Sermons at Union Congregational Church
Preached by The Reverend Gail L. Miller, Pastor
May 19, 2019 Fifth Sunday of Easter
Loving with His Love
I’m looking at the clock and am mindful that we’ve not much time left in the hour.
I’m also looking at the calendar am mindful that we’ve not much time before we say goodbye.
And I’m looking at the Bible passage for today and marveling at how appropriate it is for us in this moment, because Jesus, too, doesn’t have much time with the disciples before he will leave them.
Obviously, we won’t be confusing Jesus’ time with his disciples with my time as your pastor, but what is similar is that the leaving is happening too quickly. After today, we only have 4 Sundays left together, then the mission trip, then packing my office before we leave on vacation. Too quickly.
Often when time is short, we need to cut to the chase – leave out the extra stuff – and get to the point. Which is what Jesus is doing here. He wants his disciples to know what’s most important. And that is – love. Specifically that they are to love one another as Jesus has loved them.
After losing his job in 2010 amateur photographer, Brandon Stanton, moved to New York and began an ambitious project: to photograph 10,000 New Yorkers on the street and create an exhaustive catalogue of the city’s inhabitants.
Armed with his camera, he began crisscrossing the city, covering thousands of miles on foot, all in an attempt to capture New Yorkers. Somewhere along the way he began to interview his subjects in addition to photographing them.
He asks one of two questions, which seem to open the doors into people’s lives:
“What is your greatest struggle?” or “Give me one piece of advice.”
Alongside their portraits he includes quotes and short stories from their lives. Brandon’s portraits and captains became a blog Humans of New York and now the project has over 20 million followers on social media.
One of the Humans of New York in particular helped Brandon understand that his project is really about the power of stories. She was older woman with wisps of grey hair sticking out from a furry cap, a little bit of mascara under her wrinkled eyes, and fuzzy umbrella in the background. She told Brandon,
When my husband was dying, I said: ‘Moe, how am I supposed to live without you?
He told me: ‘Take the love you have for me and spread it around.’
Isn’t that beautiful? Take the love you have for me and spread it around. Which is the answer to the question, How are the disciples supposed to live when Jesus is no longer with them?
Jesus commands them: Take the love I’ve shown you and pour it out in the world. Just as I have loved you…you also should love one another.
Jesus hopes / expects to live on in the world in the love of his followers—not just their love for him, but their love for one another.
“Take the love I’ve poured out for you, the love you’ve experienced from me, and pour it out in the world.” Pour it out on the people around you—strangers and friends. From the cashier at the grocery store to the difficult family member.
Take the love Jesus has shown you, and extend it to the people around you. Every day. In every interaction. To every creature in every place. Take the love we’ve known through Jesus, and give it away again and again and again.
Because, you know, we’ll never run out of love like that. And our lives and our community will be pointing to God and God’s way of love – making it visible in the world!
Henri Nouwen wrote,
If we wait for a feeling of love before loving, we may never learn to love well. Mostly we know the loving thing to do. When we ‘do’ love, even if others are not able to respond with love, we will discover that our feelings catch up with our acts.
The kind of love Jesus commands of the disciples is the defining characteristic of God and Jesus’ life. It is also the defining characteristic of the Christian church—to show God’s love to the world in every way we can think of.
To show the love we’ve known in Christ and to embody it in our daily living—-our texts and emails, our calls and connections, in our interactions and in our difficult conversations—this is the new commandment for us.
Jesus had this conversation with his disciples just one day before his arrest, trial and crucifixion. It also comes right after they’ve shared their last meal together, and Jesus has washed their feet in humble service and told them “I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you” showing them what this love looks like….connecting love with serving one another.
There are all sorts of examples of this, but the best one that came my way this week was in the words of Emily Hanson (confirmation student) and her written reflection on this Bible passage.
I picked this passage because it gives me a personal motto. There is no condition to helping others. Every year we go into Boston to help the homeless through City Reach; and, in doing so, we help others and that helps me feel good. It’s a two-way thing. I see it as a way of loving one another. Everyone should volunteer, because people in general should do good and it can make you feel good. And getting to know the people involved in great causes like City Reach and the Mission Trips directly involves us not just for the church but also as a whole community. I think that when Jesus gave His new command, He really wants us to do what He did: and that is helping other people anywhere, anytime just by going the extra mile. Whether it’s going a long distance by traveling or simply the effort it takes to stuff a warm fuzzy blanket in your backpack for your cold friend at school in the middle of winter. We all can put a little extra effort to really love one another as Jesus commanded us, one day at a time.
Jesus makes God’s love visible in the world – and so do we. Living the way Jesus lived, choosing love even when love is hard to come by. Extending love when people are unlovely. Taking the love God has for you and pouring it out, giving love away again and again.
This big new commandment would be enough to sustain the disciples as they figured out how to live after Jesus was gone. And it will be enough to sustain us through the weeks and months ahead.
Go out of your way to love each other with “foot washing like” service, especially during the coming transition. Loving with HIS love, which is unconditional and looks like serving should be the defining characteristic of our lives and our church.
Because, no matter who your pastor is, your Lord remains the same!