldn’t tolerate it.

Our society can’t either.

So think about it: what will happen if we live forgiveness in a world that believes in revenge? What will happen if we live acceptance in a world that promotes rejection? What will happen if we live compassion in a world that promotes selfishness? What will happen if we live peace in a world that promotes war? What will happen if we live grace in a world that promotes judgment? What will happen is that suffering will come. But when that kind of suffering comes, Holy Week is lingering.

Holy Week Lingers—When We Love

(A sermon based on John 13:1-7, 31b-35 for Maundy Thursday 2013)

I’ve never been to a foot washing service. I think I’d like to. Of course, I’d be like those women I’ve heard about who clean their house before the cleaning lady gets there—I’d have my feet so clean before I went to the service that they’d hardly need washing. On the Thursday night that he was betrayed, the Synoptic Gospels tell us, Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper. Only John tells us that Jesus did something else on that night—he washed the disciples’ feet. Tonight we will observe the Lord’s Supper. We won’t wash feet. I wonder why.

We observe the Lord’s Supper because it reminds us of the love that Jesus showed for us in giving his life on the cross. “Do this in remembrance of me,” Jesus said, and Paul added that in so doing we remember the Lord’s death until he comes. When we remember the Lord’s death we are surely remembering his love. He died to show us his love but also to cause his kind of love—totally selfless, redemptive, sacrificial love—to be activated in the lives of his followers.

After he had washed the disciples’ feet Jesus said to them, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.” Now, those words aren’t so hard to hear, are they? If that’s all there is to the new commandment, that we love one another, that’s not so difficult—especially if we are allowed to define the term. We all too often define love in terms of feelings. So we might try to convince ourselves that we are keeping this commandment so long as we have good feelings toward someone or at least don’t have bad feelings toward someone. Jesus washed his disciples’ feet in order to teach them the truth about the love of which he was speaking. He furthermore left no doubt as to the actual difficulty of fulfilling his new commandment that we love one another when he said, “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” And he went on to make a statement that revealed just how much was at stake in this matter: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

How much did Jesus love his disciples? He loved them enough to die for them. So when you get right down to it the truth we need to get hold of is that if we love each other like Jesus loves us we will die for one another in the literal sense. The truth is, however, that very seldom is such an extreme sacrifice required of us. We should be willing, though. The story is told of a little girl who was very ill and who needed a blood transfusion. The closest match in blood type was with her brother, who was a couple of years older than she. The doctor and the parents carefully explained to the boy what was needed. They told him that his little sister was very sick and, that unless he gave her his blood, she would almost surely die. They made it clear, though, that the decision was his. He thought for a few moments and then said he would do it. Trying hard to be brave, he watched as the team prepared his sister for the transfusion and as the process began of drawing blood from him. After a few moments he turned his eyes to his parents and asked, “When will it happen?” “When will what happen?” they asked. “When will I die?” he replied. He had misunderstood, but what a glorious misunderstanding. He thought that for his sister to live he would have to die and that was the choice he made. We are to love each other that much.

That ultimate sacrifice will likely never have to be made by one of us on behalf of another. Jesus’ washing of his disciples’ feet was an object lesson for us in how to give our lives away for each other on a daily basis. Perhaps the main thing that has to be sacrificed if we are going to love each other as Jesus loved us is our pride. After washing their feet, Jesus said, “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. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them” (vv. 14-16).

Now, I’m not too concerned with foot washing per se but rather with the kind of mindset and lifestyle that are demonstrated in foot washing. It is that way of thinking and that way of living that are to be pursued by disciples. As we die daily to self pride is one of the things that has to be set aside. Loving each other, you see, means humbling ourselves before each other. It means being willing to get down into the very bowels of life with each other. It means regarding everyone else as more important than ourselves. It means doing whatever we can do to help out and to help up. It means to be downright foolish in the ways we give ourselves to each other. How could we possibly think that we’re too good to serve someone when on that Thursday night so long ago the Son of God, the Savior of the world, the King of Kings, knelt before his rag-tag band of frail followers—even the one who would deny and the one who would betray him—and washed their feet?

The Lord’s Supper should bring such truths to our minds as well. “This do in remembrance of me,” we will say, but what are we remembering? We are remembering our Lord who was such a servant that he willingly went to the cross. We are remembering our Savior who loved us so much that he voluntarily died for us. How do we best remember him? We best remember him by truly being his followers—by loving each other like he loved us and by serving each other like he served his disciples.