5th Sunday of Easter: Choose Love

Sermon Title: 5th SUNDAY OF EASTER:  Choose Love
Date: 24th April 2016
Preacher: Rev Susanne Chambers
Lectionary Reading: Acts 11:1-18, Psalm 148, Revelation 21:1-16, John 13:31-35

My theme today is ‘choose love’!

Choose love… it’s a choice which may sound easy but is it?

From the gospel reading today we are back in Holy Week on Maundy Thursday where Jesus at the Last Supper, shared a meal with his close friends and washed their feet as an example about caring/loving others. The word ‘Maundy’ is derived from the Latin mandatum, meaning a mandate or command, and comes from this story when 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.”

This commandment is a challenge to us all… As you will recall, this is, “just hours before Jesus will be handed over, tried, beaten, and crucified…all for us.”

Not as payment against some wicked debt God holds against us.

Not to make a just and angry God satisfied or happy.

Not because this was the only way to satisfy God’s wrath and make it possible for God to forgive us.

Rather, Jesus goes to the cross to show us just how much God loves us. Jesus has been extending God’s forgiveness and love throughout the Gospel, [story after story you can read of how he loved those who were lost, or broken, grieving, or searching for love] and as St John reports in the opening line of this chapter, [Chapter 13] he says: “Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. And having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (13:1).

That’s what this verse is about. Jesus reminding us of just how much he loves us – and of how much God loved and loves us through him – that we might be empowered to love others, extending God’s love through word and deed, and in this way love others as Jesus has loved us.” [i]

So, Jesus wants us to ‘choose love’!  Love is the centre of our faith. I’m sure many of you know this famous passage in 1 Corinthians where St Paul says, and I’ll read a different translation to what you are used to hearing!

“If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.  If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump”, and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.  If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere.  So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.”[ii]

We may think that law, justice, knowing and doing God’s will are the centre of our Christian faith… but I hope you see that although these are important, we need to choose love first.

Choosing love is saying and acting from a place of love rather than frustration or anger or judgement.

Choosing love when those we thought were close, we thought we could trust, abandon us.  When the actions and words of others clearly come from hate and suspicion and prejudice.   Choose love.

Choosing love is doing it, looking for it, and naming it.

And yes it’s hard to choose love.

But think for a moment over this past week or so, when you have chosen to love.

Maybe it was ringing up or sending a card to someone who isn’t well.

Maybe it was letting a driver come first along Wattle Valley Rd when only one car can go forward at a time.

Maybe it was praying for someone who is in some sort of trouble.

Maybe it was taking a meal to a neighbour or overlooking a harsh word from a friend.

Maybe it’s working together at the fair and having a bit of fun being ‘monkeys’.

I’m sure you have all chosen love at some point… big or small!

You may have also found it difficult to forgive someone who has hurt you, or difficult to move beyond the disappointment caused by a family member or friend… some things that people do are deeply hurtful and they fail in loving and we fail in forgiving.

So, in choosing love… we become aware that we do love often and we do fail often and when we come here to church we can give thanks for choosing love and pray and ask forgiveness when we have failed.

Back at that last meal Jesus had with his friends, when he said those words to love one another as I have loved you, his close friends failed Jesus miserably. “Jesus washes and feeds Judas who will betray him, Peter who will deny him, and all the rest who will fail to stand by him in his hour of greatest distress.  The love that Jesus demonstrates is certainly not based on the merit of the recipients, and Jesus commands his disciples to love others in the same way.”[iii]

This has been one of the most difficult things to grasp when we have been hurt or what we hear or see in the world.

By choosing love, we will be changed.

By choosing love we are empowered to love others.

By choosing love we love ourselves.

By choosing love we know that even when we find it difficult to choose love that God continues to love us and work through our lives to bless the world God has created and continues to sustain.

 

The Lord be with you

 

[i] David Lose: In the Meantime: 2016

[ii] Bible reading from The Message:  1 Corinthians 13:1-7

[iii] Elisabeth Johnson: Commentary on John 13:31-35