Thursday, May 26, 2011
Resurrection as Never Before Possible: Giving the Gift of Life
Can you imagine that we can do something that even Jesus couldn’t do? Living in the 21st Century, under certain circumstances we can actually give someone the gift of life. This is an application of the meaning of Resurrection that Jesus could not even have imagined.
Shortly before Jesus’ own death, he gathered the disciples together to give them a lesson about how life was going to go on without him. The new commandment, the new way of life that Jesus offers, is pretty radical. Jesus says, “As God has loved me, so have I loved you. Live on in my love.” Then to add a little more emphasis, Jesus says, “Here’s a new commandment that I give you: that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that you lay down your life for a friend. You are my friends if you love one another.”
This teaching of Jesus is often read on “Maundy Thursday,” when Jesus breaks bread and “institutes” what we today call Communion with the disciples. It’s a wonderful way of passing on the message of life to friends who are going to lose a loved one to death. In the context of Jesus’ “Last Supper” with the disciples he in essence tells them he is willing to “lay down his life” – die – so that the love of God may live on in them. The significance of this teaching is hidden in the “strange name” given to the Thursday before Good Friday. The day is often called, “Maundy Thursday.” “Maundy” comes from the Latin Word meaning “Mandate” or “Command.” Thus, Jesus’ new commandment that is passed on to us just before his own death is “to love one another.”
One of the beautiful images passed on in this teaching is that Jesus changes our relationship with him and with God in commanding us to love one another. He says, “no longer do I call you servants (the Greek word is actually slaves) but friends (equals). In the context in which Jesus uses the word “friends,” he’s not talking about “Facebook friends”. He’s talking about an intensely deep, personal relationship of care and love for someone, similar to what we call “our best friend.”
It’s kind of hard to get our heads around, but in this teaching Jesus is actually saying that each and every one of us is his (and God’s) best friend. We’re the ones Jesus is willing to lay down his life for, so that we may live in the deepest friendship/love with God! The depth of this kind of love is what we often call “Redeeming Love.” It is a love that literally “gives us life.” As I think about what this experience of love means in my life, it is for me the ultimate experience of being loved. And it is also a mighty “high bar” that is set in learning to love others.
This Sunday, I want to talk with you about a contemporary application of this story, something that is available to us today, but wasn’t even thought of during Jesus’ life time. That is, organ and tissue donation. Each of us has the opportunity now and every time we renew our driver’s license to consider donating the organs of our body and/or our “tissue” (flesh) as a gift of life to someone else. As those of you who have been here for a long time know, my family and I experienced the death of an infant child many years ago. In the midst of one of the most horrific tragedies in our life, my brother and sister-in-law, who both worked in the medical profession, made the decision to donate Danny’s vital organs to others in need. It turned out to be the only good thing that came out of this tragedy. From that moment on, I signed up to be an organ and tissue donor.
This Sunday I’m going to share a bit of our family story and Renna Killen is going to share a bit of her life’s passion as an RN who specializes in bone marrow donation for children with cancer at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. We’re also hoping to have either an organ transplant recipient or donor family to share their experience with us. Organ, tissue and bone marrow donation are some of the contemporary ways that we can actually give the gift of life to someone who, without it, may well die.
As “friends of Jesus” it is a wonderful way to pass on the gift of Christ’s love as Jesus commanded us to do!