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Bishop's Message

RSS By: Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo

The Rev. Dr. Robert Rimbo shares regular thoughts and reflections about our life together.

Festival Eucharist Sermon from 2015 Synod Assembly

May 29, 2015

St. John 13:1-17, 31b-35 

 

There is a lot of "knowing" in this Gospel.

 

Jesus knows. Jesus knows the end is near.

The time has come to leave those he has loved so well. 

He knows one he has loved will betray him

to those who will destroy him. 

He knows he has come from God. 

He knows he is to suffer, be denounced and die.

He knows he is to glorify God 

and return to the One whom he calls Abba. 

He knows his Abba has put into his hands the blessed task

of revealing God’s own heart

and accomplishing God’s desire

to save a world that soon will crush him.

 

Jesus knows.

 

Jesus knows.

We come together now for a Festival Eucharist, 

a celebration of our life together, as a Synod,

as the church in this place.

We come after an already long day of parliamentary activity,

introductions to the busyness of being the church,

getting-to-know-you activities,

images from the Book of Revelation

and from our life as church,

intense indaba questions and conversations

and the prospect of another day tomorrow.

 

Jesus knows.

 

Knowing this… 

he takes a towel, ties it about his waist,

pours water in a basin

and washes the feet of those he loves and loves to the end.

I don’t wonder why he does that; 

I know. 

I see him, kneeling at the feet of those he has known and loved. 

Much is said of this act of humility, 

but we tend to focus on it during the Three Days, 

on Maundy Thursday, 

not at a festival Eucharist at the Synod Assembly.   

It’s the kind of thing that a Jewish slave 

would not be compelled to do; 

only the Gentile slaves were forced in their slavery to wash feet. 

 

So what moves my heart – 

and I think the heart of the cynical world who knows this story – 

and I hope the heart of all of you – 

is Jesus’ desire to serve in humility and love, 

to mark the reconciliation God has created with all of us.

 

He knows he will soon leave them. 

He knows he soon will no longer be able to touch them, 

to see their smiles 

or witness their dense, uncomprehending brows.

He knows they will turn from him, 

every last one of them,

running from him in shame. 

And knowing all this… 

he wants to touch them, 

to love them, 

to wipe the dust from between their toes, 

to feel his hand on the leathery soles of their worn feet. 

He wants to look them in the eye one more time.

 

So he kneels before each, 

one after the other, 

revealing to each the love in which they are held, 

showing all that he is, 

all he has done and all he is about to do is for them, 

for each one, personally. 

Watching the water roll from each foot,

Jesus dries them with the towel,

absorbed,

attentive to the task.

 

Why?

 

Because he wants to.

Because he loves them to the end, 

the love magnified by an eternal constant,

the relentless desire and the central identity of Jesus.

That love is the Power of the Lamb.

He loves them – and he loves you – to the end.

There are many things I don’t understand.

Just ask Lois.

Just ask our children or even our grandchildren.

Just ask my therapist.

Just ask any member of our Synod Council or our synod staff.

But this is the biggest thing I don’t really understand:

the desire of God to love us to the end.

 

Jesus kneels at the disciples’ feet, 

and we see all the way from Tarrytown 

to the impenetrable depths of eternity 

and into the very heart of God. 

We see past our fears 

and our despair 

and our bigotry 

and our racism 

and our pain

and our exhaustion to the one truth that is more true

than all that troubles our lives:

We see the length and breadth,

the height and depth of the heart of God, 

the One who has loved us since the birth of time 

when all the morning stars sang together for joy 

at the delight in which God has always held you… 

and you… 

and you…  

 

The desire of God is to give

the fullness of divine life and love to you. 

Such is clear as Jesus washes feet, 

an act carried fully forth on the cross of his suffering and death, 

when the holy intention of God’s self-giving 

is unmistakable for those with faith to see and receive.

 

You share this love and life of God. 

Otherwise you would not be here. 

You long to have him touch you and wash you. 

You hunger to be possessed fully

by a love as powerfully tangible

as the hands of another disciple holding your feet,

the hands of Jesus’s own body.

We are flesh and blood,

craving to be carried off by the experience of God’s own heart.

 

So, Jesus says,

"Blessed are you if you do these things,"

referring to his loving service and ours.

Blessed are you,

not once upon a time or somewhere in the future

but right here and right now.

In the messiness of crowded lives,

ragged nerves,

complicated relationships,

challenging conversations.

Blessed are you when you share forgiveness,

when you share the Peace of Christ, with the touch of a hand,

when you enact reconciliation

in washing one another’s feet

or watching, singing, praying as others do so.

Blessed are you when you open empty hands and mouths

to receive the flesh and blood of God’s self-giving.

Blessed are you when you touch another

with the joyous grace you have received

through all the ways the living Jesus touches you.

Blessed are you, when, like Jesus, you love to the end.

 

Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo

 
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