Aug 30, 2021
We are familiar with hearing this text during the Lenten season as we prepare for Easter and the Easter season. It provides an example of love. The word love conjures up many images. It makes some people smile and others laugh and yes, the word love can make some cry.
The act of love made Peter tell Jesus “NO.” No, I will not receive this, it is inappropriate for you to wash my feet as an act of love. That is something slaves do for their masters because they are supposed to.
Peter, like many of us, are slow to realize what love looks like because we have only seen love in this form or that form. But never like this. From someone who is more than special. Someone who has been sent to change the way we understand the world and how it operates. And more importantly, someone sent to show us what humanity can look like with the love Jesus demonstrated.
We point to Jesus and say, he had superpowers to stoop low, tie a towel around his waist and wash the dusty stinky feet of his disciples to show them he was not too high and mighty as their teacher and
Lord to meet their basic need of cleanliness; to show hospitality; to serve. We point to Jesus and say he had the superpowers to serve everybody, even his enemies, even the disciple who would betray him.
Most of you thought of Judas, but remember Peter betrayed Jesus also. Fear and greed can blind you to love. Shame, guilt and unforgiveness can be blockers to opportunities to serve/ to connect with your whole heart and self and to live life loving and loved.
Judas’ burden of guilt and shame resulted in suicide. But not even suicide can block the love, mercy and grace sent from God. We continue to try to understand how the gifts of mercy and grace work.
Even after denying Jesus three times, the risen Christ still reached out to Peter — that’s mercy and invited him to serve; made space—that’s grace.
We have been reminded that we are formed, woven, poured out and now lifted by love, in love and with love.
The July 18th issue of the New York Times Magazine was shared with me. The article titled “The Judge” written by Stephen Carter, who was one of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall’s clerks, is full of stories from Thurgood Marshall’s life on the bench. Carter was given the honor of serving as the interviewer for Marshall’s official oral history for the Federal Judicial Center. Carter shared several stories from his interviews with Thurgood Marshall, who died in 1993 after serving 24 years on the Supreme Court. Thurgood Marshall was the first African American Supreme Court Justice. Marshall was appointed in 1967 by President Lyndon Johnson.
Jesus prepared his disciples to love as he had loved. Jesus in life and as the resurrected Christ never missed an opportunity to show an example of love; to be or act as a conduit, to show a different level of humanity. And Jesus said to us: go and do as I have done.
In the NY Times article, Carter shared a story of Thurgood Marshall’s encounter in a pool hall in the 1940’s somewhere in the Deep South. Marshall was at a table drinking with friends when a Black man he did not know approaches and asks to speak to him. Marshall invites him to sit but the man preferred to stand. The man said:
“I hear you’re a lawyer; is that right?”
Marshall responded, “That’s right.”
The man said, “You’re educated? You’ve been to college?”
Marshall responded, “I have.”
The man asked, “So do you know anything about this resurrection business?”
Marshall said, “A bit.”
The man said, “Well, I hope you have some influence. Because if I come back after I die, I want you to arrange for me to come back as a rat or a pig or even a bug. Anything. Just don’t let it be a Negro.”
When I read this, I stopped, my heart swelled, and my eyes filled with water. The author wrote that Marshall told this story to illustrate what the struggle was about in the 1940’s. He wrote, “School desegregation, or employment equality or voting rights were all important, but none were ends in themselves.” They were goals, he said “in the service of creating a world in which black people would no longer see themselves the way the stranger in the pool hall had.”
We have all been formed, woven, poured out and lifted-given some status, a part of a community that can make a difference to achieve the goal of creating a world in which no one sees themselves as less than human or as only for others’ pleasure or entertainment.
Simone Biles, the greatest of all times in gymnastics; lifted for her earth-defying jumps, twists and turns, showed young women last week that love of your mind and body is worth more than fame and wealth when she removed herself from competition as she was experiencing “twistees-” her mind and body not being in sync. The world saw this act of self-care-the act of having a high regard for your own wellbeing and happiness to enable healthy relationships and actions. This young woman’s actions have now spurred a resurgence of the importance of total wellbeing, especially for athletics. One who was lifted up, was able to shine light on a subject that is too often not discussed.
Our status of being human and made in the image of God should not be taken for granted. But as Jesus showed, we must be taught. Jesus taught the disciples how to use status to lift others up and connect them to their higher selves. We must pass that teaching on.
Thurgood Marshall sat at the table with many segregationists, people who did not think like he did. He sat at the table to accomplish a goal- that everyone would see themselves as worthy. Black nurses were finally hired in Southern State hospitals, even the colored only hospitals after he reminded a segregationist that Black males in hospitals were not being cared for by Black nurses. The segregationist warned Marshall that he would get that changed, but he would not like the way he would do it. To convince trustees of a State hospitals, the governor at that time said, “I was visiting the hospital the other day and went over to the colored ward and to my astonishment saw the flower of Southern womanhood tending to every need of a colored man.” Putting one down was used to open the door. Marshall continued to remind Carter of the goal- to create a world in which all people saw their worth and could serve as God had given them gifts.
Love comes in different forms, but love always open doors, connects to resources, affirms gifts, elevates your mind to love yourself and to love others. We must teach as Jesus taught. We must use our status to make humanity look like the love Jesus demonstrated.
Let’s be bold. Go and do as Jesus taught. Lift up to connect for humanity is waiting to see the love that Jesus taught.