Sermons

"This New Commandment is about Who We Are": A Sermon for the Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year C

"This New Commandment is about Who We Are": A Sermon for the Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year C

May 19, 2019

Passage:John 13:31-35

Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Jill Walters

Series: Easter

Category: Faith

Keywords: love, relief, new commandment

Summary:

Jesus gives the disciples a new commandment: "...that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” This commandment isn't just about doing or believing or feeling; it's about who we are in Christ. Jesus has given us this love. We already have it. It lives in us and we can live it out with others because we already carry it with us.

Detail:

May the Words of my mouth and the meditations of each heart be always acceptable in your sight, O Lord our Strength and our Redeemer.  Amen.

​       Here we are in Eastertide.  In this passage, we hear the echoes of Holy Week.  It’s part of the same scripture we read on Maundy Thursday. 

       We’re swept back into the ancient world in the Last Supper with Jesus and his disciples.  And Every Sunday we remember and participate in the Last Supper with those disciples and with all the disciples who are present with us today.

     We travel back and forth through time.  The veil between heaven and earth lifts and falls and lifts again and again and again. 

      And we get to be a part of all of this with the knowledge the disciples didn’t have.  We know that the story of Jesus doesn’t end with his crucifixion and death. 

       In today’s passage from the Gospel of John, Jesus has just shared a meal with the disciples.  He has washed their feet.  He has explained that he will be betrayed by this disciple he loves and trusts. 

     And now, that beloved one, Judas, leaves to put the betrayal into motion.  There’s no going back...Jesus knows that he’s heading toward the cross.

     The disciples are on shaky ground.  Things have been going so well...Jesus just triumphantly rode into Jerusalem...and suddenly things are taking a turn they don’t expect.

     Jesus knows they’re scared and confused.  These are the twelve he loves so very much...the twelve he’s depended on...traveled with...learned and grown with.  It’s time to leave and he feels for them.

     So this teacher Jesus continues to teach them.  This pastor Jesus continues to comfort them.  This Messiah Jesus continues to give them everything they need for salvation. 

     Maybe once he’s gone and they’ve survived these next terrible days, they’ll remember.  Maybe once the shock wears off, they can recognize these words as assurance...as a gift...as a proclamation of who they are in God’s kingdom.

     So, he gives them a new commandment: “that you love one another.  Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” 

       This commandment reflects the deep love that he has for these disciples.  It’s also a response to the great love they have for him. 

     This is the commandment that will carry throughout the coming days.  It will carry them throughout their ministries as they work to spread the Good News after Jesus is gone.  And it will carry all of us, his disciples, throughout the centuries.

    We may not be facing torture and crucifixion, but Jesus knows that life has its ups and down and its twists and turns.  Jesus knows we need to hear this, not just once, but over and over and over again.

     When we hear a “commandment” like this, we start thinking about what we can do to show our love.  Or we focus on our belief in Christ’s love.  Or we how we can feel love for one another.

    And those are all right and good.  And...Jesus is telling us something more.

    The Message Bible translates these verses in this way:  “Love one another.  In the same way I loved you, you love one another.  This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”

     This translation speaks to a way of being.  It isn’t only about doing or thinking or feeling.  It’s about who we are...our identity...our very core.

    So, how will people know we’re disciples?  We’ll have love for one another.  We won’t just say it.  We won’t just feel it.  We won’t just do it.  We have it.

    And that’s far more powerful...each and every single one of us is created in love for love.  God has placed love at the core of our beings.

    And I don’t know about you, but that is such a relief to me.

    Do you ever have those times where you’re trying to figure out how to behave more loving?  What can I do? What should I do? 

     What about those times when we say to ourselves:  I can’t believe I think that.  How can I think better about people?  How can I have more loving thoughts?

     Then there are the times, we don’t feel love.  Life is beating us up and all we can do is batten down the hatches and go into protective mode.  Feeling love seems like a luxury, something we would muster up if only we had the energy.

     We all have these times in our lives.  They’ll come and go. And if I’m concentrating on how I’m not being loving enough...or thinking enough loving thoughts...or not feeling enough love, then the focus is on me.

     But in this passage in John, Jesus is giving the disciples, and us, a gift.  Jesus is reminding them that he has given them his love.  He’s reminding them that they already have what they need...love. 

     It’s not just something for them to do or say or feel, it’s who they are because of Christ.  It’s who we are.

     And that’s where the relief comes.  That’s where the burden is lifted.  That’s where the pressure is lessened...we already have that love within us.  It’s who we are.

      And relief isn’t because we’re giving up our responsibility. We still have great responsibility in following Christ. 

      Our relief comes in that we’re already equipped.  God has given us what we need to be loving and it’s already part of us. 

     It’s actually liberating.  It’s freedom.  It’s allowing ourselves to be swept away in that love. 

     The disciples were probably about as stressed as anyone can be.  Their friend and their Lord is leaving them.  No one’s safe.  Even one of their own has betrayed them. 

     What’s going to happen to Jesus?  What’s going to happen to them?  What about the promise of a Messiah that will save them all?

     Aren’t we like that sometimes?  We look around and we don’t recognize where we are...what’s happening in our world. Someone has hurt us.  Someone has betrayed us.  The world is no longer safe.

    How on earth are we supposed to act loving...think loving thoughts...feel loving? 

      We take a deep breath and we remember...we remember that we already have love in us...it’s written in our DNA...it’s who God created us to be...it’s what makes us whole and gives us peace.

      Then we’ll let that love fill us up until it oozes out into our actions.  We’ll treat each other with loving care. 

      That love fills us until it takes over our thoughts.  We can see each other with as the beloved creation of God.

     That love fills us up until our hearts are bursting with love.  We can open our hearts to all the hope and possibility that each person brings to this world.

     That’s the Good News! 

      You are created from love to love.  We are all created from love to love.  It’s not a burden...it’s not a weight to carry around. 

      It’s a place to rest.  It’s a place from which we can gain strength.  And it’s a place that comforts us and fills us with goodness and mercy. 

      So, my prayer for all of us during this Eastertide is that we can rest in this love, knowing that it is already within us, and it can never leave us!  Amen.