The Sixth Sunday of Easter; Year A (5/25/2014)

Lessons:Acts 17:22-31 Psalm 66:8-20 1st Peter 3:13-22 St. John 14:15-21

Prayer of the Day: O Almighty and ever-living God, you hold together all things in heaven and on earth. In your great mercy receive the prayers of all your children, and give to all the world the Spirit of your truth and peace, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

18 “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

1st Peter 3:13-22, New Revised Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

If You Love Me…

What does love look like? We see it in the dedication of a parent, who is willing to do anything (even die!) for the sake of a daughter or son. We see it in the adoration of a little child, who looks up into dad’s or mom’s eyes with wonder and awe. We see it in the care of a doctor or nurse or hospital volunteer, as they painstakingly tend to the needs of a patient. We see it in the bravery of a soldier, who is willing to risk life for a nation’s security. We see it in the loving gaze of a spouse, who sees the beauty deep inside of life’s partner.

What does love look like? We see it in the image of a man from Nazareth, hanging in pain on the cross of Calvary. The image of a God who loves the people of this world deeply enough to die for them. The image of a God who would hold nothing back in the effort to reach out in love. God’s love for us has been demonstrated in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. But what can we do to love God in return? What specific and concrete actions can we take to demonstrate how much we love this One who has loved us so fully?

In this week’s Gospel lesson, Jesus provides us with an image of what it means to offer our love in return. On the last night of his life, gathered with the disciples in an upper room, Jesus said: If you love me, you will keep my commandments. Now hear him clearly. He did not say: If you keep my commandments, then I will love you. He did not say: You have a lot to gain by keeping my commandments, so you had better do it. No, he said that if we love him — if our hearts have been touched by his grace — if we have been moved to a place of faith — if we long for a way to love him in return (even though he hasn’t walked this earth in human form for nearly 2,000 years) — if that is our desire, then there is a way to do it. We can enter into a life that is shaped by his commandments. We can take seriously those things that he took seriously. We can see the presence of God in the needs that surround us in this world, seeking to give drink to the thirsty, clothing to the naked, food to the hungry, comfort to the grieving, faith to the unbeliever, peace to the fearful, protection to the innocent, healing to the sick or injured or dying. As we enter into these acts of compassion and caring, we find opportunity to return to God a portion of the love that we ourselves have received.

Now one might make the case that this is a pretty tall order. After all, we are only human. We find ourselves enslaved to our own selfish and egocentric inclinations. But there is good news in this week’s text: Jesus does not leave us orphaned, helpless in the face of these significant expectations. In order to empower us for a life of loving God, Jesus sends to us the Counselor, the Advocate, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth. This One enters our hearts, empowers our loving, and moves through us, opening us up to a depth and breadth of love that we could never have imagined on our own.

Thanks be to God, the source of love, who has loved us with a deep and lasting love, who has called us to a life of loving, and who has provided for us the Spirit to do so.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What must the disciples have made of these troubling words (about leaving them) on the day before Jesus died?
  2. How did Jesus demonstrate love for the people he met during his years of ministry?
  3. How did the disciples reach out in love, once they were empowered by God’s Spirit?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. When have I most clearly experienced God’s love for me?
  2. How have I discovered opportunities to love God in return?
  3. When are the hardest times for me to love; the times when I most need the help of God’s Spirit?