The Fifth Sunday of Easter; Year C (4/28/2013)

Lessons:Acts 11:1-18 Psalm 148 (13) Revelation 21:1-6 St. John 13:31-35

Prayer of the Day: O Lord God, you teach us that without love, our actions gain nothing.  Pour into our hearts your most excellent gift of love, that, made alive by your Spirit, we may know goodness and peace, through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

13:31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32 If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33 Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

St. John 13:31-35 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

“Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”

It has been an extraordinarily difficult couple of weeks in our country. It began with the bombing at the Boston Marathon last week which led to three deaths and, now we hear, some 264 injuries. Still reeling from the news of that incident, we learned of the terrible explosion in West, Texas, where 14 bodies have been recovered and 60 people are still listed as missing. That was followed by the daytime play-by-play of the death and arrest of the brothers accused of planting the bombs in Boston. Finally, this past weekend, shots rang out in Denver’s City Park, and the airwaves were once again filled with images of people fleeing for their lives.

It seems as though the presence of violence is multiplying in our world, and as horrifying as this past week has been, the frightening reality is that the United States is a relatively peaceful country, compared with other countries where these sorts of violent incidents seem almost commonplace.

For many of us, the most difficult-to-understand aspect of these incidents is that someone willfully choses to make them happen; but it happens. When those bombs were put in place at the Boston Marathon, the bomber(s) knew that it would be possible for an 8-year-old boy to lose his life; that it would be possible for scores of passers-by to suffer life-changing injuries. There are those in our world who are willing to take actions that cause injury, death, and untold suffering to others.

This makes the Gospel lesson for the Fifth Sunday of Easter even more critical for those of us who seek to be the presence of Christ in this world. During his last meal with his disciples, Jesus dressed himself as a servant, and washed the feet of his followers. When he was finished, he said to them, “I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.” [St. John 13:15] They couldn’t fully understand what he meant at the time, but they soon would see him suffer and die, giving his life for those he loves. In years to come, as they thought back on these experiences, the first generations of Christians would conclude that serving one another (rather than being served) and giving one’s life for a friend (rather than preserving life at all costs) were marks of Christian faithfulness. Many of them would have first-hand experiences of both.

In an increasingly violent world, Christ calls us to a life that is a radically different way of living. We are to do as Jesus has done. We are not to place our needs above those of our neighbors (near or far). We are to love with the same sacrificial love that Jesus has for us. We are to live in such a way that people notice our extraordinary love. We are to love in ways that draw outsiders in — so that by our love, “everyone will know that you are my disciples…”

Sadly, we live in a world where people are free to act with evil intent, and sadly, it seems that there  will always be some who choose to do so. However, in the face of this, Christians do not hide behind the safety of thick walls and locked doors. Instead, we live defiantly in this world with a spirit of love. We continue to seek the good of our neighbor; we continue to reach out in love to the unlovable; and in doing so we make Christ known. Love is the gift that has been given to us, and love is the gift that we share. Loved by God, let us love one another, and show the world a different way.


David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What must the disciples have thought as Jesus washed their feet?
  2. In what ways did they directly experience the love of Jesus?
  3. How did they reach out in love to each other, and to the world around them?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What does sacrificial love look like today?
  2. Who has loved me in a selfless way?
  3. To whom might I reach out with love today? How can I make a difference in someone’s life?