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Message of Maundy Thursday is love for all

(The Rev. Dr. Robert Garwig is senior pastor of Calvin Presbyterian Church, located at 10445 S.W. Canterbury Lane in Tigard. Sunday services are at 9 and 10:45 a.m., and 5:15 p.m.)

As a child I loved to watch my Dad put on a shirt and a tie. He folded his collar, pulled the tie back and forth in adjustment and, with an economy of motion confined to his fingers, wove a knot. In the quiet of that moment I would ask my Dad questions.

'Dad, why do we go to church on Monday Thursday?'

'Well, it's not Monday Thursday but Maundy Thursday. On this evening, Jesus gave a mandate or command to his disciples to love others, just as he loved others more than himself. He served a meal to his friends, too. We'll eat a similar meal at church tonight and remember to practice Jesus' love.'

Maundy Thursday is a day for remembering Jesus' command to his disciples, ' . . . 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' (John 13: 34-35).

In the quiet of worship moments as we wash feet, listen to a choir sing, eat bread and drink from a cup, watch and pray as candles are extinguished, or see a drama that retells the story of suffering, sacrifice and salvation, we are reminded of what it means to follow Jesus: love for Lord, neighbor AND enemy are required of us.

The love Jesus calls for is not sentimental but practical; the fruit of our connection to the Master flowers in our willingness to see and treat others His way.

'Love is life,' wrote Tolstoy. 'All, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love. Everything is, everything exists, only because I love. Everything is united by it alone. Love is God, and to die means that I, a particle of love, shall return to the general and eternal source.'

Today, Maundy Thursday, is a time to remember that our connection to Christ begins and ends in our willingness to love others as well as the Lord Jesus. A follower of Jesus will forgive, help, accept, welcome, share with, feed, clothe, heal and show mercy to others just a Christ does to us.

From Emory M. Thomas' biography 'Robert E. Lee' comes a story of following Jesus.

'Not long after Appomattox, Lee was at Sunday worship in the conquered Confederate capital at St. Paul's Church, where a list of communicants read like a 'Who's Who' of the Confederacy. As the invitation was issued to communion, a black man strode directly to the altar. When the other parishioners hung back, shocked at this breach of the racial code, Lee walked forward alone and knelt beside the man at the communion rail- to be followed soon by the rest of the congregation.'

'By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.'