John E. Marshall, Jr.'s Blog

Page 1 - Holy Thursday

Page 2 - Emergence

Page 3 - Where Is God Located?

Page 4 - Words

Page 5 - Faith, Hope & Love

Page 6 - What God's Voice Telling Us

Page 7 - Are We Wrapped Up Too Much in Earthly Things?


Holy Thursday

by John E. Marshall, Jr. | 2014

If you ask people “What does it mean to be a follower of Christ?”, you will probably get a lot of different answers. Some will point to the crucifixion, which our tradition celebrates tomorrow on Good Friday, and say that if you believe that Jesus sacrificed Himself for our sins, then you would be a person who could be said to be a Christian. They focus on the cleansing that was brought on by the giving of His life and the washing that His blood gives us in terms of redemption. Some will say that if you believe that Jesus died on the cross and rose again, the latter of which we will celebrate on Easter this Sunday that would be the marker of one who calls themselves a Christian. Some will say that if you read every single word of the Bible literally and try to attach at least a line in it to every aspect of your life, that would be the only way to be called a Christian. Indeed, you will find all sorts of answers to the question of what makes a Christian. But, that is not what I asked, is it? I asked what does it mean to be a follower of Christ. A completely different question than what does it mean to be a Christian. You see, being a Christian has to do with being part of some type of group. That is more of a religious question than a Spiritual one. That is an important distinction. Is it God that you worship or do you worship your religion? Are your rituals and practices more important than the way you way you live and deal with your everyday life?

To me, that is the distinction from being a follower of Christ and being a mere Christian. To be a follower of Christ you have do more than come to church every Sunday or on Holy days of celebration like this one, Maundy Thursday, or Holy Thursday as some call it. Following Christ is more than practicing rituals like Communion or singing hymns in church or praying prayers. And I am here to tell you that following Christ has nothing at all to do with the contortion of verses in the Bible to suit whatever you want to say to prove a point of whether someone is Christian or not. It is not the weaving of scripture to construct something that strains the Love right out of their meaning to tell someone else what they should believe. I say to be a follower of Christ has more to do with how you live. It is the way you try to mirror the life of Christ as the type of life you live. Being a follower of Christ has more to do following how He lived more than following or paying homage to His death or His resurrection. Indeed, His death and resurrection says more about His life and how you should live than anything else. His death speaks of the sacrifice that you should make in your life. His resurrection speaks of how one spiritually should deal with trials, hardship and even death. With Hope. With Faith. With perseverance. With strength. With undying Love. For sure, if you are reading anything, I mean anything, out of the Bible and it is not infused with Love and forgiveness, then you are reading it wrong in my opinion.

Sure, Easter and Christmas are very important days of marker and celebration in our religion. In my view, however, it is days like this, Maundy Thursday, Holy Thursday, that are just as important. Our practice in the celebration and the remembering of Jesus’ time in the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights when we practice our Lenten practices are just as important, as well. When we pay attention to the things that Jesus said and did in His life and try to affix them to how we live, we truly do become followers of Christ. When we live to Love God and everyone else and all of creation unconditionally is when we are on our way to following the Way of Christ. When we set out to bring healing and forgiveness in this world, we follow of Lord. When we do anything we do with a heart that is filled with compassion, we follow Christ. When we try to siphon Love out of the Bible, out of the Word, and drink it and strive to give it to others to drink, we are following Jesus. That is the problem I have with some so-called Christians, today. They use plenty of words from the Bible and forget about the Love and the meaning of Love that one is supposed to get out of it. They forget its meaning when it comes to forgiveness. They forget that it is supposed to be used to bring Hope and Faith to people. It is supposed to inspire compassion.

It’s not like Jesus doesn’t make this starkly clear. I think He especially made it crystal clear in our Gospel reading today, John 13. To me, John 13 is one of the most profound and deep chapters in the Bible. In it, Jesus gives us the blueprint in how to follow Christ. I am especially struck by the Love and the instruction of how to Love in it, one the day before He knew He was to come to a painful death. As John 13 said, “Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in this world, He loved them to the end.” That’s it, ladies and gentlemen. Living and following the Way of the Lord means loving deep like that. Then, Jesus shows us in the most profound of ways, how to live and love His way. “And during supper, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and He had come from God and was Going to God, got up from the table, took off His outer robe, and tied a towel around Himself. Then He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around Him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to Him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus answered, ‘You do not know now what I am doing, but later, you will understand.’ Peter said to Him, ‘You will never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you will have no share with me.’ Simon Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!’ Jesus said to him, ‘One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.’ For He knew who was to betray Him; for this reason He said, ‘Not all of you are clean’”. Church, I tell you, you cannot get deeper or clearer than that. Here was a man who in our tradition was exalted higher than all others in the sight of our Father who made Himself a servant of those who sought to serve God. What a powerful instruction to us. To follow Christ, we must serve others even if it means, if only in our mind, that we must lower ourselves to do so. John 13 goes on to say, “After He had washed their feet, had put on His robe, and had returned to the table, He said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for that is what I am. So, if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the One who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.’”

So, you want to be a follower of Christ and not just a mere Christian, not a mere lemming that follows the dictates of man-made religion and doctrine? Jesus shows you how in a powerful and beautiful way. Serve others. Love others. Heal when you can. Bring yourself down from your high horse and ego and just do it. This is not easy. It is not easy to detach yourself from your self-serving nature to serve others. Loving God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your soul and Loving others as you Love yourself is no simple task. You see we are accustomed, and if we are honest with ourselves, are most comfortable with serving ourselves. Like I always say, Love is not for punks. It takes effort. It sometimes takes the supreme sacrifices. It sometimes takes the strongest and steadfast capacity to forgive. It takes powerful Faith and Hope. You can see all these characteristics in those that are followers of Christ. To be frank, I sadly rarely see a lot of these characteristics in people who call themselves Christians. We have allowed our world to sully what it means to follow Christ. We put up all sorts of barriers between us and God by supplanting our own Earthly understandings as the way of being a follower of Christ. Slicing and dicing the Bible to make ourselves feel holier than thou.

The mistake that I think many make is trying to control too much. We err in trying to know so much without connecting to God for His wisdom in getting understanding of that knowledge. If we are to truly Love and Honor our God, then we should strive to know and understand, with His presence within us, as much as we can. Being a follower of Christ means striving to Love as hard as we can all that God has created. Again, in John 13, Jesus starkly puts this in a way that is not high up there or far over there, but so low that even the goats can get to it. “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you really become a follower of Christ.

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Chicago Metropolitan Area Work Incentives Coordinator · January 1983 to present · Chicago, Illinois I am the point person for the agency in the city for issues surrounding people with disabilities and work. I am also the point person for the agency in the city for issues surrounding the homeless. I represent the agency in coalitions boards, and other organizations to establish joint policies, programs, and events that seek to engender and facilitate work for people with disabilities and help to entitle the homeless to Social Security benefits. I am also the coordinator for 28 Work Incentive Liaisons/Technical Experts located in all 20 SSA offices in metro Chicago.

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