Maundy Thursday

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
— John 13:34-35

Community is hard. It’s messy and dirty. Mostly, it’s overwhelming. Today is Maundy Thursday, a day set aside in Holy Week to contemplate and remember the Last Supper and Jesus’ washing of his disciples’ feet.

On the night before Jesus was arrested and betrayed, he sat with his disciples and commanded them to love one another. The very same people that would shortly hand him to the soldiers and deny him, he reminded them of his love. The very same people who would soon abandon him, he reminded of his truth.

Jesus loved them. They were to love one another.   

Scripture knows nothing of the solitary Christian. People of faith are always members of a community. Creation itself was not complete until there was community, Adam needing Eve before humanity was whole. God never works with individuals in isolation, but always with people in community.
— Eugene Peterson

Sometimes I get this all wrong. I am messy and dirty. Mostly, I’m overwhelming.  I desperately want to be a solitary Christian. I don’t want to mess with the work and dedication it takes to build a community. It’s just easier to watch The Office for the 10th time. Communities, like families, are built on birth and redemption. They’re fortified by forgiveness and hard conversations. They are long nights of angry words and and early mornings of mercy.

They are not just Sunday morning sunshine.

Sometimes they’re Thursday nights of washing feet and getting to the bare dirt that we travel with. They’re clinking wine glasses and breaking bread as unknown trauma and death lies before us. They’re not just me and Jesus traveling this road in the sand. They’re me and His people on a pilgrimage up dusty paths, building a family of faith in the desert as we await his Kingdom.  

So as we travel towards Easter Sunday, let us pause today and remember the night of the Passover and Jesus’ desperate call.

Let us remember:

Jesus loves us. We are to love one another.

As we approach this Easter weekend, are you walking in community? If not, what keeps you from investing?

What do you think it means to be loved? How does it look? How does it feel?

What do you think it means to love like Jesus loves? How does it look? How does it feel?

What are some things you need to leave at the foot of the cross in order to love your community more deeply?

Four suggestions for you or your community:

Read the story of the Last Supper in Luke 22 and John 13, contemplating the significance of the event for both the original audience and for the Kingdom of God.

Invite your close community over for dinner and wash each others feet in remembrance of Jesus’ actions. Read the above sections to each other and discuss the ramifications of Jesus’ command.

Culturally, in the setting of the Lord's Supper, washing of feet was messy work. It was a task meant for only lowly servants. Consider a way you can engage in today's "messy tasks" for someone in your community. Offer to deep clean someone's bathroom or kitchen. Give the struggling parent some time away from their tantrum-ridden toddler. Get your hands dirty to show your neighbor love.

If your church community doesn’t have a service, attend a neighboring church and engage in the wider community of Christ followers.

It Takes a Village

This Lent has been new for me.

Not in the stories or rhythm, rather it has been a different sort of dance. It’s a dance, not born of my desires or even best qualities, but a dance that is built upon some of my greatest weaknesses and insecurities.

Too many times I lead with my dominant foot. But, this year, I found myself swaying and stumbling far removed from my life of old, from the movements that normally make me comfortable, trusting that this new dance I am learning will make sense in the long road.  

Truth be told, I limit myself based on faulty notions about who I am and who I am not. That self induced truth strips me of many opportunities to serve God. Very rarely do I branch out to invest in things that cause me to feel like, maybe, just maybe, I don’t have ALL that is needed.

Every human activity can be put at the service of the divine and of love. We should all exercise our gift to build community.
— John Vanier

This weekend, me and my people, were blessed with the opportunity to watch two sweet baby boys so that two of our other people could finally get some well deserved rest. I found myself holding lots of babies. My role as Aunt Cookie is pretty secure. The jovial, delightfully overweight one of my friend group, I often find myself with babies and toddlers on my lap. I am truly, madly, deeply a comfortable person from my thighs to my giggle.  

Because of that, I struggle with discipline. Not one for rules either, I find it hard to enforce things and, to make it worse, it’s very rarely that I’m taken seriously when I do try.  

So as Kate and I watched these dear boys, we fell into a rhythm. She, a seasoned mom. I, a fun-loving aunt.

I know little about babies or children. I don’t even know that much about being an adult. Not surprisingly halfway through the day, I started feeling insecure about what I had to offer. What do toddlers even eat? (Answer: everything and yet nothing.) What am I doing? (Answer: I don’t know.) Which way does this dang diaper go? (Answer: Not that way.) How much poop is too much poop? (Answer: You’ll find out fast.) Can you OD on apples?  (Answer: TBD). On and on, I questioned myself and my ability. If I can’t be ALL things to these boys and my friends, what am I even doing?

Later that night, as I took it upon myself to put big brother to bed, I found myself at another hard place of not knowing if I was enough for what he needed. As the rain started pouring and I stared out the window pondering my next step, he came and crawled in my lap. We rocked in the squeaking rocking chair recounting the day as I laughed and jabbered on about my favorite parts. The park, O THE PARK, was great! The walk, O THE WALK, was great! Do you remember when we played in the sand? O that was great too. What a day, sweet boy, what a day!  

Pretty soon he was fast asleep in my arms.

That moment was humbling and beautiful for me. I can’t do a lot. There’s so much that I don’t know. There’s so much that I can’t offer. But I can rock that sweet baby to sleep.

When I think about the body of Christ, and what it means to live in the here-and-now of Lent and our salvation story, I will think of that rocking chair and that sweet boy. In the grand scheme of things, I didn’t have a lot to offer him. But I had willingness and presence.

Those boys didn’t need the best of me. They needed all of me. They needed all of us as a community of aunts and uncles. We needed to be all in it together, trusting each other to fill in when the moment called for, our strengths and weaknesses melding together in perfect unity.

Isn’t that what the church is to look like? Isn’t that what community is all about?

When I look at our journey towards Lent, I can’t help but be struck by this truth.

We are all wounded. We are all broken puzzle pieces trying to fit together in the grand narrative of faith. We are all desperately seeking community. We are all wounded, faulty pilgrims dancing to a song we don’t entirely know and can’t fully comprehend.

As we continue on this road to Easter, may we be filled with the assurance that all of us is enough for Christ our Lord. All of us is enough for our community.  

This weekend we lived out the truth that it takes a village to raise a baby. But, even more so, it take a village to be human.

We need each other. And God needs us as we are- fully human.  Faults, insecurities, flaws, and falls, every aspect of ourselves on full display with willingness and presence.

To God be the glory.