As I have loved you

This is an adapted form of the sermon I preached on Maundy Thursday, March 29, 2018. The gospel text was John 13:1-7, 31-35.

 

So…
Love one another, Jesus said.
I give you a new command.
Love one another, care for each other.
Offer a helping hand.

Sounds good and right, and sounds like Jesus.
It’s what we’d expect him to say.
There once was a time he said which commandment was best.
Do you recall what he said on that day?

He said, “The greatest commandment is loving your God,
With heart and with mind and with soul,
And the second command is as great as the first:
Make loving each other your goal.”

“Love your neighbor as you love yourself”
Is the way he said it that day
Think of how much you care for yourself,
Then send that love your neighbor’s way

But I have to say, that command wasn’t new
Jesus didn’t add it to the syllabus
That commandment was there, word for word
In the book that we call Leviticus

Not a new teaching. It’s an old, old command.
So why did Jesus say tonight that it’s new?
Well, because what he said here at the last supper
Was different, unique, through and through

He didn’t say here, “love neighbor as self”
That’s a good rule, but it does have a flaw
Perhaps you’re thinking, “That’s blasphemy, sir.”
Well, I’ll tell you the flaw in that law

It reminds us that everyone is deserving of love
No matter how they look, how they sound, how they smell
But loving your neighbor as you love yourself
Is only good…if you love yourself well

For there are times when we don’t love ourselves
When we find we’re the ones that we can’t stand
And loving our neighbor in that sort of way
Isn’t the way that God planned

There are times when we hate every action we take
When we feel nothing more than a sinner
And in those dark times, should the way we love outside
Really match the dark suffering that’s inner?

The command to love others just as ourselves
Is only the way we should be
If we’re completely loving and kind to ourselves
And that doesn’t always describe you or me

So Jesus gave an amended command
He said, “love one another” for sure,
But he added a piece that would make it more clear
How to keep our love perfect and pure

He said, “Love one another as I have loved you”
And that is what makes it all new
“Love one another as I have loved you”
Well, that’s a very different thing for us to do

For here’s how Christ loved us:

While we were still sinners, he loved and desired
To eat with the prostitutes, lepers, outsiders
Wholly accepting us, whoever we are
And making us … holy, to shine like a star

And so he commands us to love and to care
For everyone out there, no matter the stares
No matter their gender, their color, their lifestyle
No matter their politics, their innocence … or guile

But his love doesn’t leave us in our sinful state
He gave us his body; he transformed our fate
He changed us so we might be signs of God’s glory
Challenging us to be part of God’s story

And so he commands us to love and to care
To challenge our neighbors, to encourage and dare
To gently remind them that they are God’s own
To nurture the seeds that God has already sown

But he doesn’t simply let us off the hook
He called Peter, “Satan” once; that’s in the good book
He holds us accountable, and yet he forgives
He makes us try harder, but grace always gives

And so he commands us to love and to care
And to hold each other accountable for the things that we share
To stand up for the weak, and stand up to the bully
But to always forgive and show God’s grace fully

And Jesus loved all of his friends to the end
He ascended the cross, his spirit commend
The love that he gave never took a vacation
For Jesus was God’s loving manifestation

And so he commands us to love and to care
To never grow weary, to always be there
He makes us his people, transformed from above
He gives us the will and the strength of his love

So loving each other like Jesus loved us
Is a challenge, a journey, a life
A call to love strangers and outcasts as much
As our children, our husband or wife

And this also extends within to ourselves:
Love yourself as Christ loved his friends.
Accept and challenge, hold firm and forgive,
Show mercy and hope to yourself till the end.

So Jesus gave a new commandment that night
A command that’s a bit hard to swallow
But he gave it with bread and he gave it with wine
So we are empowered to follow

He gave us his body and poured out his blood
And now we can taste the divine
The love that he showed us in these three great days
Equip and ignite us to shine

Love one another, our savior did say
Love one another, for I am the way
Love one another, I command you to do
Love one another, as I have loved you

WordItOut-word-cloud-2906439

The featured image is a Word Cloud made from the words of this sermon at WordItOut.com.

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