Easter 5 Yr C 2019 Acts 11:1-18; Psalm 148; Rev 21:1-6; John 13:31-35
“I give you a new commandment, to love one another.”
“Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples.”
The question that arises from today’s Gospel story for me, is, “ Do people really know that we are disciples by the way we love each other?”
Because they sure know when we don’t.
When I was a member of St. Luke’s in Burlington, the church came to an arrangement with the city of Burlington to allow the city the use of some church land for a city parking lot, provided that St. Luke’s parishioners could park there free.
To facilitate this, the church handed out stickers for parishioners to display on their windshields, with the St. Luke’s coat of arms.
Some time later my son Jeff came home and told us about something that happened at the Pioneer gas station where he worked after school.
He said a lady pulled in, was very curt, and very rude, and even swore at him.
Then he told me…… and you guessed it…. she had a St. Luke’s sticker on her windshield.
She may have displayed the sticker but she certainly didn’t display the kind of love that Jesus commanded of his disciples.
I don’t think that she got it.
I don’t think we have anyone in this church who would act like that, based on what I have seen in the time I have been here.
I don’t think you are here just to go through the motions.
But just to make sure, ask yourself, “Am I living a life of faith?”
I don’t mean do you have faith in God. I am sure you do.
I mean does your life exhibit the signs of your being a follower of Jesus – other than coming to church on a Sunday?
Some people think coming to church every Sunday is a big chore.
Believe me, coming to church is the easiest thing we are called to do as Christians.
And knowing that you can’t live a godly life without God.
Funnily enough a lot of Christians don’t know that.
They know God is around somewhere. He’s there somewhere.
But He is not up front. Not in your face.
You see, for you and me, acknowledging God every day in all that we do, is intrinsic to being Christian.
Because you can’t live a godly life without God. Duh!
If you can’t be bothered to get out of bed on a Sunday morning.
If you find yourself swearing more, lying more, being angry more, deceiving more, loving people less, then you should acknowledge a need for God in your life.
If you have children and you want to help them grow up into God-fearing, well balanced, happy and fulfilled adults, then you really need to acknowledge a need for God in your life, and model it.
Because if you don’t live your faith then you can’t expect your kids to.
And we wonder why they don’t attend church when they get older.
You know, there is no compulsion to be a Christian. No-one is forcing us.
It used to be, maybe a hundred years ago, that you couldn’t get a job unless you went to church regularly. And sometimes even that wasn’t good enough if you happened to go to a different church than the person interviewing you.
But no more.
You can be what you want to be.
You can be an atheist, a Buddhist, a Muslim, a Methodist, a Roman Catholic, a Satanist, a New Lifer, a vegan, an earth lover, a crystal gazer, or even an Anglican.
But whatever you choose to be, you should be prepared to live it.
You have to talk the talk, and walk the walk.
Jesus said, I give you a new commandment. Now the original Greek for ‘new commandment’ is more correctly translated as “a new way”
A new way of walking, and a new way of talking.
Jesus exhibited a new way of walking and of talking.
He loved people, and especially his disciples, selflessly.
Sometimes we act in a certain way, a way that looks impressive, a way that shows us in a good light, or bring us a reward of some kind.
An act that can’t be described as selfless.
I wonder sometimes about those people who give a large sum of money to a hospital, or school, and their name goes on it.
Jesus’ love was unconditional. Unselfish. His only thought was for others.
Jesus’ love was also one of understanding.
We don’t really know what a person is like until we have lived with them.
We bring baggage from our past relationships and situations, sometimes without knowing it and these things can make knowing a person – understanding a person – very difficult indeed.
Jesus knew his friends. He had lived with them for a long time. He knew their strengths and their weaknesses. And he understood them.
And loved them nevertheless.
The leader of his small band of men would deny him. They were all to forsake him in his hour of need. They never, even when he was with them in the flesh, really understood him. They were slow to learn. In the end they were cowardly.
And as that song goes, you always hurt the one you love.
But Jesus held it not against this sorry band.
Not only would he forgive them, but he entrusted them to take his message to the whole world.
And Jesus loved sacrificially.
When you love sacrificially, there is nothing that you will not do for those you love. No demand too great. No need too challenging.
A friend of mine brought his girl friend to the house for dinner. She was quite lovely, and I could not understand how some guy had not taken her as his wife before now.
I asked her, ‘ How come you have never married?”
She said, ” I have spent the last ten years looking after my mother who because of illness, needed me.”
“I fed her, bathed her and dressed her every day, and undressed her and prepared her for bed every evening.”
” I was her nurse, her friend, her every day
I said, “That’s some sacrifice you made. How
did you manage it?”
She said,” She was my mother!”
She was my mother.
There is that sort of sacrifice, one that comes from familial love, and it is heart warming to see it. To see that no-one is left alone in the world. But that someone sacrifices their own life, their own time, their own well-being for another.
You have to admire that.
Then there is the sort of sacrifice that comes instantly. It comes automatically. It is there when called for instantaneously, without a thought.
Like a mother running into traffic to grab a runaway child.
We heard just a little while ago about another school shooting in the United States, at a Stem School in Highland Ranch Colorado.
A young man went into a classroom with a gun and began shooting.
A student by the name of Kendrick Castillo tackled him, and was shot and killed in doing so, but it gave the other students the opportunity to escape.
Kendrick was the second student in one week, who laid down his life in an heroic act of bravery in order to stop further bloodshed.
At UNC Charlotte, senior Ryan Howell “took the assailant off his feet,” as Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerry Putney revealed in a press conference just last Wednesday, saved his friends, but died doing it.
These two young men, without even thinking about it, laid down their lives for their friends. Just did it!
It shows clearly the values they held.
Living sacrificially doesn’t always have to be that deadly. Thank goodness.
It’s a way of being, a way of seeing the world, and loving others, without having to think about it.
Jesus’ showed there was no limit to what his love would give or where it would go.
No demand that could be made was too much.
If love meant the cross, then he was prepared to go there, and did.
You know, we often think that love is meant to bring happiness, but love may sometimes demand a cross.
The young woman I mentioned earlier, saw the cross her mother had to carry, and without question, leaned in and helped her carry it.
Rules of religion, rituals, traditional beliefs, the seasonal worship we follow, are all fine, never mind the name of your religion, are all fine, but to coin an adverb, nothing matters more then living “Christly.”
Jesus has shown us how to do that.
To live “Christly.”