Bethel CRC Lacombe

October 1, 2023 Broken Signposts: Love

October 03, 2023 Pastor Jake Boer Season 6 Episode 2
Bethel CRC Lacombe
October 1, 2023 Broken Signposts: Love
Show Notes Transcript

Today we are continuing our series based on N.T Wright’s book Broken Signposts. We will reflect on John 13:1-17; Broken Signposts – Love. Jesus lives out His love for His disciples through the act of washing His disciples’ feet. Love can be really hard, especially when the person you are showing love to is actually working against you. We all ache to be loved. However, many people feel alone and unloved today. Love is a signpost that points us to Jesus and his sacrificial love. Love that led Him to the cross, so that we can be reconciled and experience deep unconditional love.

Broken Signposts – Love

John 13:1-7

 

Last week we reflected on justice as a signpost that guides us to Jesus and the kingdom of heaven. There was so much more that could have been said and reflected on, including the injustice that Jesus faced for us so that God’s justice could be met and we could be reconciled to God again. This week we’re reflecting on love, also a signpost that guides us to who Jesus is and the kingdom of heaven. These signposts are all connected since they’re all aspects, or attributes of God; justice flows out of God’s love for us and his desire to be in relationship with us. justice brings healing and hope in a broken world, revealing that God is working towards the new creation that will come at Jesus’ return. 

The story that John offers us this morning begins by reminding us that it’s getting close to the Passover, the feast that celebrates how God saved them; guiding them out of slavery into freedom, claiming them as his people. Then comes this powerful statement from John, “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” As we go deeper into John’s story, this statement becomes even more powerful, as it’s set in a story filled with pride and betrayal. There are also echoes back to the woman who had just recently washed Jesus’ feet with perfume and her own hair, a sign of her deep love for Jesus and the forgiveness of sin, the grace that Jesus has shown her. 

The theme of love runs through this part of John’s gospel story, as Pastor Jan Richardson observes, “In John’s Gospel, in what’s known as the Farewell Discourse, John 13:31-17:26, Jesus will speak the word love thirty-one times. In these final hours before his death, the word will ring repeatedly, a potent echo of the moment when Jesus rose from the Jordan River, the waters of baptism dripping from him, and heard himself named Beloved. This night, he will give this word to his friends, passing along to them the love he received at a moment he needed it most.” 

Many of us know this story well and often reflect on it during the lead up to Easter. Jesus and his disciples are sharing in Jesus’ last supper before his death and resurrection a meal connected to the Passover. John tells us that the devil had already worked in Judas Iscariot to get his to betray Jesus. As they get ready to eat, Jesus gets up and grabs a bowl of water and towels in order to wash his disciples’ feet. Apparently, there were no servants available to do this nasty job of washing everyone’s dirty smelly feet, and none of the disciples would ever have considered doing such a menial humiliating, at least to them, task. 

It has always fascinated me how Peter reacts. He’s not willing to humble himself to wash his fellow disciples’ feet, but he’s also too ashamed of himself to allow Jesus to wash his feet. I have noticed that many of us are uncomfortable in receiving the gift of extreme humble service because it reminds us of our own unwillingness to do the same. Being confronted by extreme humility and grace will do that to us. Jesus reacts to Peter’s refusal to let him was wash Peter’s feet by pointing to a deeper truth the disciples won’t understand until later, after Jesus’ death and resurrection, “Unless I was you, you have no part with me.” 

We understand now, looking back, that without accepting Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross f or our sin, we keep ourselves outside the kingdom of heaven, we are not reconciled with God. Accepting Jesus’ sacrifice for our sin means embracing Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, turning our hearts, souls, minds, and bodies over to him to use for his purposes. Of course, Peter being Peter, then goes to the other extreme, “Then Lord, not just my feet but my hands and my head as well.” Peter’s greatest fear is being separated from Jesus. 

Jesus’ love is expressed in this story in humble menial service, shown in washing feet and then serving the meal to all his disciples, including his betrayer, Judas. Jesus shows us that love is not based on how the other person feels about you or treats you. Jesus shows us that love can be hard, especially when the person you are showing love to is actually working against you. Love is a decision and choice you make; it’s not something that just happens. This kind of love gets twisted and broken in our world when people who are being abused are called to simply accept the abuse and forgive the abuser and stay in the situation because that’s what love does. Love actually looks like holding people accountable for their actions and ensuring that they learn how to live with and in love in healthy ways. Love for others does not mean staying in an abusive situation. 

Pastor Luke A Powery challenges the church to show Jesus’ deep love to the world around us, “This demonstration of love by Christ as a response to betrayal and resistance calls the Church to open their doors to “whosoever” will come, even deemed enemies, those who might perpetuate racism, sexism, classism, homophobism, or any form of discrimination. Those who might look different, act different, worship different, or dress different must be loved with the type of love that Christ shows towards Judas. It is unconditional, and that is the key to opening the doors of the church. All must be welcomed. Inclusion should be a church’s focus, not exclusion; for all are washed by Christ, not just his friends. His love is without end. No limits. Love to the end, even to the end of the tips of his disciples’ toes…. Jesus loves in the face of betrayal…. Even when Peter resists the washing of his feet Jesus tells him, “If I don’t wash you, you have no share with me.” Jesus is determined to wash Peter's and the rest of his disciples' feet because he wants to be in relationship them. Jesus will do whatever it takes to be with us. Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, no matter who we are, what we’ve done, or what’s been done to us….” Pastor Powery’s challenge reminds me of the sign outside our own church, “Everyone welcome.” It is hard and beautiful to live this out!

Love as Jesus practiced it, with humility and grace, points us to what the kingdom of heaven is all about; shaped by love of God, neighbour, and enemies. Love is about how we live with each other, not about how we feel about each other, a lesson I emphasize with every couple who are planning on getting married. It’s about living with others is ways that recognize that they are created in the image of God, recognizing that Jesus is taking a long time to return because God wants to give us as many opportunities as possible to share the good news of Jesus, his love for us, forgiveness, and reconciliation with God.

How we live with others who disagree with us, or who we disagree with, gives us a glimpse of how hard it is to really love. It’s much easier to love those who agree with us, who are our friends, who agree with us, but how does that point to who Jesus is and what the kingdom of heaven is all about? Jesus challenged his listeners during his sermon in Mathew, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” It’s fascinating that Jesus ties being perfect with loving enemies, and following right after his saying this, he tells us to do our acts of righteousness quietly and with humility. 

Melinda Quivik has an important insight into this story of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples, including Judas’, “In a strong sense, foot-washing is a metaphor for Confession of Sin and on this day establishes in personal and unequivocal action the astonishing welcome Jesus offers to we who are, in our failings and deceits, not at all pleasant creatures…. Jesus’ example shows us God’s care for one of the least attractive, most avoided, often misshapen parts of the body — is called upon to lift up the great generosity of God’s compassion, for what is repentance if not the uncovering, the exposure, of our unattractive parts? To be blunt, it is as uncomfortable for most of us to bare our feet and let a stranger wash them as it is to speak the truth about our captivity to sin.” 

Quivik ties Jesus’ love calls us to confession and repentance; to examining our own hearts, souls, and minds in order to recognize how much we need Jesus’ sacrifice to be made clean again in God’s eyes. When we do this, we begin to recognize how deep Jesus’ love is for us, what sacrificial holy love looks like and the call it has on us to respond to it.