to love is to serve is to liberate

'Fligendes Herz' photo (c) 2009, hmboo - license:

When Jesus removed his outer garment and knelt to wash his followers' dusty, dirty feet, it was a profound act of humility.

Taking the very nature of a servant

To love is to serve, to bow low that others may be honored. To set aside power that the humble may be exalted.

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

Christ's love risked personal discomfort, community dissension, and his own life.

 he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death
        even death on a cross!

But the Christian story does not fade out on one humble man's unjust execution. It is not a tale of submission as an end in itself or a pie-in-the-sky gospel of get-along, wait it out, it gets better, suffer, sisters!

It was just before the Passover Festival. 

The foot washing, Last Supper, and Christ's arrest happen in the context of celebrating the Israelites' liberation from slavery in Egypt. Jesus serves his friends and submits to death not because he is compelled, but because he is free, demonstrating that the power of God and Love is greater than the power of empire or anything else. He

did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage

Christ's humility and service honored a God who liberates the oppressed, breaking every literal and metaphoric chain. To love is to serve is to liberate. "On the night he was handed over to suffering and death, our Lord Jesus Christ..."

showed them the full extent of his love.

Jesus wasn't a nice guy or martyr but a servant-leader. His service was radical for the way he laid down his own authority. His ministry consistently upended cultural norms, transgressing myriad religious, ethnic, gender, and class barriers. His love is inextricable entwined with the laying down of power and the lifting up the vulnerable, lowly, and despised.

having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

With one empty tomb, Jesus demolished hierarchies, humiliating the oppressive religious and political powers that hung him naked and bleeding to a tree. He subverted their symbols of dominance and shame, exposing their blood thirst and impotence by his own humility, forgiveness, and resurrecting, all-things-made-new power.

To love is to serve is to liberate. Christ washing his disciples' feet hearkens back to the exodus and ahead to the cross and empty tomb. 

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Yes, we are called to deny ourselves and pick up our own crosses but never to nail each other up on one. To follow Jesus is to tread the way of suffering and death all the way to Sunday, when old yokes shattered and a new day dawned. 

We are an Easter people. Christ is risen and his Kingdom comes, on earth as it is in heaven. The last are first, the dead are raised, and all things shall be healed. In his Name all oppression shall cease

We'll follow Jesus down the path of servanthood, flattened hierarchies, and radical love. We'll follow him into repentance, freedom, and resurrecting life. 

Our strengths, weaknesses, experiences, privileges, and perspectives are unique, so we won't bind each other to the specific, personal ways we discern God's leading in our own lives. We'll seek unity without uniformity, but never on the backs of brothers and sisters who are hurting. We won't agree on everything but will hold our tongues from crying, "Peace, peace," when there is no peace.

It's a hard and hallowed path, but we're in this together as family, co-laborers, pilgrims, prophets, priests, ministers, reconcilers, servant-leaders, and friends. We are God's workmanship, Christ's Body and Bride: uniquely gifted, irrevocably called, assuredly beloved, and free indeed.

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