ST. AUGUSTINE’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH
THE REVEREND BARRY GRIFFIN
Alleluia, Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!
Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” That’s what Jesus said in today’s gospel. If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
Okay, so what are Jesus’ commandments? What are they specifically and how do we keep them? Let’s put today’s gospel in context. Hang in there with me.
Today’s gospel lesson is part of the so-called Farewell Discourse found in the Gospel of John. These are Jesus’ final words to his disciples prior to his arrest and crucifixion.
During supper, Jesus said to his followers, “Guys, I really love you. I really, really do. I mean, no kidding. You’re the greatest!”
No, that’s not what Jesus said. Before he said something, Jesus did something. Actions speak louder than words, remember?
During super Jesus got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.
After he had washed their feet, 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.”
Several verses later Jesus said, “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.”
Before he told us to love one another, Jesus showed us how. He served. He washed the feet of his disciples.
If I were going to paraphrase Jesus’ words (and of course I wouldn’t do that), I would put it this way: Love Jesus through serving others. In serving others we love Jesus.
That sounds so simple. And you know something? It is. It may not be easy. But it’s simple. We love Jesus by serving others.
I was reminded of that eight days ago when, along with several other men and one young man, I helped prepare and serve a St. Augustine’s Mother’s Day Luncheon. And it was a great day. It was the most fun I’d had in months. Now, it was exhausting, too. Boss Man Wes Williams put us through our paces. And when I left eight hours later my feet were screaming at me. But my heart was singing. Why? Because in this simple act of serving our mothers, I loved Jesus. That’s howwe love Jesus: by serving others. That’s how we keep his commandments.
This is nothing new. But it seems I must learn it again and again. You see, I get busy. I get busy with other things, important things, and I forget what it means to love Jesus. It means serving others.
So, will that Mother’s Day Luncheon change the world? Yes, I think so. It changed me. It reminded me of what’s really important. And there were children present that I’d never seen. Who knows what they will remember about that day? Who knows what seeds were planted? Maybe they now see the church as a place where people love each other and treat each other with respect. There aren’t a lot of places like that, it seems. I’m reminded of a prayer by Bishop Kenneth Untener:
It helps now and then to step back
and take the long view.
The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime
only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise
that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete,
which is another way of saying
that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection;
no pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
[Now here’s the best part.]
This is what we are about.
We plant seeds
that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations
that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effect far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything,
and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something,
and do it very well.
It may be incomplete,
but it is a beginning,
a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter
and do the rest.
We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference
between the master builder and the worker.
We are the workers, not master builders,
ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future that is not our own.
And there’s that wonderful Daughters of the King motto:
I am but one, but I am one.
I cannot do everything, but I can do something.
What I can do, I ought to do.
What I ought to do, by the grace of God, I will do.
Lord, what will you have me do?
“Do” is the operative word here.
Tertullian was an early Christian author living in an age of Roman persecution of Christians. Speaking of the church, he wrote: “It is our care for the helpless, our practice of loving kindness, that brands us in the eyes of our opponents. ‘Only look,’ they say. ‘Look how they love one another.’”
“I give you a new commandment,” Jesus said. “Love one another as I have loved you.”
Love me by serving others.
Alleluia. Christ is risen.
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.
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