Can’t it Be About Love?

On a night when we pile on the symbolism and meaning, we must not lose sight of the message Jesus was trying to get across to his disciples in that last conversation together:

To love one another.
Because without love, nothing else matters.


 

St Mark’s Episcopal Church, Washington, DC
Maundy Thursday, 2015

This June in Boston, I will officiate at the wedding of a very cute couple.   Aaron and Drew.  Both very nerdy. Both very in love.

But there are some people who are not happy at all about this wedding.  And those some people include both sets of parents

“We’re against it,” they told the grooms, “but we’re coming,” “We will say hello, but we won’t say congratulations,” one mom told them.

Clearly frustrated and tired, Aaron and Drew said to me – can’t it just be about love.

Can’t it just be about love? 

The right question for this Maundy Thursday. The question behind Jesus’s question to the disciples “Do you know what I have done to you?”

Clearly, Jesus has gotten smart by this point in the Gospel and he answers his own question before giving the disciples a chance to get it wrong.

Do you know what I have done to you? I have washed your feet, you wash each other’s feet. And in case you don’t understand what this action means, I’ll tell you –

It means, to love each other.
I’m leaving this earth, you are staying here. Don’t try to follow me.
Stay here and love.

That is my new commandment …
That’s what it means to follow me …

Love.

When you do this – when you love – everyone will know that you follow me.

Can’t it just be about love?!

The right question for tonight.

A night when our liturgy runs wild … a frenzy of stories and symbols, songs and prayers, rituals and emotions – celebration, intimacy, betrayal, fear, pain, tears, darkness, abandonment, terror, wretchedness, emptiness, and more …

A night when our Christian theologians have tried, with all their might to align the Last Supper with the Passover meal. Lamb, sacrifice, salvation, freedom, it kind of makes sense.

But most biblical scholars now believe that the Last Supper was not a Passover meal, but a much more ordinary one – shared among friends, with bread and wine, hymns and prayers, just as religious Jews would do every day, every night.

On a night when we pile on the symbolism and meaning, we must not lose sight of the message Jesus was trying to get across to his disciples in that last conversation together:

To love one another.
Because without love, nothing else matters.

In the Gospel of John, at least, Jesus keeps on teaching the disciples at this Last Supper, one lesson after another, a long, long monologue – cramming in everything he wants to tell them – as if a clock is counting down the hours, the minutes, the seconds of his life.

I am the vine, you are the branches

If you love me, you will keep my commandments

I am sending you the Holy Spirit

Peace is my last gift to you

And a second time…
This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.

And at the end of the so-called High Priestly Prayer in Chapter 17, Jesus prays to the Father
I made known to them your name and I will make it known,*|
that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.”

 Over and over and over again, in these final words of Jesus, is the plea to love one another.

Please, let it be about love, I hear Jesus saying tonight.
Love each other. Love your neighbor. Love even your enemy.

Please, let it be about love
Don’t forget, because Love is God and God is love.
And the power of love is what makes all the difference.

During the washing of the feet, many congregations sing this ancient hymn

Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.
Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor.
Exsultemus, et in ipso jucundemur.
Timeamus, et amemus Deum vivum.

Where charity and love are, God is there.
Christ’s love has gathered us into one.
Let us rejoice and be pleased in Him.
Let us fear, and let us love the living God.
And may we love each other with a sincere heart.
Where charity and love are, God is there.

Where charity and love are, God is there.

 

Because God is love.
Because nothing can separate us from the love of God.
Because love is stronger than death
Because love brought this world into being
Because love sustained God’s people in the wilderness
Because love redeemed God’s people from slavery and exile

Because love sent Jesus in to this world, to show God’s love again
Because love moved Jesus to welcome the outcast into God’s embrace

Because love draws us toward one another
Because love breaks down the walls that divide
Because love melts injustice, heal wounds, forgives wrongs
Because love speaks truth, inspires courage, unravels pride

Because “love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

That last part is from First Corinthians, a text we we often read at weddings.

A text we will read when Aaron and Drew give their lives to each other this June.
A text, I hope, by God’s grace may move their parents to say congratulations.

Or, at least, blessings on your love. Because where there is love, God is there.
Because love is from God. And God’s love is true and good and holy and everlasting.

It is a brave and powerful love. A redeeming love. A wondrous love.
A love that lasts even to death, even to death on a cross.

In our lives, and in these Great Three days, there is pain, there is sacrifice, there is rejection, there is violence and betrayal and denial and fear and hurt and injustice and sin and evil and death.

But first. First there is love.

God is love, and where there is love, God is there.