Maundy Thursday: How To Understand Love

How do you understand love?

Describe it for me. I mean, just try it. Think about it. It’s a lot trickier than it seems.

If you’ve ever been in love, you probably know what it feels like. We can describe those feeling associated with love. Maybe the warm, fuzzy feeling. The way your heart skips a little when you see the one you love. The way you hang on every moment with them or count the hours until you’re reunited.

But, that’s explaining around it. Explaining, understanding, wrapping our minds around the actual feeling of love. I think that’s pretty much impossible.

Maybe that’s why love is such a great subject for songs. If you can’t explain it fully in words, perhaps you can capture something more through music.

So, if we can’t really describe love, much less create some step by step…then how should we take Jesus’ commandment to “love one another.” Commanding love? I mean how is that going to work?

The song goes: “I can’t make you love me if you don’t.” “You can’t make a heart love somebody” goes another.

Let’s imagine for a minute this scene at the last supper. Jesus is getting ready to leave this world—he knows it; his disciples know it. And I can imagine that the were eager for some sort of parting gift, one little token of his appreciation. You know…something to remember him by. And if it could be some sort of secret power—I don’t know…maybe that whole water to wine thing—well, then I certainly wouldn’t complain.

But Jesus’ parting thoughts are that impossible instruction to love one other. And his final action is to wash their feet—doing something that was considered so lowly, so menial, that even the Hebrew slaves wouldn’t be caught doing it.

How do you wrap your mind around that? Peter certainly couldn’t.

“Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” he asks.

Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

Maybe this action of washing feet, is the means to fulfilling the commandment. If we can’t just will our hearts to fill a certain way, we can certain make our hands do what we want them to. When you wash someone, whether that’s a newborn baby or an elderly parent or a friend or a strange—the act of washing another person creates a sense of intimacy that we’re not really used to having, except with those we love the most. It breaks down all the barriers that we put up, it humbles us, turns us into a servant.

And when you do that, perhaps your heart can begin to feel that love that Jesus is talking about.

You can’t describe love, you can’t fully understand love here [head], but it is certainly possible to experience it here [heart].

Jesus left us with a bit more instruction. Whenever you get together, have a meal. Remember me, remember that I am present with you, in the bread and the wine. Feast on me. Share me. Give me away to the hungry.

Today, we welcome to the table three of our members—Ginny, Luke, and James. It’s not as if they will be experiencing Jesus’ presence for the first time. After all, Jesus has been present with them every step of the way—in the tender love of parents and grandparents and all of you here. And they’ve come forward and received God’s blessing whenever we gathered at this meal.

Each of them, just like all of you, comes to this table today with a slightly different understanding of how all of this works. After all, we experience love—each of us—a little differently. We’d choose different genres of music to capture it, different styles to describe it. Yet, we know that God’s grace and mercy is for all of us, meeting us exactly where we are, giving us exactly what we need.

And we hope and pray that through the simple act of eating, coming to this table again and again to feast in Jesus’ presence, we will all deepen our understanding of God’s love for us here [heart].

Jesus’ parting gifts, his final instructions—to love each other, to serve one another, to feed all—that stands at the very heart of what it means to be Christian, or what it means to follow Jesus. We don’t always do a great job at it—after all, we might balk a little bit—“You want me to wash his feet?!” “You want her at the table.” But the disciples didn’t always get it right either, as we’ll here tomorrow.

Our hearts are sometimes a little stubborn, a little rebellious—but God can work with that, God understands that. And so the invitation to these waters, to this table, is always open. And because of that, we to may commit ourselves to living out the example of Jesus’ self-giving, self-emptying love…all the way to the end.