A Devotion for Thursday, April 9, 2020
John 13:1-17, 31b-35 (NRSV)
1 Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him.
And during supper 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4 got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5 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.
6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 8 Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
12 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? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 14 So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16 Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.
Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32 If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33 Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Thoughts from “The Word in Season”
“[Jesus said,] By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
This devotion is kind of about what’s not in this passage. This chapter is John’s retelling of Jesus’ last supper with his disciples. Except there’s no last supper. No mention of bread and wine. There’s no holy communion in John’s gospel!
But communion became a sacred ritual in the church. How could John not mention it? Some scholars suggest his gospel is a sort of “dinner theater,” meant to be read out loud while people were, in fact, sharing a meal and celebrating communion. John didn’t narrate it because it was happening in the room.
That makes what John does record even more important. Jesus washed his disciples’ feet like a servant. He gave them a new commandment: to love one another. And he told them they would be known as his disciples by their love. John tells us no matter how we celebrate communion (it varies a lot from church to church), two things matter most: that leadership is servant-like and that love is clear to all.
Prayer: Jesus, bring me to your table in the same spirit you showed: as a servant filled with love. Amen.
1 Cor 11:23-26 (NRSV)
23 For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Here we are on the day that commemorates our Lord’s Last Supper … and we can’t be together to celebrate it. Seems kind of empty! And yet, the promise remains of a new covenant, remembered and proclaimed “as often as [we] eat this bread and drink this cup.”
Perhaps in absence of the opportunity to receive the bread and wine, we might reflect on the gift that we so often have the opportunity of receiving – to “remember” Jesus’ sacrifice: remember and reflect on that night around a table as Jesus shares this holy Passover Meal – his last meal – with his disciples, knowing what lay ahead; remember what it took that that bread and wine might become for us his body and blood, his presence – for us, and in us. It’s a presence that renews the gift as we remember it, call it to mind in our day and time, a gift which renews us in faith as we are forgiven and sent out to be bearers of that forgiveness, of God’s love in the world.
I look forward to the day when we will again be able to gather around the table and receive holy communion and can physically participate in this gift. Until then, like we often say of a loved one who has gone before us, we remember this gift, this Jesus “in our hearts.”
Hymn for Reflection:
“One Bread, One Body” (ELW #496, WOV #710) Lyrics Below
“The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
– Mark 10:45 (NRSV)
Blessings & Peace,
Want to do something positive in this uncertain, anxious time?
Write an encouraging card, note or letter for our elderly friends at Senior Star (there’s a bin in the breezeway where you can place them) – or for one of our shut-ins (Ken Bechtler, Myrtle Daneilson, Helen Randall and Barb Morphew) which can be brought to church for delivery.
Or, make some cheerful, simple artwork – for others and for yourself – that can be put in a window to cheer you up, and those who may see it in your neighborhood.
Sign up to ring the church bells to send the message to our community that God is with us in the midst of this time, and that we at Messiah are praying for those who are affected, and for an end to the pandemic.
For those affected in any way by the Covid-19 pandemic.
For our congregation in this time of separation, that we would yet be held together.
Have another idea? Let me know, and I will share it here!
One bread, one body, one Lord of all.
One cup of blessing which we bless.
And we, though many, throughout the earth
We are one body in this one Lord.
Gentile or Jew, servant or free,
Woman or man, no more. Refrain
Many the gifts, many the works,
one in the Lord of all. Refrain
Grain for the fields, scattered and grown,
gathered to one for all. Refrain