Contributed by Brian Hiortdahl, Chicago, IL 

Warm-up Question

Who are your role models?  Name two of your role models, one you know personally, one you do not.  Why do you admire them? 

Should We Identify Ourselves With This Guy

He did what? Oh, yuck!

Popular and accomplished golfer Tiger Woods has remained in the headlines in recent months after a strange car accident in front of his home led to the disclosure that he has been unfaithful to his wife on multiple occasions with several different women.  Woods took a four month leave of absence from competitive golf to work on repairing his damaged personal life.  These developments caused his many corporate sponsors to question their partnerships with Woods and whether to continue to employ him to market their products.  A handful of sponsors have stuck with him, while many have severed ties, deeming it no longer favorable to connect their companies with his now tarnished image. 

Corporate marketers have analyzed why they associated with Tiger Woods and what message their identification with him was intended to project.  Accenture Consulting, which aligned with Woods to promote its reputation of integrity (with excellent results), decided not to continue using him in its ad campaigns.  Nike, meanwhile, has chosen to retain him as a spokesman, as his athletic prowess trumps his troubled personal life for Nike’s product line and target demographic–people who are seeking shoes and sports equipment rather than guidance in making decisions. 


 Discussion Questions

  • What is your opinion of Tiger Woods?  What is your basis for that opinion? 
  • When should a person’s private life be a “deal-breaker” for public and professional relationships?
  • If money were not an issue, would you hire Tiger Woods to be a spokesman for your faith community?  Why or why not?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, May 2, 2010 (Fifth Sunday of Easter)

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year C at Lectionary Readings.) 

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day. 

Gospel Reflection

Jesus tells his disciples exactly how people will identify them with him—by seeing their love for one another.  The Greek word for “love” that Jesus uses is agape, which is complete and unconditional love, love with deep loyalty and without limits.  This is a serving and suffering love, which Jesus himself demonstrates to them, first, by washing their feet (earlier in chapter 13) and then by dying on the cross.  It is this death on the cross that is Jesus’ “glorification.”  Doesn’t seem very glorious to me. 

Jesus’ new commandment to love as he has loved them leaves the disciples in a position not unlike Tiger Woods’ corporate sponsors:  do they really want to identify with this guy?  When Jesus washed Simon Peter’s feet, Peter objected; later that night he would deny Jesus three times.  Judas never heard this gospel conversation because he had already decided to walk out and betray him.   Only one of these male disciples is left with Jesus by the time he is hanging from the cross (read John 19).  When writing later about that death, Saint Paul used the Greek word from which we get the word “scandal.” (1 Cor. 1:23)  In the eyes of the world around him, Jesus looked powerless and pathetic, an executed criminal humbled by the Romans after he humbled himself by washing the disciples’ feet like a faceless slave.  What American corporation would approach this Jesus to be their spokesman?  What disciple would stick around and follow him to such a bitter end?  Which of us is willing to love at such a cost? 

We often sing and speak about Jesus’ glory, but do we really imagine what it looks like?  We wax poetic about true love.  We identify ourselves as Christians, often with the sign of the cross.  But in our culture, the cross is usually a lovely gold necklace instead of a torture tool, bling not black eye.  To wash feet was shameful, and to die on a cross was worse.  We, so concerned about our cred, our image and our reputation, can scarcely imagine being so concerned about others.  We have a much different idea of glory.  Yet this is Jesus’ brazen invitation to us, to love one another as he loved us.  

Discussion Questions

  • What about Jesus attracts you, and what about Jesus scares you?
  • Does Jesus threaten your image?  How are you tempted to deny being identified with Jesus?
  • Is there someone you find difficult to love?  How might you serve them?  What might you actively do to love them even if you don’t feel like it?
  • How would people know that you are a disciple of Jesus?

Activity Suggestions

Write a letter to one or both of your role models (identified in the warm-up question). Thank them for being a blessing in your life and tell them why you admire them and how they remind you of Jesus. 

Closing Prayer

Loving Jesus, open our eyes until we can see true glory.  Open our hearts until they are wide enough to embrace you and to love one another.  Open our hands until we can serve with the true love that you have commanded and shown us.  Amen