Friday, March 29, 2013

The only commandment

Today we celebrated Maundy Thursday.  The word maundy comes from the Latin mandatum, which is the root of the English words mandate and commandment.

On this day, some two millenia ago, Jesus did a number of things.  We are told he gathered with his closest friends to celebrate the Passover.  At this Passover celebration, which is more often called The Last Supper, he instituted what was to become the central act of worship in the Christian church: Communion.

He also did something which likely struck his friends as odd as it strikes us: he washed their feet.

Foot-washing was an act that was only performed by slaves; it was something that a subordinate would do for their master.  As Jesus was regarded by his friends as their teacher, it would have been culturally inappropriate for him to have debased himself to them in this manner.

And yet this is what Jesus did, because on this night, he also said something monumental: "I give you a new commandment: that you love one another as I have loved you".

The Bible is certainly full of laws, rules and lessons, but there are only ten instructions that are worthy of being called Commandments, so this statement that Jesus makes is ground-breaking, revolutionary, and it would have been seen by many as flat-out heretical.

And yet this was Jesus' principle message: love God and love your neighbour.  Love lies at the heart of every law, every rule, every commandment.  If we could only love one another perfectly, no other laws or commandments would be necessary.

My sermon this evening was based on John 13: 1-35.

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