"I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." John 13:34-35 The name Maundy Thursday, comes from Jesus' "commandment" (Latin, mandatum). In the middle of the Last Supper, Jesus commands the disciples to love each other with the kind of love they have seen and experienced. The disciples are asked to love with the kind of love that walked with them day in and day out, the kind of love that sought with patience to bring a glimpse of the kingdom of God into the world, the kind of love that was willing to sacrifice his life to bring them life. Tonight as we pray and hear about this new commandment, as we walk to the basin with bare feet for the foot washing, as we gather around God's table, may we be aware of God's love for us, and allow that love to overflow on all those around us. Find some time today to be still in the presence of God.
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- "Will you strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being?" BCP pg. 305 Dignity and Respect There is a description in one of Robert Farrrar Capon's books of a man carrying home a tall cattail. If he carries it upright he resembles a priest in procession, upside down a messenger carrying the king's standard, in front a knight with a lance, or a king with a sword. There is no way that he can convey the lowly cattail that does not reveal the God-given grandeur of his humanity. As we go through our lives we are surrounded by royal personages, worthy of our respect. We are surrounded by cattail kings. Pay attention to the people you meet today and those you hear about. Speak to them with due respect. Give them the attention they deserve as the royal personages that they are.
- "Will you strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being?" BCP pg. 305 Striving for peace "Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other." Psalm 85:10 Peace is not the absence of conflict. It runs deeper than that. Each Sunday we offer each other "peace"-the peace of the Lord. In Edward Hick's painting "The Peaceable Kingdom," we see a depiction of a land where all of creation is at peace. Not only is there no war, but all things live together in a world without oppression or poverty or fear. There are a few people I know who seem to bring this peace with them wherever they go. It's a peace of heart and soul. It manifests itself in a passion for righteousness and justice and carries with it peace, a deep unwavering peace, rooted in God. That is what I strive to be. I want to be like them, a person of peace. How do you strive for peace?
- "Will you strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being?" BCP pg. 305 Striving for Justice "Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other." Psalm 85:10 This year, 2013, is the 150th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg. Over the last year or so I've found myself learning a lot about the events leading up to and during the Civil War. It was a complicated time, filled with people driven by strong convictions and deep faith. White and Black, slave and free, rich and poor, it took many people to unravel the self-deception of our nation and reveal the true face of slavery. In our day we struggle to be free of many influences that threaten to enslave us, hold us back or oppress us. The cost of giving into or accepting injustice is profound. However, the reward of striving for justice and peace -walking in the light of God- is beyond measure. Where do you see a need for greater justice? Spend some time on the internet looking for information on the topic. How can you begin to make things right?
- "Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?" BCP pg. 305 Loving your neighbor as yourself The phrasing reflects Jesus' words. When asked what the greatest commandment was, he responded, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" (Matt:22:37-40). To care for my neighbor as I would myself . . . the Lord's Prayer comes at it another way: we ask to be forgiven as we have forgiven. Perhaps we need to change it around, to insert other words to help us explore this. What happens if we change the word "love" to honor or care for or feed or cloth or delight in or listen to? How does that change the conversation? What if "neighbor" has a name or face? What if the "neighbor" is your boss, or an Afghan villager, or a politician, or your ex, or your uncle, or the teenager who skateboards past your house? What happens then? Take the phrase "loving your neighbor as yourself" and change the words. What is Christ asking you to do?
- "Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?" BCP pg. 305 Seeking and serving Christ in all people This is quite a tall order. Looking to see Christ in every person requires that I engage each person as an individual, not as who I think they are, or who I wish they were, or what group I think they fit into. Seeing Christ in each person demands that I step out of my preconceived notions of who that person is and see them through Christ's eyes, it demands that I step out of my own fear and pain to look at the person in front of me. To encounter all people asks me to step out of my world and broaden my understanding of who I meet. Once I meet them, once I see Christ in them, service is easier. Think about someone who you find difficult. Pray that you can see them with the eyes of Christ. Seek how you can serve Christ in that person.
- "Will you proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ?" BCP pg. 305 The good news of God in Christ I love to hear good news. I love the good news stories at the end of the news broadcast. I read with interest all the positive things that people are doing to try to improve the world around them. It's something to pay attentions to. The word gospel means good news. It is good news that God cares. It is good news that Jesus came and died and rose and will come again. It is good news because of God's steadfast love for us and for the whole world. Write your version of the good news of God in Christ. Why is it good news to you and to those around you?
- "Will you proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ?" BCP pg. 305 Proclaim by example I find that I want to flip the order of these two proclamations. I would rather proclaim my faith by example and then by word. I think the power of seeing someone acting on their faith makes the words come alive. Our actions-our choices, how we live-declare our faith more profoundly than any preacher. One of my favorite quotes is from Philips Brookes, a Bishop of Massachusetts famous for his preaching and the writer of "O Little Town of Bethlehem." He was asked what drew him to become such a towering man of faith. He responded, "My Aunt in Teaneck, New Jersey." His aunt was the one who proclaimed the faith to him by her example. List those who have been an example of faith to you. How will you be an example of faith this week?
- A priest I know always cautions those near the baptismal font that they are in the "Baptismal Splash Zone". Everyone within that zone may get wet! In a way, we are all in the Baptismal Splash Zone, all of us may get wet. In fact we can only hope that is true, that not only will we be affected but all those around us. The effects of our baptism should send waves through our lives and the lives of all those around us. As we get ready for Easter, we can also bring out some things to help us remember our baptism and those of our family members. Here are a few tangible times to bring help you remember. -Baptismal gown- If you have one, put it somewhere it can be seen. Use it as a chance to tell your kids why baptism is important to you, and what it means to you. -Photos- Any photo's of baptisms in your family. Talk about who was there and what the day was like. -Godparents-Be sure your children know who their Godparents are and why they are important. Send a card to both your Godparents and your children's godparents. -Look at the Baptismal Covenant- With older children, discuss what those promises mean and look at ways to live them out during Eastertide (the 50 days after Easter, this year through Pentecost, May 19th).
- "Will you proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ?" BCP pg. 305 Proclaim by word Talking about our faith is not one of the strengths of most Episcopalians. We stumble over the words and hesitate to tread on this sacred ground. We don't want to be a spiritual bully. Because of this reluctance we often miss the opportunity to share what our faith means to us. It is an intimate thing, to share our love of God. It is also a precious thing to share that which bring us joy and hope and sustains us. Sharing our experiences of God's action in our life can give to others an opportunity to see God outside of a stained glass window, to see God's action in the world, in our world. Sharing how God has worked in our lives with another person can be a gift. Is there someone with whom you feel you should share your experience of God? Be brave and share.