Proper 8 – Ordinary/Lectionary 13 – Pentecost + 4
Canada Day – Year A
2 July 2017
Isaiah 32:1-5, 16-18
Psalm 85:7-13 pg 819
Welcoming God, make us apostles of your generous love, so that we might offer hospitality that challenges the world with your gift of eternal life, made known in Jesus Christ, who offered himself for us. Amen.
Have you ever noticed that the bible boils down to, really, just one basic theme?
And that theme is LOVE.
John 3:16 tells us: “16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
God loves the world enough to help us to change how we see ourselves, how we see each other, how we see the world around us.
But as much as we focus on verse 16 of John’s 3rd chapter, verse 17 opens the understanding that God, that Jesus loves not just those who believe in Jesus, but rather God loves the whole world. That God’s message, that Jesus teachings are for all the world, not for just a select few.
In fact, I looked up the number of times that the word “love” occurs in the bible, in the whole bible, and according to my concordance, there are over 5 columns at approximately 100 entries in each column so we can estimate that love is used about 525-550 times throughout the whole of the bible. And this doesn’t include such variations as “loved,” “lovely,” “lover,” “lovers,” “loves,” “loving,” and “loving kindness,” which adds pages of references throughout the length and breadth of the bible.
So, this brings us back to the idea, the knowledge that it all boils down to love.
In today’s gospel, Jesus tells us: “12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (Jn 15:2)
And yet, love is one of the most difficult concepts of society to grasp. Since sin entered the world, and we learned of the grip and depth of negative emotions, that is what humanity more easily gravitates to than to the love that God willingly lavishes upon us, teaches us through Jesus actions and lessons, and surrounds us with in the daily events of our lives.
And this brings us to such emotions as resentment, anger, envy, hatred, just to name a few.
Did you know that it takes more muscles in the face to frown, than it does to smile? And frowning causes more wrinkles, too.
At the same time, choosing, intentionally choosing to dump the negative and leaning toward the positive is also better for our health, our blood pressure, and our outlook on life is also able to improve.
It all comes down to love, and it all comes down to how that love encourages us to behave, to act, one toward the other.
Jesus tells us, today: “13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. [and] 14 You are my friends.” (Jn 15:13-14a)
And this is huge, for each one of us, today.
We’re used to keeping God at arm’s length, keeping Jesus on a pedestal. Yet God only desires to embrace us, to be an active part of each of our lives, guiding and directing.
God only desires to encourage each of us in paths that will build stronger, more loving relationships between each of us who are here. At the same time, this is also God’s desire for those who are not here, as well.
Jesus tells us plainly: “14 You are my friends …15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.” (Jn15:14a, 15-17)
And yet we have difficulty embracing this teaching wholeheartedly. We have difficulty in getting Jesus off that pedestal that we’ve glued his feet to because to embrace his teachings for our lives is, and can be, scary.
It’s scary because it calls each one of us to set aside the negative, the fear filled, the embittered and embittering experiences of our lives, and to love. To simply, earnestly, wholeheartedly love.
We are called to love ourselves. We are called to love our neighbours as we love ourselves. So, we are called to treat others as we wish to be treated.
We are called to love God’s creation, as an expression of our love for God causing us to be stewards of God’s creation.
All of this has the ability to cause us to be the ones who stand up in the name of love, to continue to love and care for those whom we know, and those whom we don’t. To be the ones who stand up for issues of the environment, and for responsible use of the resources of the world all around us.
It gives us the strength, the courage, and the ability to step forward and to be the positive examples we wish to see for issues of justice, environmental stewardship, and care of every aspect of creation, including those with whom we haven’t taken the time to get to know, yet.
And this has the ability to bring us into situations of conflict with those who love their profit margins more than they love even themselves.
It has the ability to bring us against those who have been in grip of apathy, in the grip of indifference for so long that to make any movement, any changes, in life is painful for them.
Or those who are ‘just following orders.’ Yet those orders bring out the worst behaviours of humanity as we’ve seen played out on the world stage for centuries.
And this aspect of love has the ability to make us face issues of justice, and this concerns humanity as well as society. it concerns our relationships between each one of us, and those we’re not particularly fond of, for one reason or another.
It makes us stand up for issues of environmental stewardship, that have eluded those who don’t wish to see that all our actions have more far reaching consequences throughout the world.
It makes us stand up for the love of God for the world. it makes us aware of the far-reaching consequences of love to change not only each one of us, but the entire world, as well.
Today, Jesus commands us to love. Today Jesus tells us that we are loved by Jesus, by God and this is the model we need to live to each other, to the world.
Jesus doesn’t say we’ve not been hurt by the world. Jesus doesn’t say that those hurts we’re not talking about, the ones that linger at the backs of our mind, in the backs of our hearts, don’t have a hold on us. at the same time Jesus does point out that we have a choice to hold onto those hurts, or to let them go and let God’s love fill that void.
Jesus does say that we have been loved as greatly as God is able to love each one of us, and in that love, we have moved beyond holding anyone on a pedestal. After all, if someone is on a pedestal, how can they be loved, rather there they are admired, feared, possibly even venerated, but not loved.
So, we are loved by God, by Jesus. We are loved to the point where barriers are broken down and we are not students of Christ, but rather friends.
At this point, Jesus has celebrated the Last Supper with his closest followers and friends. He has washed their feet, and he is preparing them for the events that will come quickly, once they leave the upper room, once the events that God has set in motion begin to happen.
Jesus tells us: “13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. [and] 14 You are my friends.” (Jn 15:13-14a)
But not just those in the upper room. Jesus also dies for each one of us, so that we have the ability to set aside those negative experiences, to allow the love of God to slowly and gently wash against them, and allow them to be overcome, one step, one drop at a time until they’re only pebbles on the beach of our lives.
This isn’t a quick solution. I’m sure it took the disciples years, if ever, to overcome the experiences that follow this speech by Jesus in the upper room. Yet, they choose love.
Yet, they choose to not persecute, or allow themselves to be persecuted by the Jews, by the Romans, by those who are ‘only following orders’, and have no concept of who it is who lays down his life for each one of them, as well as each one of us.
Instead, they focus on the future. They focus on each one of us who needs to see that they didn’t dwell on the negative, but rather reached for the love of God, for each one of them, for each one of us, and for all of creation.
“16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. “(Jn 3:16-17)
Because Jesus reminds us: “16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.