St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA
“Real and True”
Collect: Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
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, 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." 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." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
John 13:1-17, 31b-35
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. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 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. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?" Jesus answered, "You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand." Peter said to him, "You will never wash my feet." Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no share with me." Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!" 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." For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, "Not all of you are clean."
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? 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. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.
"Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 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.' 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."
When I wrote a book, I had one idea in mind. I wanted to get down in one place what I hold most dear, what I treasure. I wrote it with my girls in mind. They were my audience. I wanted them to hear from me, what I hold most dear from living this life. Now I treasure them more which is why I wrote it for them, but also I obviously treasure my ideas, which is why I wrote a book.
Lora Robins Gallery at the University of Richmond opened when I was in school. It was the most eclectic, bizarre collection of nature items, fossils, realistic clay figures, all kinds of stuff. Taken from the Robins family home, the museum was a glimpse into her treasures. Walking through it gained an insight to a fascinating, different take on the world. Her treasures spoke to who she was and what she loved.
Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” This is a way to see people, to ponder their hearts.
Think on this. If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, what would you get up and do? Who would you run to see? What would you treasure most in all the world so much that you would run to it and hold it close, if only a moment in your final hours?
Jesus treasured his friends, his disciples. He even says in our readings opening verse that he “loved them to the end.” He wanted them to learn from him one last time. He did not run away to save himself. He went to the planned dinner, the Passover meal. He modeled servant leadership. If you want to be my disciples, what did he want them to do? “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Later they did. They remembered how he humbled himself. How he touched them. How he took the role of the servant even though they called him Lord.
Even more, he led them in a sign and symbol they could take with them. The Bread. The Cup. Taking the ordinary on and making it sacred. Whenever they take this, he will be there. Real and true.
When I was a boy, I won the Good Citizenship Award in kindergarten. I got a badge made out of a pie tin, and I got a sheet of Goetze’s Caramels. When I got home I was so proud. I wore my pie tin Good Citizen badge all day. That night when my dad got home, after dinner he went out to work in his workshop. I took that flat of Caramel Cremes out to him. My dad said that that was his favorite candy. I already knew that which is why I took it out to share. We sat in the bench swing between two trees and ate every last one of them. When I see a bag of Goetze’s Caramel Cremes to this day, I think of my dad. When I taste one, I immediately am six again, and my dad is with me. Real and true. Those sensory memories do not go away.
Jesus did the same for us in the Last Supper. He gave us a sensory reminder, a touchstone through sight, and touch, and taste where we can pause and connect with this one we love. When Jesus told his disciples that he would be with them, and they handed it on to those they brought up in the faith, and they their pupils, and so on, and so on, and so on tonight we may feel Jesus there. Instantaneously we trigger those memories, those feelings, that presence. Real and true.
Lastly, he gave them final instructions before he went away.
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.
When we are loving, we are claiming who we are and whose we are.
But wait, there has to be more to it than that, right? Nope.
“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him..” I John 4:7-9
That is what it takes, real and true love makes us real and true disciples. Not conditional. Not situational. Not self-serving. Real and true.
Tonight as we ponder the last supper, that intentional and deliberate time Jesus chose to take and share with his friends may we cling to that. What do you pour your life into? What do you treasure?
No one on their deathbed says they wish they had spent more time at work.
Watch the sunset. Share the joke. Sit and hold hands. Love people through their worst selves and call them to a higher place.
Now unlike Jesus, we never know when our last may come. We never know when we have our last anything. Few of us are cursed with that knowledge. So what do we do with that knowledge?
Live each day like its your last. Don’t postpone joy. Even more, don’t postpone love. Be Real. Be True. As I have blessed you before, I do so now:
Life is short and we do not have much time
to gladden the hearts of those who travel with us.
So be quick to love, and make haste to be kind.
And the blessing of God Almighty,
the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit
be among you, and remain with you forever. Amen