May 15, 2018
“So that you may love one another” ~ Sermon for May 6, 2018
The reference book I use for worship planning had a mistake this week.
It identified the reading this morning as just one verse from John’s gospel.
I couldn’t remember any other time that the Lectionary chose just one verse.
At first, I thought it might be a mistake but when I read the verse I thought the wisdom of all of scripture is in fact condensed into this one brief verse.
It is one that you can write on your heart and carry with you throughout the day.
I soon discovered that the one verse was in fact an error.
There were eight full verses, though you will see how the final line could in fact stand alone.
Hear now a reading from the Book of John 15:9-17.
Here ends the reading of God’s holy word. May God add to our hearing and understanding God’s blessing. Amen.
Please pray with me.
Creator of friendships, whose love lifts us from mindless servitude to caring community, we thank you for the guidance of your commandments and the promise of joy in Jesus Christ.
We seek to love as we have been loved, to risk life itself for the sake of the gospel and to bear fruit that will last.
Grant us the strength and courage that we need.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen.
The familiar theme of love continues in our readings this week, but the “one another” that we are called to love expands radically.
In the Psalm all creation is called to praise God for the righteousness and justice that God brings to all people.
In the Acts reading, Peter preaches to a group of Gentiles, with the result that they, too, receive the Holy Spirit, revealing that God’s love, grace and salvation is for all people, not just the Jews.
In the Gospel, the call to love one another must now be understood to go beyond just our companions in the faith.
The “one another” whom we are called to love through the sacrificial laying down of our lives, now includes all people and all creatures.
The moment we begin to try and exclude some people from our love, for whatever reason, we have failed to truly embrace the love of God.
When God’s love flows through us to all – including even our “enemies” – we know the vibrant, abundant life of resurrection, and we become life-bringing agents of God’s love to the world.
In the sixth century before Christ an ancient Chinese philosopher said these words:
“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”
Love is a power greater than any other.
Jesus knew this and he wanted to convey to his disciples the importance of embracing a loving way of life.
He wanted his followers to understand that God was pouring his love into their very being through Christ and that if they could accept that and abide in that love, their lives would be blessed.
It seems so simple to remember that you are loved and that your ability to love is a gift to be freely shared.
Simple, but profoundly challenging and rarely achieved.
Our world has drifted far away from our 6th century BC Chinese ancestor and our first century prophetic teacher.
We rarely look to our loved ones for strength or courage.
Our power is built on material wealth, professional accomplishments and comparison to our neighbors.
I hope that each one of you can identify someone who loves you so deeply that you are transformed to a person of strength.
I also hope that you are that person for someone else.
Can you think of a friend or relative whose life you have transformed with your love?
Does your love complete someone else’s joy?
These are the things that Christ wanted for us.
Not fame or prestige.
Not power over other people.
Richard Rohr reflected on the importance of understanding God’s love for us in his column this week.
“Love must flow both toward us and out from us, or we do not experience or enjoy its full effects.”
He expounds on the importance of recognizing that all love, especially God’s, is relational.
He worries that our obstruction of this flow of love is what leads to sin: “If, at any time, we try to stop this life flow moving through us, with us, and in us, we fall into the true state of sin-a lonely, fearful illusion of separateness.”
Isn’t it interesting to think of sin as a separateness – a feeling of disconnect from the community, from friends, family, from love?
This definition resonates with me today as we celebrate welcoming Olive into our community through baptism and are reminded of our table fellowship at communion.
It is through the sharing of God’s love, through our sacraments, that we live into the state of being for which God created us.
The radical inclusivity of the Gospel is one of the hardest truths to embrace.
In so many ways the world is easier to manage and navigate when we can easily distinguish between friend and enemy, between “us” and “them”.
One author pointed out this week that “National boundaries and patriotism become important lubricants for a divided world. Personal agendas and interest groups are easier to maintain, and the world is much simpler when we only have to love those who love us, who are like us and who are part of our group.”
In this view of things – the ‘us and them’ perspective we can make economic, military and even environmental decisions easily, because we only have to worry about ourselves and “our world”.
Unfortunately, we inevitably discover the fallacy in our thinking when we see the connectedness of everything, and we begin to see that our actions have consequences for others, even as theirs do for us.
Our divisions are, ultimately, illusions, and so the Gospel call to love all people is really the most common of sense.
When we begin to love sacrificially, we become more mindful of how our decisions and actions and agendas impact others.
As we start seeking to live in love, the world becomes a more peaceful, loving, and co-operative place – which ultimately benefits us.
If there is anything that gives a clear picture of resurrection life it’s love – and as we learn to love sacrificially, as Jesus did, we bring life to others and we enjoy a more vibrant, abundant life ourselves.
The challenge, of course, is that the onus is on us, as Christ followers, to be the first to embrace Jesus’ way of love, no matter the cost, in order to prophetically reveal the power of love to the rest of creation.
I’ll close with a poem/prayer called Love In Action
Your love, O God,
is an active love:
Your love, O God,
is seen in what you do, not just in what you say:
in the blessing of children,
in the meals with outcasts,
in the touching of the untouchable,
in your presence,
and your self-giving,
in your opening of the way to life
to all who will come;
And your love, O God,
is expressed through people like us:
as we share our wealth in simplicity and generosity;
as we share wholeness in care and healing
of the sick and broken;
as we share hospitality by being truly present
to the lonely, the imprisoned and the marginalized;
as we share peace in kindness, listening and acceptance
with those who challenge us, confront us and threaten us.
As you have loved us in incarnate action, O God,
may we learn to be little incarnations
through whom your love is expressed and experienced
Let us pray.
O holy creator of all that lives on this earth, hear our prayers this morning that your love might find its way into our hearts.
Help us, we pray, to remember that your love came first; that you loved us into being, that you abide in us.
Grant us the grace to recognize the power of our love and motivate us to share it with all the world.
Teach us to break down barriers and to overcome judgments so that we might fully embrace the beauty of this world.
Hear our prayers this morning for those whom we love.
For those who are sick, we pray for healing.
For those who mourn we pray for comfort.
For Olive, baptized this day, we pray for lifelong grace.
For our brothers and sisters throughout the world who may have never felt the love of another person, we pray that your Holy Spirit will guide them to a place of peace.
For us, O God, that we might realize the power of our own love and use that power to transform lives.
Hear us now as we turn to you in the sacred silence of this meetinghouse with the prayers of our hearts…..
When the disciples asked Jesus how to pray he taught them these words…Our Father