21 April 2011
St. John's, Chicago, IL
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
"I love you." When it comes down to it, that is the message of the Gospel. "I love you." Jesus tells and shows His disciples, gathered in that Upper Room how He loves them. He loves them so much that there He is, their Lord and Master -- the Creator and King of the Universe, choosing to serve these lowly men.
Here is Jesus, once again showing Himself as the perfect and holy Bridegroom. He does everything for the benefit and blessing of His Bride, as He gets up from table and does the menial task that is normally reserved for the lowest of servants.
And that is true love. Not some emotion. Not some feeling. But a deliberate decision to serve, and to act and speak for the good of the beloved. Jesus gets up from the table, and lowers Himself in this act of service, not only to demonstrate, but also to give His love!
Then again, the very Supper is His love in action. The ancient Church often called the Lord's Supper a "Love feast." The very love of Jesus Christ is delivered in a way that you can consume it--the Body and Blood of Jesus, given and shed to fill you with His love!
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another." Sounds great, but guess what? You don't do it. You do not love with the perfect, self-less, sacrificial love of Christ. You do not love perfectly, without ever resenting moments of serving others. You do not love the Lord your God with complete priority over all, and then all others above yourself. You just don't. And that means that you are failing Jesus' command.
We often call this day, "Maundy Thursday" -- the Thursday of the Command. In telling us to love, God is giving His Law. He commands. But you cannot live out that love in its perfection. It is due to this lack of love that You stand before the Lord as a judged and condemned slave.
But then Jesus enters that Upper Room. He serves the servants. He lowers Himself, loving each of you in the ultimate fashion. He gives Himself as the Holy food and drink that bring forgiveness, life, and salvation. He renews and strengthens you, so that you are no longer stuck in your human nature that hates to love. He fills you with His love so that you extend that love to the others in your life.
As He says, "Take, eat, this is My Body, given for you. Take, drink, this is My Blood, shed for you," He is declaring, "I love you!" Christ places Himself into these earthly elements and purely and physically delivers His love to you.
You have already been bathed in the waters of Holy Baptism. There, as He spoke through the pastor and said, "I baptize you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit," The Lord declares, "I love you!" Now Jesus says, "I love you!" as He washes your feet in Holy Absolution. "I forgive you." "I love you." With our dear Lord Jesus, these two statements go hand in hand.
Yes, Jesus loves you! And you don't have to merely rely on the fact that "the Bible tells [you] so," but He speaks it to you directly, again and again in His Sacrament. He sends your pastor to host this regular celebration of His fulfilled Passover, and sustains you with forgiveness and love.
Dear friends in Christ, tonight Jesus says, "I love you!" as He feeds you. He continues to say, "I love you," as He prays in the garden and is betrayed and arrested there. "I love you," is His message as He stands trial before the high priest and the Governor. And it is the best summary of His extreme suffering on the cross.
"I love you!" is also the message of His resurrection. It all comes together. This week needs to be viewed as a whole. And Jesus' summation for this Holy Week is, "I love you!". Amen.