” Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” John 13:3-5
Identity begets service.
There is an often-quoted (and very true!) saying in Christian circles: “You worship what you love.” Jesus himself said it: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” and “No man can serve two masters.”
But I would argue that before and amidst love often comes identity. We are self-oriented beings from birth, loving those who love us, and finding happiness in things that go our way. Perhaps we often find love, place the well-being of our hearts, precisely where we find our identity and meaning. From this root, therefore, flows our worship and our service.
“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God…”
This is the reason John gives for such an astounding act of service. The God who created the ever-expanding universe stoops low with a towel around his waist….and serves.
He had come from God, and was going back to God.
And so have we.
“For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”
1 Cor. 11:23-26
On this very same night, we get a second glimpse into the mind and mission of Christ. In the same moment Christ knelt as servant, in all the glorious humility of God-made-flesh, he knew one of those he served would betray him. And yet, he gives thanks.
It’s where we get the word Eucharist. Hidden in the midst is the Greek word charis, meaning “grace.” In the very act of giving thanks, Christ declares, “This too is grace.” Then he gives this broken bread out as a symbol of the sacrifice he would make with his broken body. Grace upon grace.
Gratitude begets generosity.
Gratitude begins not in the moment that I mouth the word “thankful,” but in the moment my heart declares “this is grace. This is enough–and more.” It begins in the moments of prying the white-knuckled grip around my life, and receiving it open-handed, a gift flowing both directions. It begins when I start each day with the knowledge that I have come from God, and I am going back to God. And so has everything and everyone around me.
In its deepest essence, gratitude is redemptive. It takes the ordinary, banged-up, imperfect lives we all live, and transform them into beauty. Into grace. Into enough.
So this season, may we be the people who clasp arms together and say honestly, “Sometimes, just God doesn’t feel like enough. But we choose to act on the knowledge that He is.”
May we be the people who, instead of making lists full of all we want this year, walk through our homes astounded at all the stuff we have, and who else out there could we share some with??
May we be the people who live lives that are joy-filled and overflowing, because even though things are so hard and the world is so broken and pain is so real it cannot and should not be ignored, we know where we have come from–and where we are going. And amidst it all is the unfailing grace of Christ.
Identity and service. Gratitude and generosity. May these be the seeds we plant this season, and watch them grow throughout the new year.