April 8, 2009 Maundy Thursday
Scripture: John 13:1-17, 31-35
Sermon Title: “Resplendent Love”
Rev. George N. Miller
A few weeks ago we introduced a new word: resplendent, meaning to shine brightly from within. To be resplendent is the opposite of being in darkness. And yet darkness it what we seem to be in.
As a nation, these have been dark times. Many forces are trying to extinguish the light we have. Not just one war, but two. An economy that is either in recession or depression, depending on who you talk too.
Many have lost their jobs, hours cut, paychecks slashed. Unemployment sky high. Hopes real low. Everyone just trying to get by.
But this isn’t the first time. Nor will it be the last. For every culture faces a challenge to the light they carry. Will they continue or will their light be put out forever?
The earliest Christians dealt with this reality on a daily basis. For centuries many of them lived in poverty and persecution. While their cities were being attacked, while they were being taxed for all they had, they had various options.
One option was to cease existing. The other was to find some way, some how, to be resplendent.
Thankfully, for their sake and for ours, resplendency is what they chose. They held onto the Good News of the Easter Story and recalled not only what Jesus said, but what he demonstrated: “Love one another.”
Love was the mark of the very first Christians. And love was not merely a sentiment: it was an action. After all, love is a verb.
No matter how poor they were, no matter how much they were persecuted, our religious ancestors were known for opening their homes to anyone who was in need.
As one ancient writer stated “See how these Christians love one another.”
We see this in tonight’s reading. It is night time. Darkness has covered the land. Jesus is gathered with the disciples to share their last meal. The hour has come. Jesus will betrayed, arrested, and nailed to a cross.
This is Jesus’ last day alive. And what does he have to show for it? He has no job. No wife or kids. He has no house, furniture or belongings.
As far as we know, all he has in this world, is the clothes he is wearing.
And yet, even though it appears he has nothing to give, Jesus shows that even in the darkest of times, we can still find ways to demonstrate how the Kingdom of God is breaking through.
In the middle of supper, Jesus stands up, takes off the one item he has, his robe, and he then takes the most basic thing in all the world: water.
Devoid of anything he can give, Jesus does.
Naked and vulnerable, he uses the water to wash the feet of each and every person present. All of them. Even the one who will betray them.
He has found a way to be resplendent.
“I have set for you an example,” he tells them. “Do as I have done for you. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them...Just as I have loved you, love one another. That’s how others will know you are my disciples- by the love you have for one another.”
Love. That is what Jesus is talking about. Love is what he is demonstrating.
Did you know that in the first twelve chapters of John the word love is mentioned 12 times. But in the last nine chapters, as Jesus draws closer to his death, love is mentioned 44 times?
44 times the word love is used.
This passage shows just how deep, how fully Jesus loves those around him. With no worldly possessions, he loves as much as one possibly can.
And he is showing us that no matter what, we too are capable of expressing love to one another.
Even when things have seemed to reach their darkest. Even when it seems like all has been lost. Even when it seems like you have come to the end of the road: love.
Find some form, some way, to express it.
If it means removing the one thing you have left so you can care for another, remove it.
If it means offering something that costs nothing, offer it.
If it simply means simply washing someone’s skin, wash away.
Darkness fools us into thinking that we have nothing to offer. But light reminds us that as long as there is breathe left in our body there is always something we can do, something we can say, something we can offer that ensures God’s Kingdom is present and in view.
“Do what I do,” Jesus says. “Show love to one another.” That is the heart of the Gospel. So easy and yet so difficult to do.
And the reason why Jesus died.
In conclusion, in the dark of night, at the end of Jesus’ ministry, when it seemed like he had nothing left to offer, Jesus still found a way to reach out, to express his love, even if all he could do was wash their feet.
2,000 years later we are called to do the same. No matter what happens to the economy, no matter what happens to our nation, no matter what happens in our now, we can still find a way to reflect God’s love.
Even if the entire world has grown dark we can still find a way to be resplendent. Like Christ, we do this whenever we fearlessly offer even the littlest of what we got to those who are around us.
In the darkness of night, we thank God for the gift of love, for the Spirit as it empowers us to share and for Jesus who lead by resplendent example.