Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Love - A Maundy Thursday Meditation

Art Linkletter was right, kids say the darndest things.

When I was in seminary, I visited a church as a guest minister and while I was waiting for the service to begin, I visited with two very young boys who had come out of their Sunday School class.  "What did you study in your Sunday School class, "  I asked.

"We learned about the four headed monster in the Bible."

Now I know I don't know EVERYTHING about the bible, but I could not recall any 4 headed monster.  So I asked, "Where is that in the Bible?"

"Oh you know, the one David killed..."

In my mind, I ran through a list in my mind -- Saul killed his 1000s and David his 10,000. David and the Philistines.  David and Goliath.   Nope, couldn't remember a 4 headed monster.

"Are you sure about this," I asked the young boys.

"Oh sure, our teacher told us how David took a sling and killed Goliath when the rock hit the giant in the ---- forehead!

Well, we hear things sometimes and we misunderstand slightly.

We all do that.

I remember teaching a class one time when I asked the students to memorize the Scripture passage, "So watch, for you don't know when the Son of Man will come."

One of the kids memorized it as "SO WHAT, you dont' know when the son of man comes."

Well, I did the same thing as a kid. 

 I grew up thinking that the Thursday before Easter was MONDAY Thursday.

And in my childhood, I reasoned it out,
Sunday was Easter.
Saturday was Holy Saturday.
Friday was Good Friday,
But Monday through Thursday of Holy Week, nothing happened, so they called it MONDAY THURSDAY.

Well, I've grown up, and I know now that there were lots of things happening during those earlier days of Holy Week, and eventually, I won't say how old I was, I learned that it is NOT MONDAY THURSDAY but MAUNDY Thursday.


Not a word you use much.

It comes from the Latin. 

How many people here speak Latin.

How many read it?

How many have ever taken a class in Latin?

Ah come on... somebody?

Well, obviously, Latin is not a living language, and it is not studied like it used to be. 

But in Latin, the Thursday prior to Easter was referred to as Mandatum Novum, which means, "A new commandment."  And eventually, this became known as Mande, which eventually became, Maundy.

This new commandment was given during the last supper of Christ with his disciples, and is found in John 13:34, when Jesus tells his followers that he is going to give them a new commandment.

I don't know how the disciples reacted to this, but I think I would have reacted with surprise, because when Jesus gives this NEW command, it is nothing but an OLD command that has been around forever.

Love one another.

In the Old Testament, when Moses is giving and setting up laws for a new society, he tells the people in the book of Leviticus, (19:18)
"'Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.

This love is to be for all people, as Moses explains by saying, (19:34) 

The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.

Jesus carried this theme of love throughout his ministry. 

In Matthew's Gospel, as Jesus is preaching his sermon on the mount, early in his career, he says,

Matt 5:43-44
43     "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'
44     But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

And toward the end of his ministry, he declares,

Matt 22:38-40
38     This is the first and greatest commandment.
39     And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'
40     All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

And now, it is the night of Christ's betrayal by Judas.
It is the night of his arrest.
It is the day before his crucifixion and death.

And Jesus is meeting with his disciples one last time and eating with them.  He is instituting the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper.  And at this time, when there is so much to say, he gives a new commandment, which is really not new at all.

Love one another.

He says this not because it is really new, but because they have not yet learned, as disciples, how to love each other.

And to Christ, this is so important.

And what makes this so important is that love is what gives meaning to everything we do.

I don't know if you have noticed that I like to take pictures.  It always surprises people to find out that we don't take very many pictures at home, but in the church, we are always taking pictures of what we do as a way of communicating and promoting the events of the church.

Some years ago, I took pictures of an event, and was terribly disappointed to find that I had forgotten to load the camera.  No film.

Everything I had done with that camera was meaningless, because there was no film.

And when do anything without love, it is without meaning.

How many things do you do without love?

If things are done without meaning, and without love, these things are a waste of time.

How do you waste your time?

Is your family a waste of time?
All the work you put into building a relationship with your wife or husband, parent or child, can be a waste of time.  If you do not have love for your spouse, parent or child, whatever you do is a waste of time.  It is done without meaning.

You want to work on having a good family?
You start with love.

Is your church work a waste of time?
All the work you put on the session, or in teaching your Sunday School Class, or in the Mission Committee,
All the times you come and worship God in this sanctuary can be a waste of time.
If you do not love God and your brothers and sisters in this church, what you do in this church is a waste of time.  It is done without meaning.

You want to be successful as a Christian?
You start with love for God and brethren.

All the things you do in the community and at your job.  Are they a waste of time? 

In Paul's letter to the church at Corinth, he wrote what has become a familiar and much quoted statement about love.

1 Cor 13:1-13
1       If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
2       If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
3       If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

If said today, one might say,
If I speak with eloquence of James Earle Jones, and am heard on TV and Radio, but have not love, I am only a noisy and bothersome static.
If I have computer skills that can forecast future events in society, and if I have several doctoral degrees and can understand the great mysteries of the universe,
and if I have a deeply spiritual faith that moves mountains,
If I work in Habitat for Humanity and help the poor,
If I have become the President of the United States, Mother Teresa, the Pope, Billy Graham all rolled into one, but have no love, I am nothing.

Even the greatest of all acts in human history -- the gift Jesus gave of himself when he was on the cross, his death for us -- that would have been a waste of time.  That would have been meaningless.  That would have been an empty gesture had it been done without love.

There is only one thing that gave the death of Jesus Christ meaning.


For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, so that whoever believed in him would not perish but have eternal life.

Love gave the crufixion meaning.

Love gave all that Jesus did meaning.

And love is all that can give what we do meaning.

Whatever we do, let it be done with love.

It is a new commandment.

But NOT that new.

We always had this commandment.

We just never have learned to do it.

4       Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
5       It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
6       Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
7       It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8       Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
9       For we know in part and we prophesy in part,
10     but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.
11     When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.
12     Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13     And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.