May 14, 2023
Dr. John A. Terry, Interim Pastor
I am going to speak at some length about the scripture before
reading it. Last I preached and again today we have the same chapter
from the Gospel of John and next Sunday we will press further into the
Gospel of John. Here is the reason. There is a thing called the Common
Lectionary used in common amongst Christian denominations. It
roughly follows the church year and is designed to cover the major
passages in the Gospels, books we hold in common with Jews,/ what we
call the Old Testament; what they simply call the Bible; and other
books in the New Testaments.
That is why we have this passage today. It is a important for the
season of Easter. It comes from the Gospel of John which tells the story
of Holy Week with many more details than Mathew, Mark or Luke. In
fact, of the 21 chapters of the Gospel of John, over half cover the last
couple of weeks of Jesus’ earthly ministry.
This gospel tells of Jesus being at the home of Mary and Martha
and their brother Lazarus, Lazarus whom Jesus has previously raised
from the dead. Mary took a pound of costly perfume to anoint Jesus’
feet. That was because of more than a foot order problem. It was a sign
of extravagant love. But Judas was there. Judas happened to be the first
church treasurer. He complained that it was a terrible waste of money.
It should, he said, be sold and given to the poor. In fact, Judas had
probably been stealing the money from the church treasury for himself.
On Thursday night of Holy Week they gathered for the Passover
meal. While Mary earlier washed Jesus feet, Jesus himself took off his
outer robe, put a towel around his waist/ and washed the disciple’s
feet. Some churches continue to do foot washing, either on a regular
basis or just on Maundy Thursday in observance of the Last Supper. It
can be a powerful act if we understand the significance of what Jesus
Most of us wash head to toe before we come of worship. We wear
shoes and socks. We walk on sidewalks and church floors. But if you did
foot washing in the first century it was dramatically different. Roads in
the ancient world were not paved like ours. They did not have the
footwear we have. They wore sandals. Feet could easily get blistered
and raw. Even the light massage that comes in washing was soothing.
But that was just one reason foot washing was a highly significant act/ of
hospitality and service by Jesus.
Where people walked was mostly on dirt or mud. It was also
where animals walked leaving what animals leave behind. The ancient
world/ did not have sanitary facilities like ours. Human waste got
hurled/ wherever there it was convenient. Washing feet was important to
cleanse feet and to sooth soar and bruised souls. But it was filthy.
Because foot washing in the first century was filthy it was
relegated to those at the bottom of the social scale. Jewish men did not
wash feet and Jesus was an observant Jew. That was done by gentile
servants or women or children. That is one reason/ this was such a
startling moment. Jesus their master became their slave. Jesus became
the migrant, the woman, the child, the minority, the one at the bottom of
the social system. Jesus washed the feet of Judas who was to betray
him/ and he told us that to be like him/ we are to wash one another’s
feet. This is a disgustingly filthy act we are to do for one another, even
Then Judas, with washed feet, went out into the night to betray
Jesus for money. After Judas left/ Jesus gave the commandment that we
are to love one another as he has loved us. It is just like the hymn: They
Will Know We Are Christians by Our Love. Now the words of the 14th
Chapter of John continue Jesus’ lesson. This is some of what he said that
night. In a translate that uses inclusive language.
John 14:15-21 (The Inclusive Bible) If you love me and obey the
command I give you, I will ask the One who sent me to give you another
Advocate, another Helper to be with you always — the Spirit of truth,
whom the world cannot accept since the world neither sees her nor
recognizes her; but you can recognize the Spirit because she remains
with you and will be within you.
I won’t leave you orphaned; I will come back to you. A little while
now and the world will see me no more; but you’ll see me; because I
live, and you will live as well. On that day you’ll know that I am in God,
and you are in me, and I am in you. Those who obey the commandments
are the ones who love me, and those who love me will be loved by
Creator God. I, too, will love them and will reveal myself to them.
We generally do not like being told what to do. Telling us
something is commanded of us can be infuriating. Harold and Jane
were not a very religious couple, but they at least went to church every
Easter. As they were leaving the church on Easter, the minister said,
“Harold, it sure would be nice to see you and Jane here more than once a
year.” “I know,” replied Harold. “We’re very busy people, leading busy
lives but at least we keep the Ten Commandments.” “That’s great,” the
minister said. “I’m glad to hear that you keep the Ten Commandments.”
“Yes, we sure do,” Harold said proudly. “Jane keeps six of them and I
keep the other four.” The idea that we are being commended to do
something does not always sit well.
Some years ago, the late Erma Bombeck wrote a piece about
having the meanest parents in the world. It went something like this: “I
had the meanest parents in the world. When I was seven years old they
dared to spank me just because I told them I would not do what they
asked me to do to help around the house. My friend next door never got
spanked. He didn’t have to help at home. He had nice parents.
“I had the meanest parents. I had to eat all my broccoli and
carrots before they would let me have dessert. My friend next door
never had to eat vegetables. He had fast food with burgers and shakes
and brownies and all kinds of ice cream.
“I had the meanest parents. They made me go to church every
Sunday as long as I lived under their roof/ and sit there in that boring
worship service. My friend next door could do as he pleased. He never
went to church. Sunday was a fun day for him.
“I had the meanest parents. They made me work for my
allowance. I had to get a job helping an elderly man with chores around
his house. My friend next door never had to do anything and he was
given four times as much allowance as I could ever earn. He had nice
“I had the meanest parents. When I turned sixteen, they made me
earn points before I could drive the family car. My friend next door was
given a brand-new luxury automobile. My folks had bought an old
jalopy for me to get back and forth to school, but you think I’d drive
that hunk of junk and park it beside those BMWs’ and Mercedes? My
friend had it made.
“Or so I once thought, but, when I reached age thirty, I had a
change in perspective. I had learned that my parents were not so mean
after all. I was experiencing: the pleasure of work, the reward of
recreation, the strength of a healthy body, the bonds of a strong
marriage, the inward confidence that comes from faith and the
wonderful supportive fellowship that comes from the Church.
“As for my friend, things were not going so well: he was not
finding his niche in the workplace; nothing seemed to satisfy him; he
was having difficulty getting along with people/ who were not willing to
do everything just as he thought it ought to be done; his marriage had
not lasted even two years; his body was getting out of shape; and he had
a cynical outlook/ without the under-girding that comes from faith.”
Erma Bombeck came to understand that obedience to her parents’
rules instilled in her lasting, life giving values. “If you love me,” Jesus
said, “you will keep my commandments.” And keeping the command
of Jesus to love one another has its own reward.
Obeying/ can save us in ways. We learn the value of obeying
parents. We learn the value of obeying teachers./ We learn the value
of obeying traffic laws. We learn the value of obeying the law of
gravity. We learn the value of obeying unwritten codes of social
convention. We learn the value of obeying the principles of nutrition
and personal hygiene.
And if we do/ our lives turn out better. “If you love me,” said
Jesus, “keep my commandments…the one who keeps my
commandments, that person is one who loves me.” Like Erma Bombeck
discovered/ it is not necessarily a lesson learned quickly and early and
We may not understand all the ramifications of Christian creeds
and all the details of Christian ethics. But we can decide to obey Jesus’
command to love one another, even to love our enemies no matter
whether it really makes sense to us. There are alternatives. We do not
have to trust Jesus and we do not have to love God and we do not have
to love one another. Some teach us to hate our neighbors/ and to do
violence to those not like us.
C.S. Lewis, in his book The Four Loves wrote of the risk and
difficulty in this commandment of Christ. He said, “To love at all is to
be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung
and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact,
you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal.
Wrap it carefully with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all
entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket of your selfishness. But in
that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not
be broken; it will become unbreakable,/ impenetrable, irredeemable.
The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all
the dangers…of love is Hell.”
It is a command because we may choose not to love. The British
poet W.H. Auden said that the ease with which Hitler’s followers
dismissed Christianity on the grounds that to love one’s neighbor as
oneself is a command fit only for effeminate weaklings, pushed
Auden toward unavoidable questions.
Auden wrote that, “If, as I am convinced, the Nazis are wrong
and we are right, what is it that validates our values and invalidates
theirs?” The answer to this question/ was part of what brought him back
to Christ and the church and to the commandment of Jesus to love even
our enemies, even Judas.
Jesus spoke these words in today’s lesson at the last supper with
his disciples. They were worried about many things, one of which was
that Jesus said/ he was leaving and they did not understand/ where he
was going. We know the anxiety of someone leaving us, the fear of
being alone and the desire for companionship. In the creation story in
Genesis it affirms, “It is not good that we should be alone.”
Because Jesus knew where he was going, and because he knew
how he would return, he could tell his disciples not to be anxious.
Don’t worry about food or drink or clothing. Look at the flowers. Look
at the birds./ God takes care of them. Certainly God will take care of
you,/ because you are worth more to God than birds and flowers.
Some of the fears we feel are healthy fears, productive fears.
Fear has its place in life. Fear helps us avoid potential danger. Fear
can be a creative and motivating force in our lives. It was fear for their
future/ that led these disciples to huddle away with Jesus. The disciples
had good reason to fear what would happen to them when Jesus left.
Their hearts were troubled. So Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you,?
Then he added, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
The answer to our fears is to love.
We think of the love of God’s for us being unconditional, but this
verse establishes/ two conditions. I think of how we love our grandson
unconditionally, but on Mother’s Day a few years ago, when we were
in a very nice restaurant having a Mother’s Day lunch he started
practicing his lion’s roar.
When he would not stop his father picked him up like a loaf of
bread/ and took to the car for a timeout. A while later he returned
remarkably better. The condition Jesus said are that we keep his
commandments by loving him and one another. Those are the
The condition has to do with returning our love to God, and
sharing that love with those people God has placed in our presence. It is
important to note that in his resurrection/ Jesus only showed himself/
to those who loved him. “They who have my commandments and keep
them/ are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by
my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”
You may find little of what Jesus said to make sense and you may
find none of what I said to make any sense at all. All you really need to
know/ is that those who hear Jesus’ commandments and keep them are
those who love him; and those who love him/ will be loved by God.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another.
Just as I have loved you” said Jesus, “you also should love one another.
By this/ everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love
for one another.”