the Rev. Deacon Thomas Bates
May 6, 2018
Äs the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Remain in my love.” In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.
At the 10:30 Service, the sermon will be a kids’ sermon; the songs will be kids’ songs and children will do the readings.
I thought I would start by asking the children, what is love. Others have asked the same question and the responses were good. For example, one seven year old said that “Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt and he wears it every day.” Or “Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day.” “Love is when mommy makes coffee for daddy and takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure it tastes OK.” Not bad, huh? Children know love.
If that goes too quickly, I’ll have a measuring cup, tape measure and watch and we’ll talk about measuring God’s love for us. I may or may not say a few words about love being the greatest commandment – all you need is love. My idea is to teach them about God’s love and that God’s love is greater than our love for him. To do this, I’ll have two trays of cookies one tray will contain on huge cookie with the words “God’s Love”, the other tray will contain regular size cookies demonstrating the size of love that we have for one another. Of course, with their parent’s permission, they get the cookies; otherwise, there would be no love there.
I have a different sermon for you and no cookies, but the same subject—love.
After I preached two weeks ago, one of the parishioners thanked me for preaching and not lecturing, adding that there is a difference, you know. After thinking about it a little, I realize the difference, but believe that the same message can be given either way. I’m more comfortable with a more conversational presentation and even though I pray that I’m doing the will of God and giving you what I think God wants, I’m more likely to present the word as this what I and my sources think about these Bible readings rather than this is the word of God as He has revealed to me. So with that in mid, let’s talk about God’s love.
This Sunday’s readings for many of us are the heart of Jesus’ teachings. Jesus’ sermon of the one commandment is that we are to love one another as he loves us. Is that possible? It sounds impossible to me. And yet Jesus goes on to say that there is no greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for his friends. We are friends of God, right? So whatever we do for one another, we are doing for God’s people and therefore for God. I think one could make that point. According to Megan McKenna, this is the fullness of the mystery of the Incarnation. According to her, God abides in our flesh so intimately; that he would rather we showed our love for him in our care of other human beings, rather than ritual or religious devotion. And even though, I’m not the Biblical scholar she is, from my reading of Scripture, I would agree. And we are friends of God, if we do what? If we do what He has commanded us to do: love God and love our neighbors as ourselves and as Jesus has loved us.
So how would you say, we as Christians are doing as regards God’s command to love one another? I think as a church, as a community of believers, we could do better. We still have people dying of hunger, condemned to literacy, without medical care, without a roof over their heads, etc. We can’t solve the world’s problems, but perhaps we could do a little more. I think laying down our lives means aligning our priorities, resources, time and prayers to help heal this broken world by loving one another.
The reading for Acts, reminds us of a couple of things: 1. that God’s love is not based upon our criteria. God’s love is universal. God’s Spirit is all over the world. You will remember that Peter is in the house of Cornelius, a Roman centurion, who was devote and God fearing and there are, of course devote and God fearing people all over the world. Cornelius was told by an angel to send some men to Joppa and bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. And Peter is having a vision in which he is told to eat four footed animals, reptiles and birds because God has made them clean. So when Cornelius’ men arrive, Peter is told by an angel to go with these men. This brings us to today’s reading. And what happens? While Peter is telling them about Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes on all who hear Peter’s message, and they are baptized. 2. At least, I’m reminded that the Holy Spirit can come at any time, not just after Baptism or with the laying on of hands, ordination or whatever.
I’m also noticing that we are hearing a lot about the Holy Spirit as we approach Pentecost in the Sunday after next. In First John, it is the Spirit that testifies and the Spirit is truth. We are told that the Holy Spirit is not only God’s Spirit, but is also the Spirit of our Risen Lord and it is the Holy Spirit that tells us how to live in love. So maybe, wherever, there are words of encouragement, of forgiveness and reconciliation, of mercy and peace, of hope and truth, the Spirit is there. I believe we are being led by the Holy Spirit is those instances and that our hearts and minds are at that time open to what the Holy Spirit is trying to tell us. I think the Rev Canon Lucinda Asby would agree with me. One of the things she said that she learned in one of her parishes working with gangs and the homeless was that she the Holy Spirit at work in the decision making processes.
Have you noticed some repetition in the last few Gospel readings from John? At Chapter 14: 13, Jesus says, “and I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. 15: 7, ‘If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given to you”. And 15: 16, just nine verses later, Jesus says, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” So three times, in just a few verses we are told to ask and it will be given to us, but with conditions. We are to ask in Jesus’ name; we are to remain in him, his words are to remain in us and we are to bear fruit that lasts.
So let’s recap.. Jesus ‘one commandment sermon was what? That we should love one another as Jesus loves us. And we do this seemingly impossible task by what? – laying down our lives for our friends who are God’s people, God’s friends. And God’s people are in Jerusalem, Rome, and Silver City and in the entire world. And God will grant anything we as in Jesus’ name if we remain in Jesus, his word remains in us and we bear fruit that lasts. And we bear fruit that lasts by?… loving one another as Jesus loves us.
God loves you. Remain in His love. Amen.