If you’re into sending and receiving e-mails on a regular basis like I am, perhaps this has happened to you.
I’ll be reading an e-mail from somebody and toward the end of the e-mail, there will be a very heart-warming concluding thought and in that moment, I think to myself, “Well how sweet for this person to share such a loving thought with me.” It just kind of lifts your spirit when someone shares their heart with you.
But that’s when I realize that this loving thought is really just an advertising slogan placed at the bottom of the e-mail by some company trying to get me to buy their product.
Here’s an example. In one of my former churches, my organist sent me a work related e-mail about something related to an upcoming worship bulletin, but then at the bottom, it was so nice for David to conclude his e-mail to me with these very personal and heart-warming words printed in red.
“Nothing says I love you like flowers.”
And for just a brief moment, an ever so brief moment, I have this very irrational and bizarre thought that my organist is giving me a subtle hint that he will be sending me flowers because he loves me.
Then reality sets in when I read the next line: “Find a florist near you.”
In a matter of three seconds, I go from thinking that David will be sending me flowers to, “If I want flowers, I’m going to have to click on this advertising link which will send me to my local florist.”
Call me gullible, but this has happened to me more times than you probably care to know.
Maybe there’s a little something inside each of us in which we long to be loved. Maybe more for some of us than others.
The last time she had worn the Muslim dress with a head scarf covering everything with the exception of her face, hands, and feet, was in the Miami International Airport where the stares were many and the security check was much more intrusive than for the other passengers.
But on this day, she was going toward the restroom of a local eatery in a rural town of Alabama. She expected the worse as she walked through the restaurant, waiting for people to shun her or mumble not so kind words as she passed by the tables. She was even mentally prepared to leave the place if the manager would have said something to her.
As she made her way toward the Ladies’ Room, a woman, taking notice of her dress, initially was visibly stunned at first, but then this woman gave her a very unexpected and disarming smile.
That genuine smile was all that was needed, to enable Hailey Woldt, a 22 year old Catholic woman, to know that a little love can go a long way.
Actually, Hailey was participating in a social anthropological study involving four other 20 something Americans, and led by Professor Akbar Ahmed, the Islamic Studies chairman at American University in Washington.
The study was charting how Americans relate to people of the Muslim faith in everyday affairs.
Jesus knew very well that love isn’t always easy. It stretches us to do things and behave in ways that might not come natural for us.
So here Jesus is, with his closest followers, gathered for a meal. And true to form, Jesus raises more than a few eyebrows when he takes the role of a servant by going around the room, and one by one, washes the feet of the disciples.
By pushing away from the dinner table, girding himself with a towel, and stooping down to wash the disciples’ feet, Jesus didn’t just teach about love, he showed love. The disciples were able to see love in action.
And then Jesus sums up his actions by telling his disciples that this is their new commandment, this is the way they are to live, this is what it means to be one of his followers, to love one another just as he has loved them. To the point of being a servant in the simple act of washing feet.
“By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another,” Jesus tells them.
“By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples.”
Through the washing of feet, through a smile given to a stranger in a restaurant, through reaching out beyond our comfort zones to do something that Jesus would do.
That’s how everyone will know. If we have love for one another.
In due time, Jesus will demonstrate yet again, what it means to love others unconditionally. But instead of stooping down with a bowl and basin, this time, he will be raised high on a cross and with arms outstretched he will offer his very life.
Tonight, as we come forward to receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion, God is saying to each one of us, “Nothing says I love you like this…Washing your feet and dying on the cross for your sins.”
That’s what Jesus has done for us. And by sharing this same love, that’s how everyone will know we are his disciples.