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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Maundy Thursday Noonday Sermon

Scripture: Isaiah 116; John 13...


You have one life.

One.

“I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my supplications. Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on God as long as I live.”

You have one life.

One.

“What shall I return to the LORD for all his bounty to me?”

You have one life.

One.

I asked the youth several weeks ago at Encounter on a Wednesday night what they would choose to do vocationally if they had a million dollars but were required to work a job nonetheless.

I received a spectrum of answers.

“I’d be a trash man.” No you wouldn’t. “Alright, I’d be a carney!” Fine.
“I’d sell Dr. Pepper.”
“I’d be a fortune teller.”

Interesting answers. Some of the responses were a little more believable though, and actually inspiring.

“I’d be a teacher.” Isn’t that what you want to be now? “Yes, it’s what I want to do.” Good for you.
“I’d be a zoologist.” Really!
“I’d still be a youth minister,” said Kevin.

The community writing the Psalms responded to a similar defining question. They described God as the one who loosed their bonds. God untied the cords binding them, and set them free. Once set free, the community in the Psalms chose to give back. They chose to drink from the cup of salvation, publicly declare their devotion to God and offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving.

You have one life. One. What will you do with it?

When we turn to the gospel, to the night Jesus took his cup and gave it to his disciples to drink, took his bread and gave it to them to eat, he did something else. He washed their feet.

He bent low to the ground, crawling off his comfy cushion. On all fours he crawled one by one to the disciples and sitting back on his haunches, he dipped the cleansing cloth into the water basin. He held it to their dirty, cracked, calloused, dust-painted feet and wiped, scrubbed, washed their feet. He performed a servant’s job. Out of his devotion for his disciples, he chose to serve them, do the dirty work so they would be clean.

The foot washing was symbolic of Jesus’ whole ministry. He spent most of his time healing and affirming and loving the children of God, but this foot washing was literal too. As if touching their leprous sores and feeding their crying children and healing their contagious parents and hearing out their ego-centric questions and loving the obnoxiously unlovable people of this world that you and I encounter on a daily basis - people that you and I go to work with or worse yet, for, and sit beside at PTA meetings and sit behind in rush hour traffic, all these obnoxiously unlovable people of which each of us is one… as if that were not enough, he washed his disciples’ feet too.

He gave his life, and he also washed their feet. That’s what Jesus chose to do with his one life here on earth.

And I wonder if perhaps we couldn’t see the worth in each other the way Jesus saw the worth in us. I wonder if we couldn’t spend a little time improving our world for the greater good. I wonder if we couldn’t do what we really want to in life – fully be the children of God we are called to be – unique and beautiful and gifted and flawed and God’s.

You have one life.

One.

I read the other day the letter that the man who gunned down the people at New Life Church in Colorado Springs wrote and left in his car. Angry, confused and frustrated by hypocritical Christians and a quiet God, he took out his angst on a church and killed four people in the process.

He wrote, “I’ve heard good things about what Jesus can do, yet everywhere I go in Christianity, all the Christians I meet or see are miserable, angry, selfish, hypocritical, proud, power-hungry, abusive, uncaring, confused, lustful.”

These are not words I would use to describe my Christ, and truthfully they are not words I’d like to describe his followers, his disciples, his people, me and my community, the community of the Saints.

But that’s what Matthew Murray wrote.

I hope that when I discover that I have been set free by God, that I have one life to live fully and abundantly, I won’t choose to embody any of the repulsive qualities Matthew Murray ascribes to followers of Christ.

And yet, I will. I’m human. I screw up. All those Christians he observed and learned to distrust were humans. He was human when he opened fire on a church ending four lives and then killed himself.

Only human.

“I call upon God…. I lift up the cup of salvation… I become God’s servant… I pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all the people… I offer a thanksgiving sacrifice.”

“I wash your feet and you also ought to wash one another’s feet.”

You have one life. One. What will you choose to do with it?

See, your life goes far beyond what job you have, what vocation you choose - million dollars or not. Your one life and my one life include the jobs we have but more importantly, our life really is how we do those jobs. Life is about attitudes and worldviews. It’s about how we treat the people we love and how we treat the people we hate. It’s about eliminating a vocabulary of hate.

Maybe it’s because I’m turning thirty in May or maybe it’s because my ex-boyfriend died last month from cancer, or maybe it’s because I work in a church with humans, you and your friends and me and mine, who experience great pain and make mistakes, or maybe it’s just the change in weather, but recently I have been impressed by the realization that we get one life. One. And I have been reminded that Jesus Christ came to earth not to toss us a rulebook and give a good luck nod, he came so that we may have life and have it more abundantly.

My former pastor and friend who died several years ago used to close our Sunday morning service with the same benediction every week: Love God, embrace beauty and live life to the fullest.” That was what he reminded us to do, who he reminded us to be every week. And if you haven’t experienced the deliverance that comes when you encounter the divine, if you don’t feel the freedom that comes in a connectedness to Christ, if living life to the fullest isn’t even on your radar screen, the I have a message for you:

You have one life.

One.

And God came to earth to make sure you get to live that one life abundantly.

When the psalmist figured that out, he took the cup that Christ offered to the disciples 900 years later (and still offers to us today), he took that cup of salvation and drank from it. He publicly declared his affection for God, just as 6 people here at FBC will do when they are baptized this upcoming Easter Sunday. And he lived a life of Thanksgiving.

We have the same opportunity. We too can become servants not to money or alcohol or bitterness or sex or our jobs or anything else that lures us to the edge of self-loathing or a self-destructing life. Rather, we can become servants to the Life Giver. To the one who lived and died and washed our feet.

“I call upon God…. I lift up the cup of salvation… I become God’s servant… I pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all the people… I offer a thanksgiving sacrifice.”

“I wash your feet and you also ought to wash one another’s feet.”

You have one life.

One.

Love God. Embrace Beauty. And live life to the fullest.

Amen.

3 comments:

jenA said...

Thanks for sharing, Ann! Reminded me of a woman's sermon(?) on tv last night - kathryn kuhlman- which reminded us tat we do not live a 'defeated' life.

Michelle said...

This totally made me cry. At work.

Andee said...

Good job, sister.