The Season of Lent: Loving Service
For several years I attended a Maundy Thursday service for ministers at a church, down the street from Grace. We would begin with breakfast together and then move into a time of prayer and worship. Instead of a message, we would discuss together the significance of John 13, where Jesus washes the feet of the disciples at the last supper. The point of John 13 is loving service. Jesus washes their feet in the upper room and then says to them, “Do you understand what I have done for you? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (John 13: 12-17)
The discussion our Maundy Thursday worship service turned personal very quickly when we were asked to answer two questions: 1) who has “washed” your feet this past year? 2) Whose feet have you “washed this past year?” It may have been the dynamics of being with a group of people you hardly knew, or being thrown off guard by the personal nature of the questions, but it always amazed me how hard it was for a group of ministers to answer those two questions. When we did muster up a response they were often kind of lame like, “someone shoveled my snow” or “I made a meal for someone.” Before you frown too quickly on our inability to answer, how would you answer the questions?
Loving service of others is at the heart of the gospel. What better time than the season of Lent, where Jesus displays the magnitude of His love for us, to ask God to make us more loving. Jesus says, again at the last supper, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.” (John 15:12-14) It is hardly likely that we’ll have the opportunity to literally lay down our life for our friends as Jesus did. The point is, that loving each other as Christ loves us always, always, always, involves serving them. Loving as Jesus has loved us is never simply a sentiment, it is a verb. The love of Christ can always be seen, or it is not the love of Christ.
Loving as Jesus has loved us is never simply a sentiment, it is a verb. The love of Christ can always be seen, or it is not the love of Christ.
It’s been several years since I last went to the Maundy Thursday service. The pastor who led it retired. I think back on those questions from John 13 though, every year. I appreciated the encouragement Ralph Felzer gave us all in a previous blog post regarding Lent. He mentioned practicing various disciplines to grow in Christ-likeness. In addition to the ones he mentioned, perhaps it would be a good way to end each day during lent with the question, “whose feet have I washed today?” Nothing is more Christ like than loving service of others.
Lord, make your words true of me and true of us. Help us to grow in our love of you and of others. In this you will be made known as Lord and Savior. We pray that the words of John 13: 34 and 35 would burn in our hearts. “A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”