Sixth Sunday of Easter
Sermon starts at 10:35 in the recording
Gospel: John 15:9-17
9As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
12 ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.
Sunday, I shared from the readings for the morning and tried to help us focus on the things in our life that create “Us vs Them” scenarios.
Here are some examples:
· Muslims vs Christians
· Jews vs Samaritans
· Black vs White
· Democrats vs Republicans
I also noted that the only outcome of this “Us vs Them” posture is a closing of the ears so that we begin to assume about the other without truly listening for clarity (which serves to further entrench those taking sides).
I contrasted this with two things from the readings:
· Our call to love (from 1 John).
· The nature of friendship (from the Gospel of John).
Our call to love, be love and be loving
is rampant in the writings of John.
Love, John writes in the second reading from Sunday,
is a reflection of our love for the Father.
“Everyone who loves the parent loves the child”
In other words, because we love the Father,
we love the children of the Father: the Church.
Regardless of differences in
· Societal Expectations
This love of other within the Church is a living example to the larger society and is intended to be a welcoming manifestation and invitation for “the others” to join the community of God.
The nature of friendship is based on Jesus calling us friends.
If Jesus calls us friends,
then we are friends with others that are in the Church.
Others that we may not agree with,
Ultimately, we are looking to live out the hope of Jesus’ prayer to the Father that, “They may be one as We are one.”
This is only possible because God is bigger than all of “this.”
The tendency of the larger culture to take the “Us vs Them” conflicts to the nth degree.
But we are called to something different.
We are the Ecclesia.
The called out ones.
Who, by the call of the Father are to be different.
Like the call of Peter to the Church, to be a “peculiar people.”
This is us.
And it is doable because, as the Psalmist writes,
“Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things. With his right hand and his holy arm has he won for himself the victory.”
God is large and in charge.
Going beyond what I preached yesterday,
I was thinking about this idea of “Us vs Them” further.
The truth of the matter is this:
We will always group up with those that are like minded.
Even though the goal is not to have the “Us vs Them” scenario,
there always be “others” in our lives.
Here is where it can be different:
Instead of viewing “Them” in an adversarial light,
We should see “Them” as the other.
And the desire of God, for us, is always to reach out to the other.
I have been thinking about the readings from the past few weeks and “the others” involved:
· The Ethiopian Eunuch
· The Gentiles
Phillip gets called to the Ethiopian Eunuch,
And as I said on the Sunday for that reading,
I can’t help but think that he changed the people in his homeland when He returned to them.
He was an “Other.”
They were “The Others.”
The “Burnt Skin” people.
They were “Them.”
But God had other plans.
Same for Peter’s call to Cornelius.
This was a decisive moment for the Church.
To which Peter makes the exclamation,
“I truly understand that God shows no partiality.”
And this realization changed the world by sending missionary endeavors (mainly through Paul and Barnabas) into modern day Turkey and all the way to Rome (when you read the epistles of Paul, you are reading about this truth).
Both of these stories remind me of the unintended outcomes of our interactions with the “Others” and the “Thems” in our lives.
A reality of life is that we have no idea how our influence in the life of another will change them. And not only change them, but those around them.
Take the story of the Woman at the Well from John 4.
Jesus has an interaction in the middle of the day with a Samaritan woman. Although it took a minute, she finally gets that Jesus is [possibly] the Messiah. The encounter ends with this:
“Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he? They left the city and were on their way to him.”
Jesus’ interaction with her changed her town.
She went back to her people,
And shared her story.
And in turn,
Came out to see Jesus.
We never know how our interactions with others will manifest themselves.
So, do we have an aversion to the “others” in our lives?
Are there groups of people that we see as “others?”
Is it possible that God could be calling you to see “them” differently?
To see them as part of “us?”
To allow God to work through you for His purposes?
The Apostle Paul understood this.
He writes about it in the letter to the Romans (1:16)
For I am not ashamed of the gospel;Romans (1:16)
it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith.”
Paul didn’t worry about how God would use him.
He simply knew that God would work through him.
In God’s time.
In God’s ways.
For God’s purposes.
Paul knew that in due time, he would understand God’s purposes in his interactions with those around him.
In the writings of John, the word to describe this is joy.
We see it in the Gospel reading this week when Jesus is talking to His disciples,
“I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.”
Joy is the realization that God has used you for God’s purposes
and getting to see the fulfillment of that.
It is a “reward” for us.
To see a changed heart is a blessing.
To see a transformed life is fulfilling.
To know God is at work amongst His children is pure joy.