First Reading: Acts 11.1-18
Gospel Reading: John 13.31-35
Sermon for Easter 5 2022 – preached by Revd Canon Rachel Firth
How hard is this?
Love one another. Sounds so simple doesn’t it. Love one another.
Do you feel loving to the driver of the car who undertakes you at a red light to speed onto the roundabout?
Do you feel loving to the person who sends you a really annoying email at work – or even better/worse – the person who answers a group email copying in every single person on the email chain, when they only needed to reply to one person.
Do you feel loving to the politician who you know is a liar, who you know is a proven law breaker, who has taken corrupt money and used public money corruptly?
Do you feel loving to the person who looks different to you, who sounds different to you? Who uses modern slang or old fashioned language, who dresses up to much or down too much. Who doesn’t behave the way you expect them to behave, or who always dully does exactly what you expect?
Do you feel loving to people who don’t love the same people as you?
It’s hard to love people isn’t it? And then Jesus takes it to the next level. Don’t just love them…love them as I have loved you – that’s how you should do it – not any old way – this way, like I’ve done it, Jesus says. Love one another as I have loved you.
Does that make it harder or easier do you think? I think one of the ways we are tempted in our modern lives – one of the ways the voice of temptation which troubled Jesus in the wilderness, one of the ways that voice troubles us is to say “Well of course you can’t live your life the way Jesus lived – he was the son of God for goodness sake – you’re just an ordinary kind of person. Don’t ask too much of yourself – don’t set yourself up to fail by trying to be like Jesus.” Sounds oh so reasonable. But it’s not.
What’s perfectly reasonable is the commandment Jesus has given us. To love one another as he has loved us. Think of the gospel readings we have shared as part of our resurrection celebration, and the stories of the founding of our church from the Acts of the Apostles.
How does Jesus show love – in his life death and resurrection? What is he actually asking of us as disciples in this commandment?
How does Jesus love?
He teaches. He acknowledges when they don’t know the same things he knows. He shares stories that help them understand and connect what he is saying about God to the lives they live, the places and situations they understand – seed sewn in good fields and on barren ground, fish gathered in abundance as God’s people should be gathered. He speaks to people where they are and speaks of God in ways that connect. This is how Jesus loves.
He shares. He shares simple meals cooked over open fire, he shares a few loaves and fishes in such a way that all can be fed, he shares bread and wine that speak of connection, sustenance, nourishment, the foundation of life, the ground of being. He shares generously, abundantly, simply. This is how Jesus loves.
He accompanies. He walks with all manner of people – on a road to Emmaus that they might recognise him. He sleeps in the boat alongside those who fish and those who fear. He visits people’s homes, accepts their hospitality and their ministry, their questions. Those who have been cast out by others, those who have sinned and think they are beyond redemption. He is with them. This is how Jesus loves.
This is how Jesus loves and this is how he calls us to love one another – just like he did. To teach one another, to find the words and stories that span difference. To share our hospitality with one another and with strangers. To walk with one another and those whom he is calling into community with us here.
We don’t get to choose, to vet, to audition or reject those who we are supposed to love – because it is not us who are calling them into a little gang of like-mindedness – it is God. Jesus called the disciples. Jesus chose them – and as they followed his call it became their call to love one another wherever they came from, whatever they did before.
Jesus chose us – in our baptism – to be disciples too – and to love one another his way – the way that would help others see God’s love too.
I take you back to the reading from Acts – tales of the brand new church that doesn’t even know that’s what it is yet – and the people are making distinctions, building walls, defining who is in and who is out. There are Jewish people who think that Jesus is the messiah they have waited for – and there are others – gentiles – those who fall outside those who were understood to be God’s people – and it seems they are coming to believe Jesus is their messiah too. And they’re falling out about it in Jerusalem. Do you have to be circumcised or not? What if you eat things that aren’t on the list?
What if I can think of a billion reasons why you’re not like me so you shouldn’t be in my gang of believers?
But of course, it’s not my gang, or your gang, or Peter’s or Paul’s gang of believers. It’s Jesus who calls disciples. It is Jesus who decides who the other disciples are who we walk alongside, share with and learn with. Whoever they are, “God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?”
This week I ask you to go back to your bible at home, and find your favourite passage about Jesus. To read it over a few times – and then to ask yourself – how is Jesus showing love here? Then I ask you to think how you can love your fellow disciples, those who God has called here to travel the way of faith with you, in the way Jesus has shown.