"A NEW COMMANDMENT"
By: Melissa Seng, FBC Member
These words were among the last that Jesus spoke to his disciples before he was taken away to be crucified. This command might have seemed out of place in the midst of a discussion about the betrayal, denial, and death that were to come. 

He commanded that they love each other.

This group of men had traveled together for three years, serving with and learning from Jesus, sharing meals and hardships. We might easily assume they already loved each other.

There was, however, plenty of cause for division among the disciples. Peter was rash, frequently talking first and thinking second. The brothers, James and John, had been shamelessly vying for important positions in the group. Matthew was a money-collecting agent of the oppressive Roman government before joining up with Jesus, while Simon had been an anti-government political activist. 

There was probably tension among them at times, to say the least. Yet it was this motley group that Jesus chose to be the foundation of his church. A church that would be built on love among people who sometimes found it hard to love each other.

As I reflected on the stained glass chapel window imprinted with that command, I wondered what connection there was between sheaves of wheat and Jesus’s desire for his disciples to love each other.

Then I thought of the gleanings.

When God called the Israelites to be his people, he told them they would live differently than other nations. Among those differences were the gleanings. When an Israelite farmer harvested his crops, he was to leave the edges un-harvested and any scattered bits un-gathered. These portions were left for the poor and the foreigner. (See Leviticus 23:22 and the Book of Ruth.) 

The gleanings were God’s provision for the needy, and leaving this portion was an act of faith for the landowner. It was an act of love – towards God, neighbor, and stranger – lived out in the regular rhythms of harvest. It was a blessing in the ordinary.

“Love one another.” Jesus’s command in John 13 is for all of us as his disciples, and the principle of the gleanings is one way we can conceptualize it. What does “leaving gleanings” look like today? 

Whether it’s time, money, skill, or literal produce from a backyard garden, God has given each of us something that can be shared. In regularly giving and receiving, we live out Jesus’s command to love as he loved, we find blessing in the ordinary alongside one another, and we are tangibly reminded of the presence of God among his people.

Where are the “edges” in your life that can remain un-harvested? Ask God to show you the gleanings you can offer as an act of love. 
"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.” (NRSV)
John 13:34-35
Rowan LeCompte (1926-2014) was a world-renowned stained-glass artist best known for his work in the Washington National Cathedral that spanned an unprecedented 70 years of artistic commission.

Mike Queen Reflects on Mr. Lecompte
I was pastor at FBC when we commissioned the windows by Mr. LeCompte. We had been searching for an artist to do the four windows but with a little luck. Nancy Efird called me one day said she had read in parade magazine about Rowan LeCompte. She told me how famous he was and that he lived in Wilmington. In fact he lived across the street from Tom and Jimmy Wallace, members at First Baptist. He and I met at least a dozen times over the course of the three years it took him to complete the windows. Each visit was distinct memory unto itself. What I will never forget were the hours he spent sitting in the empty chapel studying glass and light. He would lean pieces of glass up against the clear glass of those windows and stare at them for hours. He will come on sunny days and then return on a cloudy day. He was always concerned that the windows faced north and the sunlight came from the south. He said that meant the sunlight shown on the old jail behind the chapel and reflected off of that red brick. He said it did strange things to the stained glass. He was a perfectionist, and the windows are a testament to that fact. He called me one day to tell me that he was going to be gone for a few weeks and that it would slow the process down. He said, “I need to go back to France and study the work of the 13th century masters one more time.“ He returned more inspired and more determined to finish our windows been at any time in the process. He put all the glass together and created the windows and then set the glass to New York to be leaded and set in the frames. To see them and to read the words of scripture in them is to know they are the work of a master.