I’m saying this not just to this group. I think I’m really saying it to the powers of hell. We’re not finished yet. We’ve a lot of work to do. We made a lot of friends. We’re never going to see Grant Manor or Mandela Houses the same way again. There’s no way that we could leave this church, go off to lunch on Washington street and come back and view that neighborhood, and maybe I’m speaking for myself, but view that neighborhood in the same manner. I think there’s something that God wants to do in this area and I’d like us to share about that a little bit.
We could go to John, chapter 13. The gospel of John, chapter 13, verse 33 to 35. As you seek in that, there’s a couple of demographics about where this church is located, geographically. What happens? What is so special about Lion of Judah? I mean every church is special. I believe that God plants churches in specific places to do specific work and there’s something extremely special. I believe one of the most special things about where this church is, literally it’s physical location. This church is literally on the line, the geographic line historically separating the south end from Roxbury.
Roxbury has a rich, rich history going all the way back to the 17th century, that I can’t go into now, but there has been spiritual warfare over this region for centuries. One pastor that shared here, said that Harvard College their first classes were once situated, not in Cambridge, on the other side of the river but here. It started here. And as we went through Mandela houses and spoke to people there and prayed over people at Parmely Courts and saw Lord, we’ve got our work cut out for us and listen to the Lord. Before we set out we said ‘God, we want to taste your despair and we want to know what you think, how do you feel about this place that you created and that you sent us to.
Here’s a little bit more about the place where this church is. The city of Boston is divided into police districts by the Boston Police Department. The congregation Lion of Judah is situated in the Boston Police Departments B 2 district and the B2 district by a long stretch leads the city of Boston in shootings. The B2 district as of November of 05 had 82 shootings. Now, that’s 22 more than any other police district in the city of Boston, almost a 25% difference. 25% more than just about every other police district –our backyard, our backyard, our backyard leads the city in violent fatalities. That means our backyard leads the city in funerals. Our backyard leads the city in emergency trips to Boston Medical Center. Our backyard leads the city in bondage that leads to those things.
What does God have to say about that? When God sees that, what does he think about that? How does God respond Roxbury? When we tell God that, what is his response? I believe that John chapter 13, verses 33 to 35 is God’s response.
It says, “… my children I will be with you only a little longer –he’s telling this to the disciples. This is the scene. – In a couple of hours Jesus is about to be arrested and about an hour or two after that he’s going to be executed, summarily tried and executed this day. And the night before he’s sharing with his disciples and he’s giving them these instructions. He says:
“…. My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me and just as I told the Jews, I tell you now, where I’m going you’re not coming, but you cannot come, rather. But he says, a new commandment I give you, love one another. As I have loved you, love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.”
Maybe what Jesus said is going to raise more questions than answers. For instance, why is he making love, of all things, why is he making a commandment? Can anyone do that? Can anyone really command us to love? And how in the world, what in the world does this have to do with people dying in Roxbury or with all sorts of other social …..? what does this have to do with us? What does it have to do with my life? What does it have to do with my drama? What does it have to do with my scene? What is this?
You know, gosh, I’m almost tempted to…. I heard Tina Turner a second ago, ‘what’s love got to do, got to do with it…’ what’s got to do with it? In order to do that, in order to know this, you have to know something about Jesus’ mission. Why he is here. Why he came? And how Jesus plans to fulfill his mission? What is his mission?
Now, the great thing about this is that Jesus, this Bible, this word is not shy at all about Jesus’ mission. Jesus knew exactly what he was doing when he came to this planet and he knew exactly how he was going to do it.
There is a verse, it’s not even an entire verse, it’s half a verse in the book of First John, it’s a letter that the same fellow who wrote this gospel, wrote a series of letters to the churches, and his first letter to the church, I’m not even going to ask you to turn there. I’m going to just read it to you, in the First letter of John to the churches, chapter 3, verse 8 and a half. It’s actually just the second half of that verse, John writes this declarative sentence:
“…The reason the son of God appeared –drum roll, please. “The reason the son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work, to destroy it”. To destroy poverty, fear, human shame, calamity, disease, death at its root source. To destroy all of …. Extract and stanch all of the venom that has been coursing through the vein of human existence. To stop it at its root. To uproot the very source of all the source of human calamity. To destroy the devil’s work.
And in the process of destroying the devil’s work Jesus became hell’s worst nightmare. Jesus, they knew that….. the hoards of hell knew that Jesus had arrived and that he meant business and he wasn’t playing and that he came to do something. And to this day the darkness respects him. To this day hell fears his very name because he continues this work. He continues to destroy the devil’s work.
Now, how does he do that? What is the weapon that Jesus came up with that proved to be the terror of the legions of hell? How does Jesus accomplish this? Weak havoc on hell and the devil himself and reverse the curse as us Red Socks fans like to say. How does he do it? What does he do to destroy the devil’s work? Here’s his weapon, it’s real simple: his love. Ok.
Eyes are rolling because you were expecting this evangelist to say that, weren’t you? His love. And why are your eyes rolling? You know why? Because that word love has just gotten such a lousy wrap. It’s one of Satan’s busiest accomplishments, one of the things he works on the most, it’s to defang and neutralize the very thing that makes him most afraid. If nobody in this room knows what love even is and has no experience with that, and in fact when you hear the word love, maybe in your brain’s computer you’re computing awesome pain.
Sometimes some of the worst pain you’ve encountered in your life, you’ve encountered in the name of love, someone or something or some experience has neutralized at best, and has reversed at worse, the very thing that makes love powerful. But when we begin to understand love the way God loves, you begin to understand how God has taken this idea of his love and he has weaponized it.
Now, have you ever heard that word in this Iraq nurtured environment? Weaponization, weaponized. The word weaponized to the Pentagon means to take something normally innocuous and innocent and focus it and concentrate it and put it in the barrel of something in order to make it destructive. And what God has done to the kingdom of hell is that he has taken the concept of love and he has weaponized it. So that now hell is terrified at the idea of love.
We weaponize atoms. Atoms are the smallest, most invisible, most innocuous substances in the universe that before we break them down into their essential elements. And in the mid twentieth century somebody founds a way to take atoms that have yet to be photographed to take atoms and find a way to create the most terrifying weapons that this world possesses out of them. We’ve weaponized atoms.
People in the Pentagon are very busy trying to weaponize the human common cold. Something that will give you the flu and keep you home for a couple of days, certain bright mind in the Pentagon is figuring out the way to wipe out billions of people by weaponizing viruses and bacteria.
Now, if you think that is scary, that’s the way Satan and his demons feel when you mention the love of God. See, in hell, when you mention the love of God you’re talking about a powerful, scary weapon, the only thing they respect, the only thing that could possibly undo the devil’s work. How?
Because the thing is God has deputized you, Lion of Judah, he’s deputized you, servant of God, he’s deputized, child of God to no longer live in fear of hell but to destroy the devil’s work in your life and the life of your home, and the life of your family, the life of your neighborhood, and the life of the people that you love the most, the people who have been wrecked the more by the devil, he’s giving you the tool to undo the devil’s work. How does he do it? How does God weaponize his love?
He spent that night with his disciples telling them exactly that. And we’re going to go there, we’re going to spend a couple of those, we’re going to look into that conversation. He did some things and he said some things that teach us how to turn God’s love into a weapon to destroy the devil’s work.
He tells them, ‘listen, I’m only going to be with you a little while longer. There’s 12 of you, before the ends of this evening there will be 11 and you have against you the Roman army, you have against you every possible religious institution, you have against you centuries of tradition, you don’t have a dime to your name, you don’t have a house to meet in, you don’t have a budget, you don’t have a leader. You’ve got nothing. I’m going to leave in a couple of hours but I’m leaving you something and I want you to listen very closely, are you taking notes? If you get nothing else, disciples I want you to hear this: love one another. Did I say that close enough? I’m telling you as a command, this is not option, you are to love one another. I want you to love each other as I have loved you. The same things you’ve seen me do I am expecting you to love one another, get that clear, Peter, Andrew, John, Bethany? You guys got that? You will be my disciples if and only if you love one another. You got it!
Now, Jesus, how do we do that? Well, Jesus that night leaves them some object lessons. He does three things. Earlier that night, let’s go to verse 1 of chapter 13, earlier that night they meet for dinner and this is the scene. It was just before the Passover feast and Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave the world and to go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in this world he now showed them the full extent for his love. Look up for a minute:
the first thing that Jesus does is he enters our world, he enters our world.
You see, love at least God’s love, the way God loves can’t happen from a distance. It isn’t a philosophy, it isn’t a belief system. God was either going to love us from near or he wasn’t going to love us at all, and that was the whole idea behind the incarnation. Maybe you’ve heard that word before. You’ll hear it around Christmas, that’s for sure, but the word incarnation comes from the Latin “in carno” which means “in the flesh”. You’ve heard that. Are you coming? Yes, here I am, in the flesh, which means what? In person. In other words, a touchable, huggable, listenable, cleansable, killable, vulnerable God. Up close and personal, walking the streets with us, listening to us, in the market with us, at funerals with us, at weddings with us, walking down the road with us, at supper with us. A God like that.
Where do you think Hollywood got these ideas? Has everyone seen the new Superman? Cool movie, but I went to see it and I got Marina to see it because of a trailer, because of a trailer. It has one of the coolest trailers there is and in one of their trailers you hear the voice of the father talking to Superman, the son. And it’s amazing and in the scene you guys who’ve seen it, oh… it’s just cool. Man, why can Sunday schools come up with stuff like this?
He’s literally floating over the planet earth, checking it out and with his Superman hearing he’s listening to every conversation that’s taking place. You know, every 911 call, every ambulance call. He’s listening to everything and overlaying it you’re hearing the father saying, ‘you know, they could be a great people if someone could just show them the light, that’s why I’m sending you, my only son’. And that’s something. Guau!, Marina, it’s about the incarnation, we got to go, we’ve got to see this. That’s it, that’s it. We’ve got to see this Superman movie. And isn’t it like that?
Superman, our Superman, hangs his cape, puts on his Clark Kent glasses and walks among us, surrenders his powers just to be near us, just to be near us. You know, this Superman could now feel the heat of the sun in the desert that he created. This Superman felt hunger pangs, this Superman shed tears at people’s funerals. This Superman danced and sang, and ate and rejoiced in people’s weddings. This Superman knows what it’s like for a mother to lose a son because he intervened with many mothers and many widows. And he knew his own mother was going to lose her son. This superman knew what it was like to be betrayed. This Superman knew what it was like to be murdered. This Superman knew what it was like to be wrongfully accused. This Superman knew what it was like to love the very people who were out to get him. And this Superman is the God that we worship.
Joan Osborne back in 1996 he says, a folk artist, back in 1996. Her biggest hit of her career is this song called ‘One of us’ and the chorus goes something like this: ‘what if God was one of us, just a slob like one of us, just a stranger on the bus, trying to make his way home’. And for a period in history, for about 33 and half years, that was our God.
So that now when you pray, when you come before your God and you’re saying ‘Lord, I have never felt so lonely in my life. God, with all authority will come to you and say ‘I know’. I know what it’s like to be lonely. God, what I just felt man, that was just searing pain and God with all authority will say ‘I know, that must hurt. I know what pain is like’. So, when you tell God, ‘God, no one seems to know why I’m here’, your God can say ‘I know why you’re here. I know that I’ve created you.’
Now, why would he do this? Why would he go through all this trouble? Because God is not going to be happy until he enters your world. It’s not enough that he entered our world. God wants to enter your world. He wants to be on the next seat with you on the bus, he wants to be on the bus with you, in the car with you, in the dorm room with you, at the commons with you, at your studying for the final with you, going to your work with you, working on your next project with you, facing your ogres with you. He wants to be with you at Christmas with your uncle and your aunt, and your grandmother and all the drama of home. He wants to be with you at the next funeral. He wants to be standing there covering you with his wings at your wedding. He wants to be with you when you give birth to your baby. He wants to be with you when you send your kid off to college.
And he definitely wants to be with you just a second and a half before you part this world. He wants to be with you, over you, around you, inside you. He wants to be a part of your world. And he is not going to be content until he is a part of your world. He’s going to knock, and knock, and knock on your door and say ‘I’ve come as close as I could come to be a particular of your drama, to answer your prayers. Ok, I’ve heard you complain about heaven. I’ve heard you look this way. I’ve heard you wonder, I’ve heard your pain, I can’t do another thing for you until I am inside your world. I need to be particular of your world.’
And God is not going to be happy until he is. So the first thing he does is he becomes part of our world. What else does he do?
Verse 2, goes on: the evening meal was being served and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot at some assignment to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God.
So he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing and wrapped a towel around his waist and after that he poured water into a basin, he began to wash his disciples’ feet drying them with the towel that was wrapped round him. He came to Simon Peter who said to him ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ And Jesus replied, ‘you not realize now what I’m doing, but later you will understand.’ And Peter takes offense at this and he says, ‘No, you will never wash my feet.’ And Jesus answered ‘unless I wash you, you have no part with me.’
What’s the next thing that he does? He enters our world and he washes our feet. Now, what’s happening here? The work that Jesus is doing is reserved for slaves, essentially it’s reserved for servants. Back then, when an honored guest enters your house it was customary that the slave or the servant of the host of that house would wash the feet of the honored guest. One problem: the disciples didn’t have any slaves. The disciples didn’t have any servants. The disciples were just the disciples.
I heard one commentator say that…. You remember there’re several portions of scripture that record that they had an argument over who was the greatest. And one commentator suggested that that argument came up over the disciples. Ok, who’s going to wash whose feet? Now, I think Bethany, it’s your turn. Really, is it? You know, Andrew, I don’t recall the last time you washed our feet? And they went around and then Jesus just gets up, takes off his outer garment, puts on a towel and starts washing people’s feet. The lowest form of service that existed at that time.
Now, why would Peter take offense at that? You know why? Has anyone here have this happen, has someone washed his feet? I had an experience like that. Back in college, a campus fellowship that we were part of, decided that this would be a really cool thing to do. So, those of us who were the leaders of the fellowship went around and washed people’s feet, sneakers of course, champions were in style, awfully sweaty by 7 o’ clock at night, quite nasty, they’re wonderful folks but I believe their hygiene stops at their ankles. It was dramatic. And then it was our turn. Then they had to wash our feet and I don’t think I was any more hygienic than my buddies. And after that I realized why that never became a sacrament, you know. Yeah, it’s not a fun thing to do.
So, you would understand. If you’d ever visited a doctor and had them probe around, don’t you know that feeling? Really? I mean, you just don’t …. There are areas of our… we don’t want touched, we don’t want people to touch certain regions of our bodies, of our existence. And you know what? What is Jesus trying to say with this? he’s not afraid to do and to touch the ugly places in your life. He’s not afraid to touch the ugly places.
You see, we all have them. We all have these dark, unmentionable corridors of our minds and of our hearts and our existence. And you know what I’m talking about, all of us. We know that we’re capable of great things. We know that we’re capable of greatness. We know the kind of people that we could become. We know the kind of legacy that we could achieve and we would do wonderful things if it wasn’t for this tragic flaw or two that we know exist deep down inside us that would undo us, that would undo the very good things that we would want to do.
In Spanish there’s a saying, you know, what you build with your hands, you kick apart with your feet. And so many of us can testify to that, what we do with our hands we mess up with our feet. And Jesus is saying ‘then, let me wash your feet. Let me go there. Let me go to that particular. I know that you have, and you know what? I created you, I’m proud of you. I think you’re beautiful. I know what I can accomplish through you. I know why you are on this planet. I know that there are great things ahead of you. This thing is holding you back, this thing is keeping you from achieving what I have put you on this planet to achieve. You are amazing. And in my hands you’re going to do amazing things, but you’ve got to get rid of this thing. Let me touch you. Let me heal it. Surrender it to me. Let me wash your feet.
And tonight my challenge to you is: you cannot possibly shock God. There’s nothing about your life, the worst memory, the most shameful act, the craziest affair, the most unquotable conversation, the darkest night, there’s nothing that you can reveal to God or confess to God he doesn’t already know, and that wouldn’t have already shocked him. And you’ve been carrying that around enough. You’ve gone through that hell enough. The devil has taken advantage of your closet enough. Satan put you into that trap and now he’s making you pay the fare, over and over, and over, and over again. And let me tell you, your God didn’t create you for that. Your God created you to be free. Your God created you to do things on this planet. Your God created you to accomplish great things. Your God created you for beauty and for greatness, and for wonderful things on this planet and beyond. But you’ve got to let him wash your feet.
He says, if you don’t let me wash your feet, you have no part with me. Let me wash your feet. Give me those areas of your life, I know they exist, you know they exist. You ain’t fooling nobody. Give them to me, I’ve got my basin, I’ve got my towel, I’ve got my love and I’ll wash your feet tonight.
So, he enters our world; he washes our feet and then there’s this final act: the Lord just prepares these guys for over, and over, and over, and over again because it was inconceivable even to them, even after 3 and a half years of ministry, that Jesus would pull a stop like this. It was inconceivable even at this hour, that Jesus would attempt to do this. Jesus takes our bullet. Jesus dies in our place so that we can have heaven. The grand triumph of his love.
Let’s go to the very next chapter which is John, chapter 14. Now, Jesus has just given them this instruction. I’m telling you, love one another, I’m commanding you love one another. Love one another. Love one another. “…Where I am going you cannot follow now, but you’ll follow later, he tells Peter. And Peter can’t handle that so Jesus says ‘don’t worry, you’re going to have the roughest night of all, Peter, I know.’
But then, he tells them all, in John chapter 14, verse 1: “Do not let your heart be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me. In my father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, I would have told you. I’m going there to prepare a place for you and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me so that you may also be where I am. I know the way to the place where I am going. Thomas said to them ‘Lord, we don’t know where you’re going, so how can we know the way?, and Jesus answered ‘I am the way, the truth and the life and no one comes to the father except through me”.
Essentially he says ‘trust me, I’m taking you somewhere’. And many of us like Tom ask ‘where, where are you taking us? Where is this place? What is this about?’
When you think of death, a woo I said the d word. Where is that? What is that about? Death has been in the Boston Globe an awful lot. It’s been in the Herald an awful a lot, it’s been dealt wholesale in Roxbury and in Dorchester. When Jesus sees death, when Jesus sees the death, our death, the death of saints, what is he talking about?
You tell me what you think of your death and I can tell you how you live your life. You tell me about your death, I can tell you how you live your life. And you know what? I guarantee you this, most of us, I’d say the great majority of us if we were told, would say that our hearts tell us that we are eternal. Our hearts tell us that we were made to live forever. Our hearts tell us that heaven exists. Really. And some of the people who you would least suspect, are the very people who most long for, who most ask for, who are most crying out for this heaven. When a drug addict ods they’re trying to get to that place. They’re trying to get to this place where they’re feeling that pain. They’re trying to get to that place where they’re free from this planet, they’re trying to get to that place when what is around them, the devil’s work no longer reaches them. And that’s what they’re trying to when they’re doing that. They’re trying to get to that place.
When someone, man, woman, we’ve got plenty in this church, go through serial sexual relationships and are destroyed…. Degree by degree every time they have one of these encounters, like the Samaritan woman that Jesus encounters by the well, this is your, you know, hey I know he’s not your husband, you’re number six, you’ve had five. And he’s looking at the shipwreck, the wreckage of this life. It wasn’t accusation, it was compassion. He was seeing that this woman was trying to get to that place. And she was incapable because that’s not the way. He is the way.
Now, literature. What do you think that human literature, what do you think that Hollywood, what do you think that we’re full of these imageries? What do you think that three years in a road to keep a country captivated? You know, where do you think we get ideas like this? you know, Morridor, and Elfs, orks, you know, beauty that glistens like waterfalls, that never existed except in a painter’s wildest dream. Where do these images come from? The Chronicles of Narnia. What resources of the human mind do you think produces these images? Where do they come from? I’ll tell you where they come from. They come from our hearts telling us ‘this place exists’, and a desire to get there.
And Jesus is here saying ‘I’ve been to Narnia. Narnia exists. It’s a beautiful place. I’ve created it for you. You belong there. I want to take you there.’
You know, I was a grown man before I finally read the Chronicles of Narnia and the more you read it, that lion in this book Aslan, I learned so much about Christology and the character of Jesus by reading through this image that C S Lewis created and in the very last book, don’t worry, there’s a lot to read, so I’m not ruining it for you, but in the very, very last book of the series, a book called ‘The last battle’, the very last page and the very last paragraph he says ‘the dream is ended. This is the morning.’ And as he spoke, he no longer looked to them, this Aslan, no longer looked to them like a lion. But the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them and for us this is the end of all the stories and we can most truly say that they lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world, all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page. Now, at last they were beginning chapter one of the great story which no one on earth has read which goes on forever and in which every chapter is better than the one before.
C S Lewis, when he wasn’t talking about children’s stories, used to refer to this planet as the shadow lands. All that we’re doing is that we’re living through shadows. The reality awaits us, there’s more. And Jesus, Jesus’ love is the way there.
I’m just going to leave us with this. Pastor Roberto has been reading the book of Ephesians and this is a promise that the Lord is making. This is how we get there.
“As for you, you were dead, -this is chapter 2- as for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the rulers of the kingdom of the air. The spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient, the devil’s work. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts, like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath, but because of his great love for us, because of his great love for us God who is rich in mercy made us alive with Christ, even when we were dead in transgressions, it is by grace you have been saved.”
The invitation is to receive that grace, to receive that love and once you’ve received that, let it do its work. The love of God is going to take care of the devil’s work that has been afflicting your life, that has been limiting your life, that has been keeping you from becoming the person that you know God created you to be. In Jesus’ name receive his love.
Why don’t you bow your head where you are? Just receive this prayer.
I am going to go out on a limb. If you’re here tonight and you have never openly received the love of Jesus and said ‘I want to receive Jesus as my savior. I want to receive his love. I want to be part of the story. I want him in my world. I want him up close, in personable and inside my work, not a religion. I don’t him to be my religion. I want him inside my life. If you can’t recall a time where you have asked him to wash your feet, and if the idea, without Jesus, of death is terrifying for you still, and you need him to rescue you from that fear, I’m going to invite you to raise your hands and I’m going to invite you to receive his love tonight. If that’s you, raise your hand. God bless you and God sees that. God sees that. God see that again.
Now, I’m going to say a special prayer over you. I’m going to say a special prayer for you. Keep your hand up, because you’re saying something to the Lord and he’s communicating with you too.
In the name of Jesus, receive the love of God. In the name of Jesus, receive his presence and his life. In the name of Jesus, receive the embrace of your heavenly father. In the name of Jesus, welcome home. Welcome home. Welcome where you belong, at your father’s table. In the name of Jesus I declare God’s protection over your life.
Now, you say this in your heart or aloud and pray this prayer with me: Father, I come to you by the invitation of the name of Jesus. I declare that without you I am lost. I declare that I need a Superman. I declare that I need a savior and I ask you to be my savior, to forgive every stupid thing I’ve done against you and wash my feet and make me hole and give me heaven. And give me heaven. And I receive your love in Jesus’ name.