Love One Another

The Last Supper

AFter the celebration of the Palms:

We leave the streets of Jerusalem now, and enter the Upper Room, where Jesus and his disciples gathered in the evening to celebrate the Jewish feast of Passover. Passover is a holy time of remembrance for God’s salvation. This year Jews throughout the world will celebrate Passover on Monday April 14 in an unbroken continuation of the celebration from the time that Jesus met with his disciples for their last supper. Let us listen for God’s holy word.

John 13:31-34

The New Commandment

 When he [Judas] had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, “Where I am going, you cannot come.” 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, if you have love for one another.’

Love one another

 

Two decades ago, nearly a million people were killed in Rwanda during the country’s genocide. A population about the size of metropolitan Winnipeg was wiped out in 100 days.

 

This week the Winnipeg Free Press ran an interview with a Tutsi woman from Rwanda. Today, Régine Uwibereyeho King is a professor at the University of Manitoba. She ran for her life during the 1994 Rwandan genocide and remembers it vividly. It began on April 7, the day after the president’s plane was shot down.

 

Regine told the interviewer: "We didn't know what was going to happen until we were threatened on the streets by people we used to think were friends." Schools in Rwanda hadn’t taught about the holocaust of WWII, or how genocide had happened in the 20th century.

 

"Through the media we'd heard there was danger. What we didn't know was to what extent it was going to take."

 

Two of her brothers -- Alex, 29, and Emmanuel, 16 -- were slain. Another brother -- Theoneste, 21 -- survived three separate machete attacks, each time being left for dead.

 

The Hutu majority was wiping out the Tutsi minority. Soldiers, police, militia and civilians armed with machetes took part in the state-sponsored massacre of Tutsi men, women and children along with moderate Hutus. Roadblocks were set up to check Rwandans' identity cards that list their ethnicity, and Tutsis were put to death.

 

Over the past 2 decades Rwanda’s commitment to Truth and Reconciliation has been truly remarkable. The efforts there continue to this day. Small groups of Hutus and Tutsis are counseled over many months, culminating in the perpetrator’s formal request for forgiveness. If forgiveness is granted by the survivor, the perpetrator and his family and friends typically bring a basket of food and drink offerings. The accord is sealed with song and dance.

 

These photographs of tutsi and hutu neighbors were taken last month and published in the New York Times.

 

KARENZI (perpetrator): “My conscience was not quiet, and when I would see her I was very ashamed. After being trained about unity and reconciliation, I went to her house and asked for forgiveness. Then I shook her hand. So far, we are on good terms.”

 

NYIRAMANA (survivor): “He killed my father and three brothers. He did these killings with other people, but he came alone to me and asked for pardon. He and a group of other offenders who had been in prison helped me build a house with a covered roof. I was afraid of him — now I have granted him pardon, things have become normal, and in my mind I feel clear.” [slide]

 

MUDAHERANWA: “I burned her house. I attacked her in order to kill her and her children, but God protected them, and they escaped. When I was released from jail, if I saw her, I would run and hide. Then AMI started to provide us with trainings. I decided to ask her for forgiveness. To have good relationships with the person to whom you did evil deeds — we thank God.”

 

MUKANYANDWI: “I used to hate him. When he came to my house and knelt down before me and asked for forgiveness, I was moved by his sincerity. Now, if I cry for help, he comes to rescue me. When I face any issue, I call him.” [slide]

 

Dominique NdahimanaPerpetrator (left)Cansilde MunganyinkaSurvivor

NDAHIMANA: “The day I thought of asking pardon, I felt unburdened and relieved. I had lost my humanity because of the crime I committed, but now I am like any human being.”

 

MUNGANYINKA: “After I was chased from my village and Dominique and others looted it, I became homeless and insane. Later, when he asked my pardon, I said: ‘I have nothing to feed my children. Are you going to help raise my children? Are you going to build a house for them?’ The next week, Dominique came with some survivors and former prisoners who perpetrated genocide. There were more than 50 of them, and they built my family a house. Ever since then, I have started to feel better. I was like a dry stick; now I feel peaceful in my heart, and I share this peace with my neighbors.”

 

 

Rwanda’s commitment to Truth and Reconciliation is truly remarkable and efforts there continue to this day. Small groups of Hutus and Tutsis are counseled over many months, culminating in the perpetrator’s formal request for forgiveness. If forgiveness is granted by the survivor, the perpetrator and his family and friends typically bring a basket of food and drink offerings. The accord is sealed with song and dance.

 

Photographer Pieter Hugo took these photographs as part of an exhibit being displayed in the Hague He commented on how the relationships between the victims and the perpetrators varied widely. Some pairs showed up and sat easily together, chatting about village gossip. Others arrived willing to be photographed but unable to go much further. “There’s clearly different degrees of forgiveness,” Hugo said. “In the photographs, the distance or closeness you see is pretty accurate.”

 

Robbie Burns coined the phrase “Man’s inhumanity to man” in a poem in 1785.

 

Many and sharp the num'rous ills
Inwoven with our frame!
More pointed still we make ourselves
Regret, remorse, and shame!
And Man, whose heav'n-erected face
The smiles of love adorn, - 
Man's inhumanity to man
Makes countless thousands mourn!

 

The one thing that is constant in human history is the violence and horror that generation after generation faces. Since creation began, God has been a witness to the ways we treat each other. With the floods in the age of Noah God tried to rectify the evil in the world. But God recognized that destroying the world was not a way to save the world after all. Mourning for the catastrophic loss God made a covenant with us never to destroy the world again.

God said:

“I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, for the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth; nor will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done.”

 

So God’s purpose ever since then has been to save the world, to save us from ourselves.

 

God sent his son Jesus, to reconcile the world to himself. On this night in Jerusalem in the upper room, Jesus sits at the table with his 12 friends. They have left their families behind and become a family among themselves. They have seen some amazing things, together and the world outside is both overwhelmingly joyous to greet them, and frighteningly hostile at the same time. Earlier that week, Thomas said: “let us also go to Jerusalem so that we may die with him.” There was no doubt they knew the potential danger they were facing.

 

So how powerful would Jesus words’ have been to them when he announced that he was with then only a little longer. I’m sure their stomachs dropped a bit. The poignancy of goodbyes is another universally human thing that we all share. In these final hours together Jesus tells them the things that he wants them to remember above all else. He gives them The new commandment: [slide]

“that you love on 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.

Picture it:

Jesus, reclining at the dinner table with wine on his breath and crumbs in his beard, he knows man’s inhumanity to man. He doesn’t need another 1700 years for Robbie Burns to tell him so. He is seeing it happening all around him. His parables are full of stories of the poor, poor widows sweeping the house for a lost coin. compassionate shepherds searching for lost lambs. His signs and wonders restored the outcasts back to their communities, the lepers, the lame, the blind, Jesus made them whole. 

 

Human suffering is very real, for the people of Rwanda, Somalia, Armenia, South Africa, The Netherlands, Korea, Scotland, even Kamloops and Armstrong we have been inhumane to one another. Loving one another is probably the most difficult command God could have asked of us. That’s why God doesn’t just ask us. This command isn’t only typed on a tablet. Through Jesus Christ, God shows us the way, and by the Holy Spirit God empowers us to follow the way. The way of the cross.

 

The cross is God’s supreme act of love.  Divine love is the motive for God’s sending his son into this evil world. The death of Jesus, like the cruel deaths that continue to this day, challenge us with what it means to love one another. Jesus spoke this commandment immediately following the exit of Judas from the upper room. Judas, who would sell the location of Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. Judas, who later regretted his actions so much it drove him to suicide. When he had gone out, Jesus said: I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.

 

We know it’s true, but it can also be so very hard. Writer Miren Tiribassi wrote a prayer about the line from the Lord’s prayer: forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Loving one another, forgiving one another, reconciling with one another, that’s all part of the same package. She prays:

 

God, forgive me my debts 
as I am trying to forgive my debtors --
the ones with remorse 
so deep and genuine it is easy,
the ones who expect it,
casually, again and again and again,
even the ones who don’t care they hurt me,
or don’t remember,
or were a part of a system
that destroyed something precious.

God, forgive me my debts 
as I am trying to forgive those
who twisted something in me when I was a child, 
or hurt my children
or anybody’s children.
God, forgive me my debts,
as I am trying to spit the poison out.

God, forgive me my debts 
as I am trying to forgive those
who did nothing to me –
just got a job I wanted or a love,
or are so healthy and happy it shines,
showing the dustballs of loss
in all my corners.

God, forgive me my debts 
as I am trying to forgive the little debtors,
the ones with foolish 
absolutely aggravating infractions --
the laundry left on the floor,
the inconsiderate late arrival,

privacy not given,
or gratitude or recognition,
or a birthday card,

the failure to listen to something
I said three times,
or to just-know something
I didn’t think I needed to say.

God forgive me 
every hoarding, hurting time I risk
my own sweet and so precious forgiveness --
teeth lockjaw tight 
in someone else’s life. Amen

 

Love one another. Forgive your debtors. This Holy Week, as we meditate on the cross and the amazing love of Jesus, as we witness the examples of love we see through the reconciliation of enemies, I urge you to remember the redemptive love of Christ shown in the upper room that day. So may we proclaim Christ’s forgiveness for ourselves, and may God the Son, victor over sin and death, grant us a share in the joy of his resurrection. Amen.

 

 With notes from:

 http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/genocide-universal-issue-survivor-253860921.html

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/04/06/magazine/06-pieter-hugo-rwanda-portraits.html?_r=1