Thursday, April 02, 2015

Holy Week Thoughts, Thursday 2 April 2015

“An Anointing”

John 13:1-17

This familiar passage is the account of Jesus washing the feet of His disciples.  They are gathered in the Upper Room and are preparing for the Passover, but Jesus does this foot washing thing first, this act of complete humility and submission in order to show that “a servant is not greater than his master, nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him” (John 13:16).  In other words, Jesus says, ‘If I can do this thing, you can do no less’.

In the midst of Holy Week when we should be focusing on Jesus’ final days on this earth, it is a crying shame that Arkansas Christians have gotten entirely too caught up in the political and social upheaval caused by the controversial SB 1228, “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act” (it is not important what I think about the bill.  If you care to know what it actually says, read it for yourself).  It has been approved by the Arkansas Senate and is currently making its rounds in the Arkansas House.  The governor has expressed his intent to sign the bill, and there is much “wailing and gnashing of teeth”.

It is written in the Proverbs, “Sometimes there is a way that seems to be right, but in the end it is the way of death” (16:25).  To refuse commercial service to same-gender couples based upon religious objections to their lifestyle is a sticky wicket.  Even though the proprietors of commercial ventures may be religiously devout persons, they may still face legal challenges because of the commercial nature of their business.  This, however, is not the challenge we should be so concerned with.  Rather the real challenge is in Jesus’ act in today’s Gospel reading.

To reserve the right to refuse service to anyone based on one’s own religious ideal is dangerous territory especially in the context of the Gospel reading.  Peter thought he had the right idea when he tried to resist Jesus’ act, but in fact he missed the point entirely.  “You call Me Teacher and Lord and you say well, for so I am.  If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example, that you should do I have done to you” (John 13:13-15 NKJV).

Jesus also said, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me” (vs 8b).

This act of humility and submission is not about condoning or embracing lifestyles we deem objectionable.  It is entirely about what lies before us.  It is an anointing of the disciples to “do as I have done to you”.  Our mission is in the hospitality of the Covenant we claim to believe and embrace.  “For whatever you do to the least of these, you do to Me”.  It is not about political or social objections; it is about genuine religious devotion and appropriate expression.  This week especially, it is about being mindful of what is unfolding in the Passion of the Messiah, what Jesus believed necessary to leave with and entrust to us.

To be clear, I am opposed to same-gender marriage within the Church because I believe the Scriptures and the Spirit, not the interpreters with a social agenda or a false notion of “love”.  If this makes me a narrow-minded, knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing, sister-marrying back-woods hick in the sight of others, so be it.  This is not to say, however, that I will refuse to allow anyone to worship or receive the Sacraments of the Church nor will I refuse to serve anyone a plate at the church potluck because I find their lifestyle objectionable.  To do so while overlooking my own sin, the other idolaters, adulterers, fornicators, and gamblers, is to miss the “baptism” which comes from Jesus’ desire to serve “as an example”.

It is about neither condoning nor condemning.  It is about Christ and the “example” He gave us not by telling us what to do but by showing us how to do it and why.  If we do not get that, no legislation will help.


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