Sermons from St
Sunday 19th May, 2019
John’s Gospel is very wordy, reflecting his desire to let us know the teachings of Jesus with occasional touches of the dramatic. The passage today comes at the end of the story of the last supper; the disciples; feet have been washed, Judas’s betrayal is predicted and Judas is sent on his way to betray Jesus, setting the train of trial and crucifixion going. The chilling words that end the passage are “and it was night.” Darkness is all around.
Our Gospel today follows on from this; with a long speech from Jesus to the faithful followers, the remaining eleven disciples. Jesus talks of being glorified; for John the glory is the cross. Which in human terms is hard to make sense of. It is not to quote a well known saying; “Death or glory” but death and glory. Jesus is honouring God the Father through his obedience to the path he is following, and God the Father is honouring Jesus the Son in response. This passage speaks of a unity of love between the Father and the Son.
And Jesus’s command is love: to love one another as I have loved you. A love we see fully expressed upon the cross, in full view of the hostile onlookers. When he sees his Mother Mary and the Beloved Disciple he places them in a relationship of love. The same intensity of love that marks a family relationship.
Jesus speaks of this love for one another as being at the heart of being a disciple. “by this all will know that you are my disciples.” You won’t have to try to be different, you will be, and you won’t be able to keep love hidden.
In the book of Acts Peter recounts to the church in Jerusalem an encounter in Caesarea with some gentiles, or non-Jewish people, people who according to the tradition of the Old Testament were not God’s people. People who were as unclean and profane as the animals Peter was asked to kill and eat in his vision at Joppa. Peter baulks at this, the vision is asking him to ignore years of orthodox religious observance and inculcated prejudice and do the unmentionable. Peter had the same vision three times, the same question, and the same answer; what God has made clean, you must not call profane.
As Peter meets the household in Caesarea and begins to tell the story of Jesus, the Holy Spirit fills them: the Spirit often goes ahead of the church and we see in Acts a church that is trying to catch up in response. God’s Love knows no boundaries. It is like the sun piercing through the gloom. The new command is there for all, not for the self-selected chosen few. It goes beyond the people we are comfortable with, to the uncomfortable people. God does not know barriers of prejudice and religious orthodoxy.
The passage in Revelation is often read at funerals, it speaks of a God being at home in the midst of humanity. You could almost imagine God in a cosy armchair, surrounded by people in cosy armchairs around a fire, just enjoying being together. And to those who are weary, who thirst for a better world, a world where love reigns, where suffering, division and war is ended there is water fresh flowing from the spring of life. Water that assuages thirsty parched throats.
We live in the glorious shadow of this new Jerusalem that will one day fill the earth, as citizens of that place, here on earth at this time. And we have a responsibility as citizens of it to live out Jesus’s command of love for others. We need to ask ourselves particularly in the midst of a disunited and divided nation, where those who operate on the fringe of our society preaching division and hatred against others because they are different, and legitimising violence against others who are different, seem to have found an audience that may not act but will say we are with you in spirit: what can we do to increase love between people. What should we be saying to the forces of division and hate? We are saying Love is bigger than anything in its way. And the greatest love of all is found in Jesus; as a community of believers it is at the heart of what we are about.
Ask God any question
His answer is love
When you want to hear his voice
Listen for love
How can you delight in him
He will tell
The tough unbreakable, unshakeable love.
Are you looking for him?
You will find him in love
Would you know his secrets?
There is only one:
Do you want to know him,
Do you yearn to follow him
Do you want to reach God
Then seek and serve Love