This past July I was on my way back to the church for a staff meeting after having had lunch with a member of the congregation and as I was riding down 64 coming East, I felt the Toyota Prius start to shake and rattle, so I edged over to the side of the interstate and slowly made my way up the Parham exit ramp looking for a place to park on the side of the road. There really wasn’t one but I made one and I was able to get off the road, but not by much.
I had never changed a tire on this Prius that my wife Sarah usually drives, and I was distressed to find out that after I had the car up on the jack I couldn’t get the wheel cover off so that I could unscrew the bolts and take the flat off.
After about 10 minutes of trying my own ideas, I gave up and got out the owner’s manual.
It was the middle of summer and it was really getting hot and I was taking off clothes – I took my shirt off, I rolled my pants up, I pushed my socks down; people were staring. After another 20 minutes of trying to read the manual and finding nothing to help, I was greasy and I sat down in a little grassy hill and I gave up. I just sat there covered in sweat.
And then my phone in my pocket buzzed and I pulled it out and realized there is nothing you can’t look up how to do on youtube.
I watched a 30 second video of a man sitting beside his own Toyota Prius where he walked me through the process and I had the hubcap off in less than two minutes. I changed the tire, was back in the car, and I even made it to staff meeting on time.
If people say a picture is worth a thousand words, a video must be worth ten thousand, because you can see someone show you how to do something as if they were right there.
On the night of the Passover, when his hour had come, Jesus gets up from the table, gets a basin of water and a towel and shows us what love looks like.
Jesus does not leave us stranded to figure out how to love one another, he doesn’t give printed instructions, a book or an essay to tell us what love is like. Jesus himself shows us what love looks like.
On the night before he is crucified, Jesus stoops down to the ground.
God’s own Son, the King of Creation deserves to be worshipped. These men should be on their knees in front of Jesus but here HE is on his kneeling at their feet, performing the act of a servant.
He is doing something very strange and embarrassing.
He comes to wash the feet of Peter – the one who will deny him. He kneels down to wash the feet of Judas – the one who will betray him. And he washes the feet of each one of these friends who will desert him and say they do not know him.
And when he is finished washing their feet, and has dried them, and has put down the towel and returned to the table, he says to them,
“Do you know what I have done to you?”
And there’s total silence. No one dares to answer.
As we hear the story we don’t know how long the pause was, but Jesus asks if they know what has just happened – what he has done to them – and they can’t come up with a response.
They are speechless, and so Jesus continues:
“You call me Teacher and Lord, and that is right, because that is what I am. So, if I, your Teacher and Lord have washed your feet you also ought to wash one another’s feet.”
Jesus is going to send this group of disciples out to change the world, but first he shows them what true humility, forgiveness and love look like.
Living in community together is more complex than removing a hubcap, as we well know.
Forgiving a person who has talked behind my back…
Remaining open to someone who has not invited you to an event…
Sometimes, when it feels like you’re doing all the work on a ministry team and others aren’t contributing, you might want to give up on this whole intentional-Christian-community thing.
It is easy to break ourselves off from community – because acting with love is hard work…
After his death this community of disciples will be ashamed and will likely blame one another…
But Jesus shows them and shows us what love looks like – choosing what is best for the other, even when they hurt us, ignore us, despise us, or disrespect us…
Every year he UN publishes what it calls the World Happiness Report. The report for has just been released for 2018, and it finds that the US has slipped from 14th happiest nation in the world to 18th. We have never made the top 10 and we are slipping.
This isn’t hard science, but the researchers think that the thing that is different about us and the countries that consistently rank as the happiest – Finland, Norway, and Denmark – is their emphasis on community.
In our own country, community is eroding through distrust of the government and one another, a sense that the system is rigged and those who are wealthy are in control of things, and spending much of our free time with work, and the ceaseless hunt for money, security, and consumer goods.
As a nation, we are lonely. We are living with addiction. We are hungry for community… but we literally do not know how to do it.
Jesus calls us into a community to witness for ourselves what love looks like.
Jesus says, “if I, your Teacher and Lord have washed your feet you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also do as I have done to you.”
We might wonder if Jesus REALLY means for us to wash one another’s feet literally…because literally washing one another’s feet could be awkward and uncomfortable…
But I can tell you – This past summer in Philadelphia I was with youth from Epiphany working in community gardens, schools, providing care for children and working on homes, and on the last night before we left we washed one another’s feet – we had the opportunity to literally take one another’s smelly, calloused, blistered feet in our hands and pour water over them and pat them dry as a remembrance of the reason we had come to Philadelphia to serve.
There are ways we literally wash one another’s feet.
Pastor Phillip and Pastor Bosserman and I have been making visits to homebound members this week to take Holy Communion to people who are a part of our community but can no longer join us in worship and as we visit I am so aware of these husbands and wives who have been married 40 and 50 and more years who wash one another’s feet, and wash one another’s bodies, and attend to their spouse’s personal hygiene when they can no longer do it themselves. These members who have contributed to our present, vibrant life as a community by their service as treasurer or Sunday school superintendent or choir member so many years ago.
And many of our sisters and brothers around the world tonight will enact Jesus words – as uncomfortable or messy or bothersome as it might be – and they will do what Jesus asks us to do and wash one another’s feet with water.
And we ALSO wash one another’s feet spiritually when we put aside our livelihood and serve one another so that Christ is made known.
The youth service trips that we go on can only happen because of the adults who go as adult leaders, often using their vacation time -sometimes one of only two or maybe three weeks that they get – but they would give one of those weeks so that youth can go and have an experience with Christ through service.
And last Wednesday it snowed and we had to cancel our 5th Wednesday Lenten service at noon, and we were on the fence about cancelling our 7pm service, but a couple came and just the two of them shoveled the driveway and the walk so that we call could have the service and no one would slip and fall, and we only found out later that it was this woman’s birthday. On a day when many people want to go and eat the food they want to eat, and do the things they want to do, she came to shovel snow for me and for you and for this community.
And YOU cook meals, and take flowers, and mentor youth, and pray for one another, and give financial offerings to those in need. This year you designated our Lenten offerings to go to South Sudan, the country which ranks number 154 out of 156 in the UN’s Happiest Countries of the World report – and we have prayed and continue to pray over those gifts that God will use them to bring healing and help and nourishment to our sisters and brothers there – because we know our own happiness is not our chief calling but faithfulness to God.
If we had to serve and love one another with OUR OWN love – with the love we could muster from our own reserves, there would be no hope and no chance. I don’t have enough love to give. You don’t have enough love to give. But it’s God’s love in Christ that is the wellspring of our life together.
Jesus models loving service for us himself — and then sends his Spirit to be with us and give us power to do his loving service to one another and to our neighbor.
At this table, Jesus feeds us and fills us with his very own life so that we know who we belong to and whose love we share.
Here at this table, God transforms what could have been an occasion for mourning into an occasion for experiencing the presence of the One who is Risen.
Tonight we gather at Christ’s table as he gives himself to us – he is truly present here –showing us how to give ourselves to others.
Holding fast to this promise, let us pray:
Lord, you welcome us to your table and set a feast of love. We give thanks to receive your body broken on the cross and your blood spilled for our sake. Through this meal deepen our faith and draw us ever closer to you and ever closer in relationship to the world you love, that we would all come to know our greatest joy to be the life we have in you. Amen