Know Love

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Catacombs of Callixtus 2nd Century CE
Catacombs of Callixtus
2nd Century CE

Acts 4:5-12

Psalm 23

I John 3:16-24

John 10:11-18

How do you know love? Really. How do you know that beyond a doubt someone loves you or you love someone? It isn’t exactly the easiest thing to prove.

The first thing most of us think of when we hear the word, “love,” is romantic love. Even in that seemingly straightforward context, how can you really know the words “I love you” are true? You don’t know if someone really loves you (and all of you), just an aspect of you, or something else- like their self. If you say to your partner, “I love you,” how do you know that those words are true? How can someone demonstrate that this love is beyond doubt true. In a lot of romantic movies you often see one person make some sort of extraordinary gesture to “prove” their love to the other. Think of people bursting into the middle of wedding right when the priest says, “Speak now or forever hold your peace,” or think of John Cusack and a boombox playing Peter Gabriel.

Does that demonstrate love? Or is it infatuation? Or pride? Or anything at all?

How do you know love when you see it?

1 John gives a potential proof of love.

We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us- and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.

Have you experienced that kind of proof of love? Truly putting someone else’s needs before your own- giving yourself completely for the good of another person. Continue reading

A Boy Named Doubter

Second Sunday of Easter

Acts 4:32-35

1 John 1:1-2:2

John 20:19-31

My daddy left home when I was three
And he didn’t leave much to ma and me
Just this old guitar and an empty bottle of booze.
Now, I don’t blame him cause he run and hid
But the meanest thing that he ever did
Was before he left, he went and named me “Sue.”

Well, he must o’ thought that is quite a joke
And it got a lot of laughs from a’ lots of folk,
It seems I had to fight my whole life through.
Some gal would giggle and I’d get red
And some guy’d laugh and I’d bust his head,
I tell ya, life ain’t easy for a boy named “Sue.”

Johnny Cash wrote this song about A Boy Named Sue. This is a young man who had his whole life defined by one thing- his name, Sue. Because of this name, Sue was picked on, got into fights, and as a result he became a tough, strong, and calloused man. Thomas also has been defined by one thing. He has been defined as a doubter. He is A Boy Named Doubter.

We get this name from the Gospel reading for today. Jesus has been killed and most of his disciples are hiding out for fear that the same thing will happen to them. Thomas misses out on this experience because he is out doing something (we don’t know what, but it sure wasn’t hiding out in a locked room). The disciples tell Thomas what they saw, Jesus passed through the locked door, he said “Peace be with you,” and he showed them the wounds on his side and in his hands to prove that he really was Jesus. Jesus was there, in the flesh. He defeated death. The resurrection is real and Jesus was with us. Thomas, however, says that he will not believe unless he sees Jesus with his own two eyes and puts his hand in Jesus’ wounded side.

And from that point on, everyone remembers him as Thomas the Doubter.

But that isn’t really fair. You really shouldn’t label someone for something that they said once without knowing anything else about their life and we do largely ignore the rest of his life. When we see the other things he did during Jesus’ ministry, we see that he was actually an incredibly faithful and brave person. Continue reading

Jesus is Raised! … but he isn’t here.

Myrrhbearing Women at the Tomb of Christ (Kizhi, Russia 18th Century)
Myrrhbearing Women at the Tomb of Christ (Kizhi, Russia 18th Century)

Easter Sunday

Mark 16:1-8

“Jesus is raised!”… but he isn’t here. You would probably hope that Jesus would stand still for just a second. Mary, Mary, and Salome arrive at the tomb at sunrise on Sunday morning and they find an empty tomb. Jesus is gone. After the crazy and exhausting week the women had, you’d think that Jesus could stick around for  a minute to chat. A week earlier on Palm Sunday, Jesus entered Jerusalem to shouts of hosanna and exuberant palm waving. On Maundy Thursday, Jesus shared his last meal with his friends, washed their feet, and was betrayed by one of his disciples. On Good Friday, he was arrested, tried, crucified, and killed. Saturday was silent. And now on Easter Sunday, Mary, Mary, and Salome come to the tomb to find it empty and they receive the good news that Jesus has been raised from the dead.

But Jesus isn’t present himself. They receive word from the messenger in white that “he is going ahead of you to Galilee.” Jesus is already on the move. It seems like he couldn’t have waited for more than a heartbeat to get up and be on his way. He has work to do and a resurrected life to live and he isn’t going to waste it by sitting in a tomb. Continue reading

Washing Unattractive and Tired Feet

Maundy Thursday

Exodus 12:1-14

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

John 13:1-7, 31b-35

For most people, feet are the grossest part of the human body. They are probably so gross because they bear up the rest of the weight of our body and we’re constantly using them. They endure the most wear and tear. You can run a marathon and feel your feet ache, but it doesn’t take 26.2 miles to really put your feet through a whooping. Just standing at a cash register ringing up people’s groceries for eight hours is enough to make your dogs bark. Wearing uncomfortable dress shoes and nylon dress socks will make them ache and sweat. Just daily walking from place to place puts our feet through a beating- to the store, to the bus stop, to a friend’s house. They get smelly and sweaty, they get calloused, they get achey, they get blisters, they get athlete’s foot, they get sandy or dirty, they get stubbed toes. It’s no secret that feet are often worn and unattractive as a result of the strain they endure. Our daughter has known that feet are yucky since she was 6 months old. She will grab one of her feet, pull it close to her nose, and exclaim, “Ewwwww! Stinky!”

At Jesus’ last supper, he gets up from his seat at the dinner table, grabs a towel and some water, and begins to wash his disciples’ feet. I can only imagine what kind of sad shape their feet were in. Continue reading