Maundy Thursday: Don’t Keep Safe. Keep Loving!

These epidemic days everyone tells us, “Keep safe.” But our real job is to keep loving, and loving often isn’t safe.

 

Maundy Thursday gets its name from the Latin, mandatum, which means “commandment.” Jesus’ new commandment to us, which encompasses and expands all valid laws known to humankind, is “Love as I loved you.”

 

The Fourth Gospel tells us Jesus has the authority to issue this command because he exemplified it and because, in the Eucharist and the church, he enables us to do it. Our lesson for this day is John 13.1-17, 31b-35. It starts by saying Jesus started out loving his own, and now he loves them to the end. It’s not an exclusive group that he loves. We know this because John tells us in 3.16 that Jesus is doing God’s job for him, which is loving the whole world.

 

Christ doesn’t do his job by keeping safe. In fact, as he gives back his earthly, fleshly life, he says, “It is finished (John 19.30).” John is using the different forms of the same Greek word here. Jesus is loving the world “to the end” also means he follows God’s purpose of loving the world to its intended conclusion. When he says from the cross, we know nobody took his life—he gave it to finally accomplish what he was sent from God to do.

 

In the Eucharist we are fueled for the job God sends us to do. We are filled with spiritual food and drink to keep on keeping on. Not to keep safe, but to keep loving, in every way we can.

 

Even when it is people who annoy us, who are different from us, who frighten us. Even when it gets dangerous and painful.

 

Don’t keep safe. Keep loving!

 

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About John

John is a retired pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America who has served congregations for over 40 years, including in rural, suburban, campus ministry and urban settings. His love of Border Collie sheepdogs has been fortified by his many friendships with shepherds all around the world. Nothing he has ever or will ever accomplish is as significant as the patience God, his wife and his friends have shown in putting up with his deficiencies.
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