The Rev’d Roger Elks
Click here for the text of the reflection
Reflection for 7th May 2020
Note to the reader: I prefer to speak from notes rather than prepare and read a script. This text is therefore a computer generated transcript of my recorded reflection for the website which I have corrected as much as time allows. This will help explain the odd grammar in places and the frequent use of “And” at the beginning of sentences!
Hello, welcome to our reflection for this Thursday. I hope you’re all surviving lockdown with us all and enjoying these reflections. And it’s nice to share and I’m enjoying watching my colleagues and bringing the scriptures to life through the Spirit, working through them. So today’s passage that we’re looking at is the gospel reading for the Communion service for today in the lectionary. It’s from John, Chapter 13. We begin to read at verse sixteen just after Jesus has washed the disciples feet.
16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. Jesus Predicts His Betrayal 18 “I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfil this passage of Scripture: ‘He who shared my bread has turned[a] against me.’[b] 19 “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am. 20 Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.” (NIV)
There are two key themes in here. One about the betrayal of Jesus that we know will happen shortly. As Judas Iscariot leaves the meal. But also there is the sort of sandwich, the beginning and the end of the passage, about being sent and serving and I want to focus on that today.
I remember when I was in industry working in factories. Part of the joke was to tease the apprentices. Never happened to me. But sometimes t he Apprentice would be sent down to the tool room and to the stores and ask the storeman for something like a “long weight”. And they innocently went down there and the storeman would say, “Well just stand over there, laddie.” And after about half an hour, when he got bored or really started questioning, they’d explained to him that he had had his long wait and he could go back to the factory floor now. Or maybe he was ask to ask for a tin of elbow grease or something that would raise a laugh.
Being sent on errands; we all start at the bottom, don’t we? When we start work and we’re often the ones, when we do start, getting the tea, being a tea boy or or tea girl. Most of us start humble beginnings and that’s a good place to start, I think. A lot of people who now run companies started at the bottom and worked upwards. I remember a story of one vicar who told me that when after some church event, it was he as a curate and his incumbent were the only two left in the church hall. And they had moved all the chairs and then they started sweeping the floor and they were going backwards and forwards with the broom. And as the vicar passed, the curate and it was probably getting on for about eleven thirty at night. He looked and ever said, “You’re always a deacon.” And that’s true, isn’t it? We have this order of deacons, which was reminiscence of the of those early disciples who were set apart to serve at tables. But actually as an ordained person, you never lose that ordination. It’s just like the foundation on which the priesthood service is built. You are always a deacon. You don’t stop serving at tables with that humble role. It’s important not just for we who are ordained, but to all of us who serve others.
Now, in the Bible, in the Gospels particularly, there’s an awful lot of spending going on. God sends his Son. Jesus sent the apostles. Now, the word apostle actually means “the sent one”. And we read it how He sends out 12, doesn’t he? And then he sends out seventy two. And then in Matthew twenty eight, we read of what we call the great commission when he says to his disciples, go into all the world, make disciples and lo I will be with you always. And in John 13 this idea of sending has a precursor to it, which is that of humility. Here is Jesus washing the disciples feet being the lowest of the low. It should have been the slaves who did that obviously that hadn’t happened, none of the disciples wanted to lower himself to the role of a deacon or a slave to to do this humble task. And Jesus takes it upon himself. And then he says. “You’re not any greater than than me, are you? I’m going to send you and the ones who are sent are less than the one who sends. And as I have done this humble task. So you too will do humble tasks.”
Those who we serve as Christians receive not just the good work in themselves, they receive not just us, but says Jesus. Those who receive you, those who you serve, receive both Jesus, the one who sends us, and God the Father who sends Jesus. That’s verse 20 of John 13. “I am telling the truth. Whoever receives anyone I send receives me also. And whoever receives me receives him. Who sent me.”
So those who we serve receive not just ourselves, but they receive Jesus and our Heavenly Father.
When I was a Cub Scout, I remember that one of the things that we could do is do a good turn every day. It was part of the scout promise, wasn’t it? A scout does a good turn every day. I wonder if you can remember that those of you who joined me in the scout movement, and when I’d done my good deed for the day, I could get the two ends of my cub scarf and tie them in a reef knot, not a granny knot. And that would be a little tie at the end. And that would show everyone who turned up at the Cub meeting, would show that they’ve done their good deed. Now, we as Christians are to do our good deeds every day, and I’m sure we do as we look at them. But what’s special about the Christian is that the good deeds that we do are prepared for us to walk in. When we walk in the in the guidance of the Spirit and in the presence of Jesus, then the things that we do are not just ordinary things, but they become things that God works through. In Ephesians Paul writes, Ephesians 2v10, “For, we are God’s handiwork created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”
So today there are those good works which God has prepared for us to do in his providence. There are those who need our help. There are those who need to be served by us in one way or another. And I guess in lockdown we just need to be imaginative about how we do that. And it may be that they know who’s contacted them and serve them. It may be that it’s anonymous through some gift or whatever, or even a prayer where those for whom we pray do not know we’re praying. But they are there, those good works. And our job is to spot them and to do them and not to avoid them or forget them or neglect them.
But it is not just that good deed which is of benefit to the recipient. It’s not just the benefit of what we do practically or emotionally, but it is the fact that as we serve, this person is visited not just by us, but by God Himself. God himself comes into that person’s life through our service. What an amazing thought that is. Those little things that we do are the things that God uses to come into somebody’s life. Saint Francis of Assisi said “Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words”. And every moment of our waking life, we are to preach the gospel, by doing those good works, by serving and it isn’t always going to be easy and nice. Sometimes it’s going to be sweeping the floor when everybody’s left. And sometimes it’s going to be washing dirty, smelly, dusty feet because no one else got round to it.
May, Lord, I not miss the opportunities God gives me today to bring Jesus into people’s lives. Amen.
And so let’s pray. The collect for today.
Almighty God, whose son, Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life. Raise us who trust in him from the death of sin to the life of righteousness that we may seek those things which are above where He reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.
May God bless you and all our parishes and our communities as we continue through this lockdown period. And look for brighter and better days as we serve the Lord in humility and faithfulness. God bless.