Below is the sermon text for Sunday, February 25. The lesson is John 13:1-17, where Jesus washes his disciples feet.
When is the last time someone washed you? Or when was the last time that you washed someone?
Washing someone is an intimate act. If you think of someone washing you, it probably makes you feel uncomfortable. It is a familiarity that is beyond what we are used to. To wash, or to be washed, requires a certain trust. It is done out of a sense of love, or out of duty.
A mother washes her baby or infant, and they bond. A child washes their parent, or grandparent when the ability to do it oneself proves too challenging. We get our hair washed before it is cut and styled to pamper ourselves. A nurse gives us a sponge bath as part of our care in a hospital.
Washing someone isn’t something that happens normally. And it didn’t in Jesus time either. As a sign of hospitality, a host would provide a basin of water and a towel for visitors to use to wash their feet. It was a welcome to someone who had traveled across dusty and dirty roads, clad only in sandals to come to your home. If the hosts were affluent enough, and the guests were worthy, they may have a female servant or slave wash the guest’s feet.
It would only be in extremely rare circumstances that someone other than a female servant would lower themselves to wash someone else’s feet.
One time occurred during the week before Jesus was crucified. A few days after raising Lazarus from the dead, his sisters Martha and Mary had a dinner for Jesus and his disciples. During the meal, Mary took a pound of expensive, pungent nard, and used it do anoint Jesus’ feet, wiping them with her hair. She did this out of love and devotion to Jesus.
And that is the reason that Jesus washed his disciples’ feet. As a sign of love and devotion to them.
It is Thursday of Holy Week, and Jesus and his disciples are gathered for what will be their final meal. In the middle of the meal, Jesus gets up and prepares to wash his disciples feet.
Simon Peter doesn’t understand, first refusing to let Jesus wash his feet, then inviting him to wash his whole body. Simon Peter doesn’t understand what the gesture means.
His teacher, his rabbi, his lord, is showing the degree of servitude, love and devotion that he has. John records this event in this Last Supper, and not the sharing of bread and wine that Mark, Matthew and Luke do. But both events are designed to show, and to remind us, of the sacrifice that Jesus will do in the hours to come.
It is one thing to say, “I will give up my life for you.” It is another to see it acted out in doing an act servants rarely lower themselves to do. It is another to see it shown by being told that bread and wine represent the giving up of one’s life.
For both the sharing of the bread and wine, and for the foot washing, all twelve disciples are there, and all partake. Jesus washes Peter’s feet, and Christ gives him his body and blood. Jesus washes Judas’ feet, and Christ gives him his body and blood.
Later in John’s telling of this Last Supper, Jesus gives his disciples his final, and newest commandment. He tells them, and us, to “Love one another, just as I have loved you.”
The challenge of following that command has troubled Jesus’ followers since he gave it. How do we show love to such a degree that means we would give up our lives for the sake of others? It means putting the importance of others, rather than on ourselves.
Unfortunately, an example came into our world just eleven days ago. During the tragedy of the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a coach, the athletic director and several student put themselves between the shooter and students. To protect others, they stepped, or stayed, in the bath of the bullets.
As someone who spent seventeen years in public education, that doesn’t surprise me. After the shooting, I read a message from a teacher who wrote, “My worst fear isn’t that I’ll die in a school shooting. It’s that I won’t be able to jump in front of my students fast enough.”
I read that, I could picture so many people saying that. It is a horrible thought, and an extreme example, but that is the love that Christ calls us to show.
Jesus Christ, the Word that was with God, the Word that IS God, through whom all things came into being, came into the world. The true light which enlightens everyone came into the world to give all who believe in him the power to become the children of God.
And as children of God, he commands us to take the role of servant, to love others the way that he loves us.
How can you show that love to someone who needs to hear it today? Or tomorrow? Or this week? Or for the rest of your life?
“Servants are not greater than their master, nor are those who are sent out greater than the one who sent them. If you understand this, you will be blessed if you do them.” AMEN.
February 14, 2018
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,
After much prayer, thought and consideration, I write to inform you that I have accepted another call, and will be leaving the churches of the ONE in Christ Lutheran Parish after Easter Sunday. The Covenant Lutheran Churches of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma have voted to call me to be their pastor, and I have accepted that call.
Several times, I have shared with quote from the Apostle Paul when he encountered the Risen Christ on the road the Damascus. It is the quote from one of the chapel windows at the Seminary in Gettysburg, and I have had it tattooed on my left forearm. Paul asks, “Lord, what wouldst thou have me do?” I include that question in my prayers several times daily. I now feel that this is the time for me to follow the answer that Christ gives to Paul in Acts 9:6, “Arise, and go into the city.” (KJV)
This has not been an easy decision, but the three churches that make up the Covenant Lutheran Churches will allow me to pursue my dream of urban ministry. They are a mix of urban and suburban churches in diverse metropolis of over 1.5 million people. They are ethnically diverse, community oriented, and looking for a leader who can help them share the Good News in word and deed. I hope I can be the pastor for whom they seek.
I value the time that I have spent with all of you, and believe that we have done a great deal of good work here. I believe that the three church parish arrangement will continue to be fruitful to all. While each of Our Savior’s, Nazareth and Emmanuel are separate and unique churches, you can cooperate and work together for your mutual benefit, and as well as for the good of your communities.
There is the potential for great things to come from the three churches. I believe that potential will best be lead from the leaders within the churches, and a new pastor to work with you. The staff of the Northwest Synod of Wisconsin office will help to find your new pastor.
I thank you for the support that you have shown me, and the joys and sorrows that we have shared. I will work with the leadership of the parish and of the churches to make this transition as smooth as possible. I have informed Bishop Rick Hoyme, and he and his staff are preparing to work with church leaders to move the ONE in Christ Parish into the next phase of ministry.
I will work with the Parish Council to determine when will be my last day, and to ensure that all of my duties are covered. This summer will be a busy one, and I pray that members of the churches will serve to ensure everything gets done.
Please feel free to call or email me if you have any questions, or if you would like to talk.
God Bless You,
Pastor Brian Robert Campbell
Here is my article from the February newsletter. It will be updated as new information on giving opportunities at the ELCA Youth Gathering arise.
Information on the ELCA's Global Farm Challenge is here. A pdf brochure is here.
A flyer on the Blast off for Books program is here, and the Amazon wish list link is here.
Information on all of the offering opportunities at the Gathering is here.
Giving for the Gathering & Yourself
I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. – Genesis 12:2-3
On the first page of this month’s newsletter, there is an article about special giving opportunities for Lent.
Starting from the bottom, we are going to ask you to participate in the 40 Days – 40 Items offering during Lent. It is a great time to get a head start on your Spring cleaning, but more than that, it really exemplifies what God told Abraham in the above passage from Genesis. From the blessings that God has given you, what can you give up to be a blessing to others. Beginning on Ash Wednesday, we will have reminders and garbage bags for you to pick up and use. It would be wonderful to see Easter Sunday being celebrated with a huge offering that our brothers and sisters at Emmanuel can share during their Free Garage Sales.
Blast Off For Books is the in-kind offering that the ELCA Youth Gathering is doing to directly help the children of Houston. They have put together a list of 40 books targeted at elementary aged students in the Houston Public Schools. A link to the list of books, and an Amazon wish list is ABOVE. Literacy statistics from Houston are staggering. One in four students do not meet the reading standards at grade 3. One in five Houston adults are functionally illiterate. As someone who spend much of his summers checking out books from the library, and as a son of a school librarian, this project hits close to home.
The main Gathering Offering, and what our Blue Jugs will be out collecting for is the ELCA’s World Hunger’s Global Farm Challenge. It should come as no surprise to no one in our area that 80% of the world’s food is produced on small farms, and that these farms rely mainly on family labor. But half of the world’s 815 million people who are undernourished LIVE on farms themselves.
The noisy offering we will collect from Ash Wednesday through Easter Sunday will go to the Global Farm Challenge. Our Luther League will bring this offerings to the Gathering. At the Interactive Learning Space in the NRG Center, youth and young adult leaders will have a chance to participate in an unforgettable experience designed to immerse them in what it's like to be a smallholder farmer around the world.
We are familiar with what the ELCA World Hunger program does. It supports projects in more than 60 countries around the world, including inside the United States. Many of these projects help provide livestock, tools and training for farm families. They work to address areas where families suffer from food-insecurity, that means they often do not know where, or if, their next meal will come from.
For these two causes at the Gathering, the ELCA has set a goal of 100,000 books and $500,000.
I am asking you to meet a goal of donating 50 books from the Blast Off For Books list, and to have a donation of $1,500 for the Global Farm Challenge.
Here is the point where I provide the incentive.
For the Detroit Gathering, it was for me to wear a Packer jersey when we turned in the donation (which was $1,236.29 – and that’s before we added Nazareth) and when we went to Ford Field, home of the Detroit Lions. Other challenges have included me wearing a Packer stole or cheese head.
For this challenge, my incentive to you is to give.
Give because God has blessed you. Give because these people are in need. Give because these causes resonate with you. Give because you want to make our kids feel good when we turn in the books and money. Give because I’m asking you to.
Don’t give so that I’m embarrassing myself. Give so that we are thrilled by our collective generosity.
Give, because by giving from God’s blessings to you, the whole world may be blessed.
God’s Blessings Be With You All,
Pastor Brian's Page
Pastor Brian Robert Campbell has served at Our Savior's and Emmanuel since August 1, 2011, and began serving Nazareth on December 1, 2015.
Pastor Brian is originally from Saginaw, Michigan. He graduated from Alma College with a B.A. in Business Administration, and worked for the Saginaw Public Schools' Community Education Department for 17 years before answering the call to ministry. He graduated with a M. Div. from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg in 2011. ONE in Christ Lutheran Parish is his first call.
He is the only child of Robert and Charlotte Campbell, both who have entered the Church Eternal.
He is accompanied in ministry by his faithful bulldogge Ananias, who regularly writes for our newsletter. His articles are archived here.
He is a fan of sports teams from his native Michigan, especially the Tigers and the Lions. But we tolerate him despite that.
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