This is my "abbreviated" sermon manuscript from my sermon on Sunday
Luke 22:14-23 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
There's a rock climber named Alex Honnold who decided he was going to climb El Capitan, a 3000 foot cliff, in Yosemite national park. Not only was he going to climb the cliff but he was going to "free solo" climb the cliff. If you don't know what free solo means it means to climb without a rope or any other safety equipment. He trained for this climb for almost ten years. When he was interviewed after completing the task he said things such as: everything needs to feel automatic, I couldn't allow doubt to creep in, and it's as much about the spiritual effort as the physical effort. While he was practicing (in his living room) he said this: "it may have felt silly but it still had to get done, everything had to be perfect if I was going to climb the route without a rope. When asked why he wanted to do this he simply said: "I didn't want to be a lucky climber, I wanted to be great. His story brings up a lot of questions for me but they really can be boiled down to one question: why on earth would someone do something like that? The rope is his lifeline and he chose not to use it for help.
Luckily we don't have to go through life without a lifeline. We have that lifeline in Jesus Christ who paid the price for our sins long ago by dying on the cross so that we are redeemed. When Christ calls out from the cross: "Father forgive them; for they know not what they do," I believe that statement is not just for the people present at the cross, or just meant for those who deserted him, or even just for the people alive in the first century. I believe it's for all people for all time. This is key to Christ's gospel and it is our lifeline.
It's important to note that even though we have that life line it doesn't give us permission to act stupidly. We are asked to do the same thing that Jesus' friends were asked to do so long ago. While reading the scripture for this week a couple things really stuck out to me that I would like to share.
When the hour came, he took his place at the table and that he eagerly desires to eat this Passover meal with them before he suffers. The last supper is a pivotal moment in the life and ministry of Jesus and as the moment of his resurrection is approaching Jesus chooses to have this simple meal with his disciples. He calls them his friends and eats with them and gives the meal new meaning by teaching them by example about was it means to show sacrificial love. He redefines the meal by having the bread and the wine represent His body and His blood that are given and poured out for you. He did this willingly and eagerly.
The one who betrays Jesus is with Jesus and his hand is on the table. Judas is there and has already made a deal to turn Jesus over for a payday. Jesus knows Judas will betray him and Jesus still breaks bread with him. Jesus welcomes the person who will turn him over to suffer and be crucified. It's significant to me because Jesus shows what it means to forgive and that EVERYONE is welcome at the table.
13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. ~ John 15:13-15 (NRSV)
So to be a friend of Jesus means that we are to be in relationship with Jesus. For us today that means that we are called to do as Jesus did and lay down our lives in service to others. It's about sacrificing our wants and sometimes our needs for the betterment of others. We are to be in relationship with Jesus and take on those characteristics for ourselves which means we are to love others as God loves us. Jesus gives us a pattern for showing Christian love to others. The example is given to us by God giving us Jesus and Jesus giving himself up for us.
I was listening to a podcast this week and the lead singer of the Christian rock band Skillet said this about his reasoning for writing the song Hero about his #1 hero, Jesus Christ: "I read about this guy who did have the power to lay his life down to save other people: the desperate, the downtrodden, the weak, the needy, the poor, the outcast came to Jesus because they needed help. And Jesus being the greatest hero of all time gave his life so that all of us could live."
Or to put it another way: there is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends.
Jesus took a simple meal with a simple gathering of friends and gave it new meaning when he broke bread with the disciples for the final time. He laid down his life for us and that is what we remember and celebrate communion. Communion is a reminder that we are called to lay down our life for others. Remember that today and "lay your life down" for others in simple ways today.
Grace & Peace