A bit of a different subject for me!
'Red, blue, yellow, black, white.'
'Yep. That's it.Those are your basic colours.'
We gazed in awe at the myriad colours of the stained glass windows as the sun brought each coloured piece to life. Roger and I were taking a young friend of ours around our magnificent cathedral in Coventry thoroughly enjoying the visit while the sun soaked the windows. Well worth a visit on a sunny day! There's something very special about sunshine through coloured glass - something very beautiful and unexpected as the colours shine and reflect on plain walls and floors.
About two thousand years ago, God did something very beautiful and unexpected as He intervened in our history. He gave us His Son, Jesus. Everything about Jesus was unexpected and His life initiated a whole new era. (If you've never read an account of Jesus' life, grab an opportunity over the Easter break to find out about Him!) Take a look at this one particular evening, just before His death:
'The evening meal was being served.........Jesus got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing and wrapped a towel round his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped round him.' (John 13:2,4-5 NIV)
What was Jesus doing here? Bearing in mind that everything Jesus said and did was a teachable moment, what Jesus was doing here was truly significant and completely outrageous!
This evening meal was a special one as this was the Passover meal. It was celebrated every year and was steeped in Old Testament Scripture, history and tradition over several centuries. Yet, this was the evening Jesus chose to break with tradition!
Etiquette taught that feet should be washed on arrival by a slave, as most folk wore sandals. Feet became very dirty on the dusty roads with many animals roaming around! Foot washing was the lowest of all the household jobs reserved for non-Jewish slaves, wives and children. Jewish slaves were not required to do this.
Jesus and His disciples sat down to eat that evening without having had their feet washed. Perhaps there was no slave around - they certainly seemed well versed in 'that's not my job !' So Jesus, their Teacher and Master, got up from His meal to do the job no-one else wanted to do! He took off His outer garment and wrapped a towel around His waist. Sitting here in the twenty-first century, we have no idea of the shock waves that must have gone through the disciples when they watched Jesus do this. By wrapping a towel around His waist, Jesus was identifying Himself as a slave. He washed each of the disciples' feet, including Judas, whom He knew would betray him. It seems nothing was said by the disciples - perhaps a stunned silence! -
until Jesus reached Peter.
'Jesus came to Simon Peter, who said to him, 'Lord, are you going to wash my feet?'
Jesus replied, 'You do not realise now what I'm doing, but later you will understand.'
'No,' said Peter,'You shall never wash my feet!'
Jesus answered, 'Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.'
'Then Lord,' Simon Peter replied, 'not just my feet, but my hands and head as well!' (John 13:6-9 NIV)
Typical of Peter! He was obviously shocked at Jesus' action and in his own way was voicing what the disciples felt. After washing the disciples' feet and putting on His outer garments, Jesus sat down and explained His action:
'Do you understand what I have done for you? ........You call me Teacher and Lord and rightly so for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set an example that you should do as I have done for you.' (John 13:12-15 NIV)
I wonder what the disciples were thinking at this point? Jesus' action was so counter-cultural that His words 'you should do as I have done for you' perhaps had them thinking, 'What?? Wash filthy feet? Me?'
In fact, they hadn't clocked Jesus' example at all, as in another account of the evening we read this:
'After the meal a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be the greatest. Jesus said to them, 'The kings of the gentiles lord it over them, and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest and the one who rules like the one who serves.' (Luke 22:24-26 NIV)
This was a tough lesson to learn! But look at how gently and lovingly Jesus was teaching them, not only in words but example. He knew well the world's expectation of a leader - lording in power on a foundation of fear. His example as Teacher and Lord was new, based on a foundation of love with gentle humility and encouragement. This was a whole new way to live!
So did the disciples ever learn this message?
We read this right at the beginning of Peter's second letter:
'Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ.' (Peter 1:1 NIV)
For Peter it had been a difficult journey to this point, through the Cross and to the other side to the Lord's Resurrection and then to finally being empowered at Pentecost. A difficult journey, but not impossible as Peter chose to accept Jesus' invitation of love. Perhaps this is one invitation to think about!
Worship Art Workshop at the House of Bread, Burmington, Shipston-on-Stour, CV 36 5AE. 14th April, 10.00am -3.00pm. Bring Bible and lunch. Cost £10. To book your place email Rosa on email@example.com
See you there!
This was a project - just finished! - for Thrive junior ministry. This is a backdrop, 2.5m wide and 2m high! It's just about the biggest thing I've painted!!
My teenager stood in front of me, squinted eyes fixed hard on me, head to one side. She broke the short silence. 'How did you know I was going to do that?' she asked.
'I'm your mum.'
Head down, she muttered something incomprehensible, turned and sloped off.
Those of you reading this who've had the privilege (?) of raising teenagers will identify with this moment! Personally, as my daughter was growing up, I found it incredible just how much about her I did 'know', even though right from the start she was always very much her own person! Call it intuition or a mother's sixth sense, but I was always surprised at the deep sense of just 'knowing' that simply couldn't be explained.
About 1000 years before Jesus, King David wrote this with the same sense of surprise about God:
'God........I'm an open book to you;
even from a distance, you know what I'm thinking.
You know when I leave and when I get back;
I'm never out of your sight.
You know everything I'm going to say
before I start the first sentence........
Is there any place I can go to avoid your Spirit
to be out of your sight? (Psalm 139:1-4,7 the Message)
His surprise continued:
'Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother's womb.......
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.......
all the stages of my life were spread out before you
The days of my life all prepared before I'd even lived one day.' (Psalm 139:13,15-16 The Message)
What an awesome insight King David had - this Creator God shaping him physically from day one and being bothered about the details of his future life! Suddenly this warrior leader must have felt very small. Small enough to ask, 'What is man that you are mindful of him? The son of man that you care for him?' (Psalm 8:4 NIV) This is a question I've asked myself lots of times! Why should God want to know about me? It's ridiculous!
To help my understanding, I went rooting around to find out how the ancients used the word 'know' and quickly discovered how limited our word 'know' is in its meaning and scope. When we think of 'knowing' for the most part it simply means obtaining head knowledge. For the ancients, it meant a great deal more involving all the senses. Look at these words describing 'to know' - to understand, experience, perceive, notice, discover, learn, pay attention to, and my favourite, to cherish. 'Knowing' was an all encompassing, whole life experience.
So God doesn't want head knowledge about me. He wants to embrace my whole life experience. But why?
I guess we fast forward to Jesus for the answer.
Jesus was a fantastic story teller - perhaps the best ever!- and told several stories about His Father God. Perhaps His most famous story is one about a lost son, dubbed 'the prodigal son'. We'll look at part of the story - you'll have to read the rest for yourselves! It's found in Dr. Luke's Gospel, chapter 15.
Jesus told the story of two sons. One day, the younger son demanded his inheritance from his father. So, his father divided his property and the young son left home with his inheritance. He travelled far from home, wasted his inheritance on wild living until he had nothing left. Then a famine hit the land he was in, so he got a job as a farmhand on a pig farm. By now he was really hungry, but he was given no food. That was when reality struck and he remembered how well the farmhands were treated back home. He decided to return, offering his repentance to his father for the way he'd treated him and giving himself to work as a farmhand for his father. He honestly felt he didn't deserve anything. But look at what happened next:
'When the son was a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him and kissed him. The son started his speech, 'Father, I've sinned against God, I've sinned before you. I don't deserve to be called your son ever again.' But the father wasn't listening. He was calling to the servants, 'Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him.....Then get a heifer and roast it. We're going to feast! ....My son is here - given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!' (Luke 15: 20-24 The Message)
Radically, Jesus taught the disciples to view God through a different lens - that of Father, a loving Father waiting for his reckless young son to return home. In the story, despite the fact his son had insulted and rejected him, the father still loved him. There was no rejection or retaliation by the father to his son - just sheer love and delight when he returned home. In fact, the father got the best party ever going for his son! That's crazy!
This is an amazing God. He wants to know me and have a relationship with me simply because He loves - and loves and loves! He waits for me to return, reaching into my very 'lostness', however far away I might think that is. Why? He loves. Just like the son had been prodigal with his inheritance - extravagant and reckless - so our God is prodigal with His grace and love - hopelessly extravagant and reckless! True - such love is ridiculous, especially when we know we don't deserve it, but that's the nature of our Father God.