Fr Peter Beck presided and preached. The Gospel reading was John 13:31-35.

Read on for the service video and sermon text.



Love one another as I have loved you

Our Gospel passage is somewhat fortuitous for today being the day of our parish Annual General Meeting. Indeed the whole of Chapter 13 of John’s Gospel is a dramatic and rather tense presentation of the meaning of discipleship.

The chapter begins with a demonstration of love by Jesus when he washes his disciples’ feet. His action is completely misunderstood by Peter [of course!]. The chapter ends with Jesus telling them that where he is going [that is to his death], they cannot follow him. Peter again gets this wrong, saying to Jesus that he would lay down his life for Jesus and Jesus retorts that he will in fact deny him three times. Jesus has also revealed that one of his disciples will betray him.

The Gospel writer is telling his hearers that it’s this bunch of losers to which Jesus will bequeath his mission to proclaim the good news of his resurrection and the reality of God’s purpose and love for all.

What a bunch to whom! Jesus gives this most decisive commandment that he gives to his closest followers – ‘to love one another as I have loved you’.

You will recall the foot washing. Peter and the others see Jesus washing their feet as a demeaning act which should only be done by a slave/servant. Actually in those times it was not uncommon for the host to take part in this gesture of welcome. When Jesus tells Peter that unless he lets him wash his feet then he cannot have a share, that is to say be in fellowship with Jesus, Peter blurts out that Jesus should wash all of him. He is genuinely expressing his desire to at one with Jesus. It’s all about washing of feet before a meal and whose job it is.

But what the Gospel writer is telling us here is what we often fail to taken on board. It is that what Jesus is doing is performing an act of what theologians would call of eschatological hospitality. Now what does that mean! It is a defining moment as we draw close to the final act of this great drama, the passion of Christ. It is an expression of the total and complete love of God for each one. We have heard Jesus say that he and the Father are one. There is no distinguishing between them. In this act of love, this intimate washing of feet, Jesus is sharing the intimacy and total unity of Jesus with God and in so doing he bringing the disciples into that relationship. Jesus is calling them into a community with him which demands their all, their life and their love. And we are that community.

In this passage which follows after the foot washing, he speaks directly to his disciples…to his followers…to his church which they will found….and so to us. We hear other admonitions for instance in the Sermon on the Mount, to love our enemies, to do good to those who hate us, to love others. Here Jesus is speaking directly to the Church, to the community of the faithful. He knows the depth of the betrayal of his disciples. He knows they will all forsake him. And yet he has faith in them and calls them fondly, his ‘little children’. And he says ‘ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another’.

Jesus teaching here on love and discipleship he unrelentingly places in the context of betrayal and death. The example that this commandment points to, the love of Jesus for his disciples will find its fullest and finest expression in his death. His disciples, us, are exhorted to love one another as fully as he loves them, as he loves us. We are to model our love on a love whose ultimate expression is the gift of our lives in the service of others, on a love that has no limits, no boundaries or restrictions. It is not so much the giving up of our lives, but the giving away of our lives in the service of others. It is not self-denial, it is freely and graciously loving which will free us to experience abundant life and to become the people God created us to be.

We are made from love and for love. St Augustine put it very simply – ‘Love God and do what you like’. Because, of course, if we love God in the totality of our being what we like to do is nothing more nor less than to live our lives expressing that love of God in every circumstance – that’s to say, loving as Jesus loved us.

What it means is that to love one another as Jesus loves us is to live our lives thoroughly shaped by a love that knows no limits, by a love whose expression brings each of us believers closer into a relationship with God and with Jesus and with each other.. It is to live a love that carries with it a whole new concept of the possibilities of community.

This commandment is directed solely to Jesus’ community the church. It is the sole explicit commandment in John’s Gospel of Jesus to his followers and it is not easy to keep. Just look at the history of the church in any era. The church’s witness to the world is always hurt and diminished by the hatred and the lack of love that marks Christians’ dealing with one another. Jesus promised that the community’s love for one another would be a signal to the world, to everyone, that they are Jesus disciples, that they will know we are Christians by our love. Yet that signal is crippled daily by the division and discord within the Christian community. I’m sure I don’t need to give you examples.

So how are we doing here at St Michael’s? As we come to our AGM I invite you to reflect on just how we are doing at loving each and every member of this parish family in the way that Jesus loves you and me [and that’s the hard bit! Loving in the way that Jesus loves you, loves each person and everyone]. Jesus goes on to say that ‘by this shall everyone [the community around us in our neighbourhood and city, those whose lives we touch, the world] know that you are my disciples.’

‘They will know we are Christians by our love’, goes the hymn. Let that be our daily resolve.

Let us pray for one another and for the mission and ministry of our parish

Previous Post Next Post