Monday, May 11, 2009

Easter 5, Year B, Sunday May 10, 2009

Acts 8:26-40; 1 John 3:14-24; John 14:15-21

Preached by The Rev. Lynn Anderson

During the weeks after Easter, we hear many of the words of the Pastoral teachings of Jesus that he shared in the upper room discourse before his passion. Jesus helps his followers understand what loving him means. My understanding of the passages for today has grown considerably by consulting the work of Eugene H Peterson in The Message which I quote extensively. The Message is a reading bible, certainly not meant to replace the excellent study bibles that are available. For me, the real value in the different translations is to “hear the scripture in another voice.” That is particularly helpful with the most familiar passages.

Jesus says, “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples – when they see the love you have for each other.”

He says in the gospel today, “If you love me, show it by doing what I’ve told you. If you love me, you will keep my command. I will talk to the Father, and he’ll provide you another Friend so that you will always have someone with you. This Friend is the Spirit of Truth. The godless world can’t take him in because it doesn’t have eyes to see him, doesn’t know what to look for. But you know him already because he has been staying with you, and will even be in you!

I will not leave you orphaned. I’m coming back. In just a little while the world will no longer see me, but you’re going to see me because I am alive and you’re about to come alive. At that moment you will know absolutely that I’m in my Father, and you’re in me, and I’m in you.

The person who knows my commandments and keeps them, that’s who loves me. And the person who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and make myself plain to him.

When we receive the Spirit of Truth we will come alive. At that moment you will know absolutely that I’m in my Father, and you’re in me, and I’m in you.

The person who knows my commandments and keeps them, that’s who loves me. And the person who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and make myself plain to him.

How simple is that. Receive the Spirit of Truth and we will be in life, in God and then all we have to do is love others as we have been loved.

I sat in a coffee shop early one Sunday afternoon visiting with a friend. The tables were pushed too close together and many of those in the shop were not in fellowship but were instead communing with their laptop computers. At one table sat six people, 5 of whom were on their cell phones. At the table closest to me were two couples sitting together obviously still in their “church clothes”. I could not help but overhear parts of the conversation of the two women who were sitting closest to me. One woman said, “That boy can’t sit still for 10 seconds and his mother seems not to even notice his squirming.” “I know,” said the other, and did you see what she had on this morning? I just don’t understand what she must be thinking. Since her husband left, things have certainly changed” Seemed to me that this was less than the best example of Christian love. Why don’t we get it?

When I was a child, the rules of the house were abundantly clear. They were pretty easy to remember but you never had a chance to forget. Keep your room clean, make your bed, clean up any mess you make, do the household chores assigned to you without complaining early and completely, don’t touch anything that belonged to anyone else without permission, and treat others as you would like to be treated. This was all pretty clear and actually not very time consuming or hard. This sounds like a plan that would make six people living together go smoother. But I didn’t get it. There was constant discussion about what a clean room looked like and way too much wiggle room about how I would like to be treated. In addition, I was more attracted to the erector set and hockey game that my brothers had than I was my doll house. I was not always a selfless example of love and respect in that situation. I didn’t always get it. It was very simple but very hard.

The lesson from I John this morning tells us how we will know when we are on the right track. The way we know we’ve been transferred from death to life is that we love our brothers and sisters. Anyone who doesn’t love is as good as dead. Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know very well that eternal life and murder don’t go together.

This is how we’ve come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves. If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God’s love? It disappears. And you made it disappear.

My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves.

And friends, once that’s taken care of and we’re no longer accusing or condemning ourselves, we’re bold and free before God! We’re able to stretch our hands out and receive what we asked for because we’re doing what he said, doing what pleases him. Again, this is God’s command: to believe in his personally – named Son Jesus Christ. He told us to love each other, in line with the original command. As we keep his commands, we live deeply and surely in him, and he lives in us. And this is how we experience his deep and abiding presence in us; by the Spirit he gave us.

What a wonderful thought. Practicing real love is the way to stop self-criticism. This brings us back to getting around to loving ourselves. Think of the most critical and self centered people you know, the ones who are never happy about anything and usually find the energy to share that and pray about what it might be like if they knew real love of themselves and for others.

Mother Teresa said in her book No Greater Love “Spread love wherever you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.” Sometimes all that need mean is to smile. Perhaps we can try the Quaker practice of “holding someone in the light” by visualizing that person in the circle of God’s love and presence. But whatever the Spirit of Truth leads you to do, remember to let your face know that you love the Lord.

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