Devotional Message: The Fifth Sunday of Easter; Year C (5/19/2019)

REVISED COMMON LECTIONARY TEXTS

Acts 11:1-18
Psalm 148
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.

31 When [Judas Iscariot] 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 Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Message: “As I Have Loved You”

Occasionally, when I am preparing for Sunday, I read some of my past devotional messages and sermons. I did so today. Sadly, here is how I began a devotional message for the Fifth Sunday in Easter, 2013:

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.

I referred to this in my sermon last Sunday, and the reality of hate and violence has not been far from my mind this week. The morning paper and the evening news remind us on a daily basis that we live in a broken world — one that does not conform to God’s will — and that this brokenness, on a regular basis, breaks into our lives.

Jesus, of course, is not unaware of this. In this weekend’s Gospel we travel back in time to Maundy Thursday, and the last meal he eats with his followers. His words are sandwiched in between the departure of Judas (to betray him) and Jesus’ prediction that Simon Peter will deny him three times. He is surrounded by brokenness: brokenness in the world; brokenness among God’s people; even brokenness in his small group of followers.

In the midst of it all, Jesus says, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” Just as I have loved you. They can’t begin to understand the magnitude of these words during their Maundy Thursday gathering. But soon enough they will see what the love of Jesus looks like. Words of forgiveness spoken to those who are putting him to death. Words of assurance to a criminal who is crucified by his side. Eventually words of restoration to Peter, who three times is given an opportunity to profess his love for Jesus. And most profoundly: his willingness to give even life itself, that they — that we — might come to know a life with God, and the redeeming power of Christ’s grace.

Surrounded by brokenness, Jesus invites his disciples to a life of self-giving, sacrificial love. A love that will transform the lives of those they meet. A love that will answer, like nothing else can, the hatred and cruelty and violence of this world.

Surrounded by brokenness, we give thanks for a God who loves us this much, and who invites us into the journey of sharing this love with the world. May our efforts to love one another, and the people who surround us, be a sign of God’s continued presence in our lives, and God’s self-giving, sacrificial love for all the world.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel

  1. Why does Jesus connect the departure of Judas from the table with the glorification of God?

  2. What do the disciples know, at this point, about the character of Jesus’ love?

  3. What will others conclude, when they become aware of the love Jesus’ followers have for one another?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel

  1. In what ways has the brokenness of the world broken into my life?

  2. How have I experienced the reassuring presence of God in the midst of my own challenges?

  3. What opportunities exist in my life to be an instrument of God’s self-giving, sacrificial love?