Exodus 12:1-14; Ps. 116:1,10-17; 1 Cor. 11:23-26; John 13:1-17,31b-35
“[Jesus knew that]…he had come from God and was going to God.” –John 13:3
I want to share with you something that I received through my classes at Seattle University. It’s called the Cycle of Grace. It describes the life of faith as intended by God for each of us.
When John describes Jesus he describes a man who knew from the beginning that he was loved and accepted. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matt. 3:17). That was the voice that Jesus heard at the beginning, confirming his calling.
￼It also confirmed what he had experienced as a child. Joseph and Mary must have been marvelous parents. To know with conviction as a man that he was loved surely must mean that he received that message over and over from the time he was very young.
This is God’s desire for each of us: that we know we are loved and accepted. We are sustained in that love through relationships with those around us. At Jesus’ transfiguration he heard the voice again, surrounded by his friends, as Matthew reports: …a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (Matt. 17:5)
But we are sustained in other ways, too: by scripture, worship, and study. As we are sustained by our community and these resources we are assured that we have a place in this life and good work to do. Our relationships assure us of our significance. As John teaches in today’s reading, Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God. (John 13:3)
Knowing we are accepted—beloved—we are sustained in that knowledge by our relationships with others. Through those relationships we discover our calling. As we apply our gifts we work out our life’s vocation, as John describes in ch.17: I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.
We do our work but the Cycle of Grace doesn’t end there. It begins again, and we move through this cycle again and again throughout our lives.
But think of how different the Cycle of Grace is from how the world works: We’re taught in countless ways that we need to achieve success, accomplish something, in order to be significant. And it’s in being significant that we are sustained and earn approval, and through the approval of others we are accepted.
This is exactly backwards! It makes all the difference which direction you move on this wheel, which is why the arrows point in a counter-clockwise direction. Counter-clockwise, perhaps, because this message is counter-cultural—against what society teaches.
This is why Jesus says near the end of the reading: I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. Jesus starts the Cycle of Grace with God’s love for all people, including you. We continue the Cycle of Grace faithfully as we sustain one another in that love. And through this love—not what we accomplish—we know that we are significant, and that significance points to our life’s work, our sense of vocation.
As Jesus washed his disciples feet, as he gave them his life, so we also serve one another, trusting that God will use our practice to teach the world. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. May we be faithful in living the Cycle of Grace: grounded in love, sustained in the company of others, discerning our purpose, and accomplishing the good work we’ve been given to do for the sake of the world!