Many of you know that I attended Lay Servant training with the United Methodist Church at Mount Sequoyah in Fayetteville. I just got home and I'm working to process everything from this time, I attended the Basic Course on Thursday/Friday and Go Preach on Friday/Saturday. I wrote the following Thursday evening after a day spent learning how to be a servant in my local church.
“After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 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.
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.”
~from John 13:12-16 & 34-35
Yesterday, when Randy asked if anyone in our class wanted to try preaching my first inclination was to run out the door but in a later discussion he later said, “prepare to be challenged.” My heart was tugged…be challenged. But God, I have the opportunity to spend an entire evening all alone-no kids, no husband, no parents, no responsibilities just the opportunity to spend some time alone….okay, I got the message I’ve got the time to spend with God. I won’t call this a sermon but rather a “homily" which is a scripturally-based reflection providing food for thought. Somehow I don’t feel quite qualified to use the “S” word.
Pure love. Jesus did not just humble himself that night with his disciples, it’s true in this story, he was laying the foundation for servant leadership but in this particular example he didn’t just tell them to serve OTHERS he showed them how to serve ONE ANOTHER. This week each of us has been called to explore a deeper level of servant leadership. We are beginning a journey toward deepening our relationship with God in order that we may learn to serve others but in order to serve others, we must first care for one another.
In this particular passage of John, Jesus isn’t commanding us to love others or even to serve others…He is showing us as his followers that we should love and serve one another. Our love for one another gives a strong witness to people outside our church family-the people in our community we serve. So often our congregations focus on outreach, how to reach the least, the last, the lost…you know the whole “what can we do so our church serves more people in the community than the Baptist church down the street” that we forget about the “in-reach.” We wind up not being so loving to one another. We spoke briefly about the politics of the local church, how it can be downright ugly. We lash out at the one another, blame others, cut them down, don’t really listen to their ideas or concerns. We don’t wash one anothers feet.
Let’s take it to a little more personal level, Jesus didn’t go out on the street corner and wash the feet of strangers, he wasn’t at the local Elks Lodge or even the grumpy neighbors home…he was in the most intimate of settings with his closest friends. He got down on his knees and washed their feet he showed them how to love and serve one another. One of the things I have noticed in life is that my family often gets the cranky, real me. The one who is tired, frustrated and wishing that Calgon could really take me away but when I’m out and about in the community I have on the smile and “everything is fine.” Somehow I forget to wash the feet of those I love the most. If I’m not serving and loving my immediate family-those closest to me how in the world can I really love my church family?
I have to be honest when I read our book for this class I had absolutely no notes on the Caring session. Sometimes I feel I’m too tapped out to care for myself let alone others. I think the reason this scripture resonated with me is the deeply personal challenge to treat one another the way Christ treated his disciples-with humble love and service. I think when I get home and my family gathers on Sunday I might just get out a basin and wash their feet because as Mother Teresa said, “Let us make our homes real places of love so that we can overcome any hatred. Love begins at home---everything depends on how we love one another at home.”
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