Just as I have loved you - Reflections 5-14-2022

Texts for Sunday, May 19, 2019
5th Sunday of Easter

Acts 11:1-18
Psalm 148
Revelation 21:1-6
John 13:31-35

I am fairly certain that I preached on this Gospel on Maundy Thursday. Indeed. Here’s the link.

Besides the sermon, we talked about it all of Lent using Bishop Michael Curry’s book Love is the Way.

Yet, here we are, back again: love one another. 

Love one another? That’s not too hard, right?
Just as I have loved you. That might be harder.

Just as God as loved us; love walks among those who are excluded elsewhere, who have very little power, love which loves us all the way to and through the cross, and death. So, precisely like that, “you also should love one another”.

One of my daily devotional sites, InwardOutward shared this quote recently.
“Love knows how to take a basin and a towel, how to stoop and meet the needs of the disciples, how to meet the needs of the world… I am talking about having a sort of flexibility, so that when needs arise we can see the need in our imagination and leap to the need as a fish leaps to the bait, eager to be of service.”
-N. Gordon Cosby, Seized by the Power of a Great Affection, p. 64

Yup. Harder. "Eager to be of service, like a fish jumping after a hook"? Where does that leave the fish?

The reading from Acts gives an example of that love. It sounds like something right out of the headlines: Church Holds Hearing. May Censure Apostle Seen with Those People. Our fractured and fiercely divided world writes a version of this headline over and over daily. We divide ourselves as us and them in so many ways. Nations, religions, denominations, races, sexes, gender identity, split us apart. We’ve fought over vaccines and masks, policing method, content of libraries, decisions about curriculum, instruction choices by teachers. We continue to attack each other about women’s rights, immigration, the definition and worth of patriotism and nationalism.

We criticize (actually too mild a word, isn't it) and condemn (that's a bit better) those who are other than us.

Here in this story, we see that the early church, who first received the mandate to love one another, had exceptions and exclusions depending on the identity of the other.

Maybe love is just impossible.

But Peter, in his step-by-step story, navigated that nearly impossible love thing. 

Truth is, we can't love in many cases. But the Holy Spirit does love with enough love to include all. Peter explains that if God gave them (the Gentiles) the same gift (the Holy Spirit) that was given to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God? Peter figured out that the Holy Spirit makes possible the impossible. The Holy Spirit will carry you, through Jesus Christ, to love the other. And that's the love that makes everything new, even the early church.

I really like that thought - not loving and accepting the other is an attempt to hinder God. And God has a work-around for every attempt.

Notice then that the church was silent.

Then suddenly praised God that new life, new direction, was given to all through the love of Jesus.

The other two readings for the day add to this final picture.

Psalm 148. All creation, all life, praises God.

Revelation 21:1-6. God makes all things new and comes to dwell among us.

How to Find Us

Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Iowa City

Gathered by grace. Scattered for service.

123 E Market Street
Iowa City, IA 52245