By Pastor Pam Seebach
Harmony, Mabel, and Newburg United Methodist Churches
On the last page of most good stories, you will find the words ‘The End’ prominently printed following the final sentence of the story. This is fitting because every book or story eventually ends. Even Tolstoy’s 1,225-page book “War and Peace” eventually arrives at the end – no more story. Jesus’ story is the exception to this rule! We celebrated Easter last week: the eggs were hidden, hunted, and found; the candy was admired and eaten; the ham was cooked and enjoyed. Now, it’s over, right? Wrong! Jesus gave up his life on the cross as the BEGINNING, not the end.
In our human lives, we mark a lot of endings: graduations signal the end to many friendships as people go their separate ways; a job loss or retirement means the end of a stable income as well as the end of a carefully ordered life; a death in the family can mark the end of a generation and suddenly YOU are the eldest family member. But what if all these endings were viewed as new beginnings instead of sad full-stops? What if we could see in the endings the possibilities of a new job, a new set of friends, a new opportunity to guide the next generation?
Mary and the two disciples found the tomb empty on Easter morning – Jesus’ life had ended and now not even his body was there to guide them. Then the man spoke to Mary and said her name. “Mary.” Suddenly, this grief-filled moment changed to one of hope and buoyancy: Jesus is alive! From that moment, the new beginning for the disciples and ALL believers was launched. Now they understood. Now they would find their direction. Now they could begin to live and love and spread the word! We can, too!
As we finish putting away the Easter decorations, our thoughts must turn to OUR new beginnings. As Jesus talked with the disciples after the Last Supper, he told them of the “new commandment” he was giving them. Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” He said this just after he shocked them all by washing their feet – a humiliating act normally performed by the lowliest household servant. Jesus demonstrated in starkly unexpected actions how SERVICE is an expression of love. How can we get in line with this new commandment and SERVE in love to others? Washing the world’s dirt off your friend’s or neighbor’s feet could take the form of forgiving wrongs done to you; healing emotional wounds; leading when others are tired or lost; providing care; or listening when someone needs to talk. The only cost to us for serving in these ways is the emotional cost of opening our hearts to others. Love is worth it.
Jesus finished his last bit of teaching with this statement: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Jesus was talking about seeing and seizing the opportunity to serve; loving through action, just as he had done throughout his ministry by healing the untouchables, eating with the despised, listening to and befriending the marginalized, welcoming the foreigner, and – lastly – by washing the disciples’ feet. This is where WE will find our new beginning: by humbling ourselves, seeing and seizing opportunities to serve, and embracing the example of the One who died to save us. Happy New Beginning, everyone!