Thursday, April 9, 2009

Love for One Another

This was written yesterday in preparation for tonight's Maundy Thursday worship. On Maundy Thursday we hear Jesus commandment to "love one another as I have loved you" after he washes his disciples feet.

I've never had trouble believing that God forgives. From early on in my life my parents made it very clear there was nothing I could ever do that would take their love, or God's love, away. The love of God for me has been a firm foundation that I've always been able to trust.

But that is not true for all. Some people struggle with guilt and shame all their lives--some guilt that is connected with real sins, some "false guilt" where we blame ourselves for something that wasn't our fault, or perhaps sometimes we feel guilty for something that is not actually wrong.

That's why it's good to have times like Maundy Thursday. "Maundy" is an old word meaning "commandment." Jesus gives us a new commandment, to love one another just as he has loved us. Tonight we hear about Jesus' amazing and humble love. The night before he died on the cross, he got down on the floor and washed his disciples' feet. All of their feet.

You might remember that Simon Peter didn't want to have his feet washed. In verse 8 he says "you will NEVER wash my feet." But when Jesus explained that it was something he needed to say "yes" to, he said "if that's the case, wash my head and my hands too!"

Some churches have the tradition where the pastor washes the feet of people in the church. We've tried that from time to time but frankly it doesn't work very well. Back in time there was a reason to wash feet. People went barefoot or wore sandals. It as a common thing to wash your own feet when you came inside. But now, it's just strange.

But there's another Maundy Thursday tradition that we will follow tonight. Tonight we ALL have the opportunity to hear words of forgiveness in a special, personal way. For some of us, this may not be anything important. Like for me, as I said, I don't really doubt that God can forgive me no matter what. For someone else, however, hearing personal words of forgiveness from God might be very important.

So, in a few minutes, after we speak our confession and hear general words of forgiveness, we'll invite everyone to come and hear those words personally. You might come to the front and kneel. You might go to one of the other leaders and have them put their hand on your head or on your shoulder. Tonight, individually, we're asking that each of us come and receive individual assurance that we are forgiven by God.

Why do we do this? Why do we take the time?

Because there might just be one person who needs to hear those words. Perhaps there is one person, burdened by their past, frustrated in their present, or worried about their future, for whom it's not enough to have those words spoken from the front of the church. Perhaps, like for the paralyzed man who was brought to Jesus through the roof in the middle of a crowd, you need to hear the words spoken directly to you.

You could come and talk with me personally. You could go to any one of your Christian friends and share your heart. But perhaps you are shy. Or maybe you are afraid. Perhaps the most frightening thing for you is to say "YES! I'm needing to know I am forgiven! I need to know it now."

So, tonight, you can come and find out the answer to your prayer even before you ask. We don't want your shyness or your fear to stand in the way. We don't want to oppress the oppressed. When you come and hear these words tonight "In obedience to Christ's command, I forgive you all your sins," you'll know exactly what will happen when and if you do come and share your burden. Because Jesus died and shed his blood and offered his body for you. You will be forgiven.

Because we want to make it as comfortable as we can for that one who needs to hear, I'm asking that all of us, each one, that all of us come to hear those words personally. And if you're the one who really needs to hear, you can just blend in with the crowd.

If only one person is in need of that reassurance tonight, it will be worth the time. You are worth it. You are precious in the sight of God.

For the rest of us, who may not feel that we need that assurance tonight, please remember that, when it comes to our relationship with God, we are all equal. Each one of us is really constantly in need of forgiveness, every day. Each one of us is constantly, desperately, in need of God's merciful love. If we have more secure personalities, it might not seem like we need to be reassured as much as some others. It's possible to think, well, I'll let others be reassured of forgiveness. I don't need it as much as they.

I think that's like Simon Peter, not wanting to get his feet washed. God wants to wash us all, so we are fresh and cleansed anew. And it might just be that there is something lurking in the corner of your soul too that is in need.

So, together, we come to the cross of Jesus, we lay down our burdens, together, we hear the words of forgiveness, and then we share the peace in the most sincere way we can.


  1. Cool blog.

    - Courts

  2. Pastor Steve,

    I think this was very well said!

    May God give you a Happy Easter, all year around.

    Gayle Crabtree