To Love Is To Stay And Listen

Like many of us, my husband James and I celebrated the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper tonight at home while worshipping via Zoom. Before worship, we read today’s Daily Lectionary Gospel text Mark 14:12-25. We then read John’s account of that fateful night. I love John’s account for two reasons. First, because his way of recounting Jesus’ offering his body and blood was by recounting Jesus’ washing the disciples’ feet. Second, because that’s when Jesus gave us a new command: “Love one another.”

I love John’s account for two reasons. First, because he reminds us that to lay down one’s life for another often takes the form of humbly serving another. Second, because he reminds us that this “new” command is one we need to hear anew: “Love one another.”

In reading these words from John that I’ve read hundreds of times, what struck me anew tonight was what took place between his washing the disciples’ feet and his giving the disciples this new commandment: He spoke to one disciple in particular. He spoke to Judas.

Jesus spoke of one who would betray him. In identifying who it was by dipping a piece of bread into the dish and offering it to Judas, Jesus said to Judas, “Do quickly what you are going to do.” Judas left, and the other disciples immediately began speculating as to why. Maybe Judas left to be practical and tend to their practical needs. (What do we need for our Passover/Easter celebration?) Maybe Judas left to be charitable and tend to their charitable needs. (What can I do to tend to the needs of others?)

Whatever the reason, Judas left.

To those who were left, to those who stayed, Jesus gave his new command: “Love one another.”

When I think about Jesus’ words to Judas and the disciples’ speculations as to why he left, I realize I’m a lot like Judas. I tend to think of what’s the practical thing (even when it’s not the most practical thing to do in the moment), and I tend to think of what’s the charitable thing (even when it’s not the most charitable thing to do in the moment.)

Like Judas, I, too, am tempted to run off and do what I want to do rather than sticking around to hear what God calls me to do.

What if the most practical and charitable thing to do right now is to sit and stay and listen to Jesus’ command: “Love one another”? What if the most practical and charitable thing to do right now is to sit and stay and listen anew to Jesus’ new command: “Love one another”?

And for those of us Judases who don’t always make the right choice when it comes to those questions, remember anew: Jesus spoke to Judas, and Jesus gave him a choice: “Do quickly what you are going to do.”

Jesus gives us the same choice tonight: What are we going to do? Will we get up and leave this night to do whatever it is we planned to do? Or will we sit up and stay and listen this night to God’s call to love one another?

Especially in the midst of a global pandemic, there’s a lot at stake in our choosing to obey that command. Indeed, there always has been. As Jesus said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35.) May it be so.

In our Presbyterian tradition, we offer a prayer of confession before partaking of communion. One of my favorite prayers of confession is the following from the Book of Common Worship. Join me in this prayer prayed by thousands tonight across centuries of years:

Merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart and mind and strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. In your mercy forgive what we have been, help us amend what we are, and direct what we shall be, so that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways, to the glory of your holy name, through Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Sisters and brothers, hear the good news! Who is in a position to condemn? Only Christ, and Christ died for us, Christ rose for us, Christ reigns in power for us, Christ prays for us. Anyone who is in Christ is a new creation. The old life has gone; a new life has begun. Know that you are forgiven, and be at peace. Thanks be to God. Amen. 

God’s story – and our story – continues tomorrow.

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