Thursday April 9, 2020 Maundy Thursday “The Love Feast”

          Grace and peace from God our Father and Jesus the loving suffering son of God.  In his bestselling book “The Five Love Languages” Gary Chapman says that over his 30 years of counseling he’s discovered there are five primary ways people express and receive love:  Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, Physical Touch (repeat).  Gary argues that these are not only the primary ways people express and receive love he also argues everyone has a preferred love language.  Just the same way individuals have a preferred learning style- visual, auditory, or hands on. 

As I read through his list of languages and ascertained the importance of each- affirming, timing, gifts, service, touch I couldn’t help but think of how Jesus’ loving approach to us fulfills all those languages in which people want to hear “I love you”. Tonight, as we celebrate what Jesus did on that night he was betrayed nearly 2,000 years ago it lines up pretty well with these five languages of love. Jesus giving his followers the celebration of communion and the example of washing feet instinctively knew how to get his message across to all people. 

Tonight, is called Maundy because that is the Latin word for command.  On this night Jesus commanded us to love one another as he has loved us- and he washed his disciples’ feet as an example of that love.  On this night Jesus commanded his followers to observe this meal for the forgiveness of sins and the celebration of the new kingdom to come. 

His words of affirmation that night are recorded in John’s Gospel, “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. 16 You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name.”  Jesus says you are not simply servants, nor followers but you are my friends! I love you and I am willing to sacrifice myself for you.  Pretty intense words of affirmation of our value in his eyes. That’s love.

His insistence in being present at this meal every time we gather in his name is for me a show of his willingness to give us that second love language “quality time.”  We can bring our heart’s pains and longings to him at this dinner rail and he promises to pull up a chair and listen.  That is phenomenal imagine for all of us who ever longed to have our parents’ attention, to be noticed by that revered authority whether it be teacher, coach, or older family member and never got it. Here we are promised God’s attention and affection. That’s love.

The third love language of “gift giving” is definitely plain to see.  In this supper, our savior gives out love, compassion, forgiveness, mercy, and salvation to all willing to leave their burdens with him in faith. That’s love.

The fourth love language “acts of service,” is easy to see in his feeding his beloved at the table.  It’s even more blatant that night when Jesus’ picked up a towel and pitcher and washed his disciples’ feet.  Jesus willingly left heaven’s hallways to walk our dusty byways, to heal the hurting and free the captive.  In this meal we’re reminded Jesus is still willing to actively serve his beloved by granting healing and freeing us from sin and death.  That’s love.

The fifth love language, physical touch. Martin Luther noted that often people doubt that God can forgive such nasty sinners as we’ve become.  Luther said the undeniable tangible physical touching and tasting of that bread and wine is God’s way of telling us that in the same manner his love and forgiveness of our sins is that undeniable. If you can with certainty say that you tasted that wine and touched that bread, then you can just as certainly know that you’ve been truly forgiven.  For in that bread you’ve touched Christ’s body, in that wine and juice you’ve received his blood transfusion of grace and mercy.  That’s love.

It’s interesting that the earliest Christian’s referred to communion with a totally different phrase then we use today.  They called it “The Love Feast.”  It fell out of use when adversaries used the term in derogatory ways… but yet it is an apt description of what we enjoy when we come to Christ’s table- a feast of love.  Where we are loved by God in so many languages- affirmation, quality time, service, gifts, and touch. That’s love.

Please pray with me:  Lord we want your love, love that changes our lives for the better, love that frees us from our sin and launches us into a new future.  Help us spend quality time with you at this table- to entrust you with our repentant hearts.  Help us when nurtured by your great love to be compelled to share that love with others through our affirming words, use of time, acts of service, gifts of mercy and tender touch. So that other’s may look at our walk with you and say “That’s love.”  Amen.