Pastor Karen Wight Hoogheem

The following post by friend, and Following the Spirit vocation discernment series collaborator, Pastor Karen Wight Hoogheem is reprinted with permission.

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

John 13:1-7, 31b-35

If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, what would you do tonight? That’s the question Jesus got to answer. Jesus knew the time had come for him to depart from this world. He knew he was going to die. And with the last remaining hours of his life, he chose to love and care for his disciples.

The Bible tells us that Jesus knew he had come from God and that he was going to God. So he stood up from the supper table, wrapped a towel around his waist, and washed his disciples feet. I imagine he knelt down, held each foot tenderly, poured water on it, and wiped it clean. I imagine him doing this slowly, quietly and gently. And I imagine Jesus looking into the eyes of his followers. I bet he said some words to each one. They had the chance to really and truly be with one another. What a way to say goodbye.

Jesus told them, “You also ought to wash one another’s feet…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.”

The world will know they are Jesus’ disciples when they love one another. Isn’t that interesting? The world will know they are Jesus’ disciples when they love one another. Jesus doesn’t say the world will know we are his disciples by the size of our congregations, the strength of our youth programs, the sound of our choirs or even the end to social injustice. Jesus says the world will know we are his disciples when we love one another.

That, my friends, is all about forgiveness. And forgiveness is so hard. Because hurt feelings hurt. Betrayal stings. Disappointment really disappoints. And unmet expectations are so hard to deal with. But Jesus gives us a new commandment. We are to love one another. And this is how the world will know that we are Jesus’ followers.

Tonight we have the chance to serve one another by washing each other’s feet. But only some of us will get to do that. There’s another way to work toward forgiveness. And that is in prayer.

Last week, I lost patience with my daughter because she wasn’t practicing piano the way I wanted her to. I shared my frustration with my spiritual director. He suggested I take it to prayer. He said that Holy Spirit will work in that prayer to change me. So that can become more loving toward her. {I wondered if that was really the solution we needed ;-)}

Someone shared a meditation with me that is helping me become more forgiving and patient. I think we can learn something from this, because it is congruent with Jesus and his ministry among us. Let’s practice a prayer of forgiveness.

Practicing a Prayer of Forgiveness

Breathe deeply, and feel your body relax into the chair or pew. Breathe and sit with yourself. Imagine that you are no longer your ordinary self, but that you can see things from a larger perspective, from the center of your being. From this perspective you feel warmth and tenderness for yourself. Feel your heart as a center of kindness and imagine it contains a purifying fire.

If you are agitated, lonely, scared, misunderstood, angry, anxious, accept this suffering part of yourself. Breathe the dark cloud of your suffering into your heart. Imagine your suffering transformed, and breathe out healing love, warmth, confidence and joy. Rest in this space.

Next, bring to mind someone close to you, whom you know is suffering, Hold them in your heart. Connect with them and their difficulties. Breathe in the sorrows of the person you have visualized. Imagine their suffering transformed, and breathe out healing love, warmth, confidence and joy. Breathe out healing and love towards them.

Now think of someone you love, but with whom your relationship is more challenging or complicated. You may feel jealous of them, or find communicating difficult at times. Hold them in your heart. Connect with them and their difficulties. Breathe in the sorrows of the person you have visualized. Imagine their suffering transformed, and breathe out healing love, warmth, confidence and joy.

Now think of someone you find difficult to love. Someone you find irritating, someone you feel resentful toward, someone who has hurt you. Hold them in your heart. Connect with them and their difficulties. Breathe in the sorrows of the person you have visualized. Imagine their suffering transformed, and breathe out healing love, warmth, confidence and joy.

Now, imagine all of these people together – the person you love easily, your friend with whom your relationship is more complicated, the person you find very difficult to love, and you. Hold them in your heart. connect with them and their difficulties. Breathe in the sorrows of the person you have visualized. Imagine their suffering transformed, and breathe out healing love, warmth, confidence and joy. Sit quietly and allow your heart and your breath to rest.

This kind of prayer may feel uncomfortable. But I believe it is the work of forgiveness. We need to work on forgiveness. Jesus says the world will know we are his followers when we love one another. And the only way we can love one another is in and through forgiveness. It’s true in our families, in our friendships, at work and in this community of faith.

***

The night before he died, Jesus could have done anything. He was the Son of God. And he chose to wash his imperfect, difficult, slow-minded disciples’ feet. He transformed the Passover Meal into the Lord’s Supper when he gave them the bread and wine, saying this is my body and blood given for you. Do this for the the forgiveness of sin.

Jesus knew he had come from God and that he was going to God. In the security of this relationship and in God’s love, Jesus was free to love, forgive and care for his disciples. And so are we. There are a lot of things we think we should do as a church, but Jesus tells us we are his followers when we love one another. Amen.

 


2 Comments

Elizabeth L. Miller · April 3, 2015 at 9:47 am

Karen, This is a beautiful reflection. I followed it through each step.

It brought to mind a very intimate and one-time sacred moment of almost 19 years ago. In my living room, my husband was in a hospital bed. All six of our children had gathered, unplanned. When we realized that we were “all” here at once, one of the kids said, “Let’s call Fr. Greg (Tolaas). He arrived within a short time. He would administer the Sacrament of the Sick. He made it very personal. As we all were seated comfortably in the living room, he invited each of us to say something to Jerry. Following this, he asked Jerry to say something to each of us. The Sacrament includes anointing and forgiving. Jerry, knowing he was going to die in the near future, said to Father, “How do I do this?” Fr. said, “Ask Jesus to take you by the hand.” After predicting (quite accurately) that he figured he had about 3 or 4 days left, he walked upstairs to our bed, and in 3 or 4 days, breathed his last breath. There are more stories … . But this one came to mind from your reflection.

I liked the way you began your reflection, walked us through the steps, and then returned to the main premise.

Thanks, Karen.

Reflectively, Betty Lou

suzanne homeyer · April 3, 2015 at 4:55 pm

beautiful, Karen! thank you for sharing this.

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