May 29, 2011: Constant Contact


Sermon
The Rev. Dr. C. Steven Teague, Rector
Sixth Sunday of Easter

“If you love me,” stop right there. How many have heard these words and know what comes next. “If you love me, you’d have been home on time…you’d clean up your room…you wouldn’t treat me this way…” Our love is doubted – or so we’re told. But we can prove our love by doing what’s asked.

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Is our love for Jesus doubted? Is there some way we need to prove our love to get his attention? Or is this imperative, “Since you love me,” we’ll love God and each other, keep his commands.

Since we do love Jesus, how do we express love for one present and unseen? How will the world know we love Jesus? To love Jesus is to be in relationship with him, not just be a casual, onlooker who thinks about him occasionally. He first loves us, and we want to keep his commands.

We begin and maintain connection with the divine because the Spirit seals us. Often we are not aware of the Spirit’s presence. Sometimes, though, in a flash of insight or inspiration, anger softens into love. We forgive someone we never intended to forgive. We notice God’s glory is revealed in an act of kindness. That happens more often as our relationship with him grows. That’s probably the Spirit quietly at work.

Is Jesus for some, but not for all? By his words we might deduce some are in, others stay outside. We live in a world that cannot yet receive him. Spiritual eyes are needed – eyes of trust and belief. Those with spiritual eyes see that he does abide in their lives and world.

We live in two kingdoms – the world and God’s. We can become blind when we don’t make time for him – prayer, study, meditation. More important matters take over our time. We forget he abides in us. God so loves the world, and won’t stop – regardless of what we are doing or not doing. God is for us all, but we can self-exclude ourselves. In loving Jesus and keeping his commands, we become more like Jesus.

Jesus will be leaving his disciples so he can become present in a different way – one that transcends time and space. The Spirit infuses us with the divine fullness. That’s how Jesus continues to be alive – abiding in those who love and trust him.

Jesus’ presence Jesus brings two important gifts to us. Through the inner presence of the Spirit we manifest outwardly Jesus’ life for the world. That’s why Christian faith is difficult and challenging. By our words and actions we either draw others toward God, or obscure their vision of God. We are healers as we hold each other’s pain and brokenness. We feed the hungry, and work to change systems that keep people stuck in poverty. We raise the dead by offering the life – sometimes by a smile or a word of hope. We love and forgive as the Father loves and forgives us. We forgo judging others. That’s how we love Jesus.

Our biggest challenge is amnesia. We forget we are created to love and serve God in all things. Yet the Spirit won’t let us forget. You’re probably better at remembering than I am. The other day, driving in a torrential rain storm, trucks passing me sprayed my windshield so much I could barely see the road. I thought some things I will not share. I felt a hand gesture coming on, and it wasn’t just the collar that stopped me. It was the Spirit. I faced a moment of decision. I calmed down. The Spirit will give us reminders from time to time.

Secondly, the Spirit will never leave us. I’ve seen it over and over. For instance, with a woman in our hospice center who had end stage COPD. Her mind left long before her body did. She had to be fed, changed, lifted out of bed. She would shriek, mutter, and make no sense. When I learned she was an Episcopalian, I began reading Compline from the Prayer Book with her. When we got to the Lord’s Prayer – I nearly dropped the book. She prayed the Lord’s Prayer with me.  From somewhere deep inside – a place only the Spirit could touch, a prayer she habitually recited in worship found its way out.  God’s Spirit never leaves us, no matter what state we are in – a sign of God’s abiding presence as a mystery of faithful love.

We know him and love him by keeping his commands – trusting him, loving as he does. Our desire is enough for him to come and abide in us. The Spirit makes sure we are never left orphaned – regardless of where we are. That’s how God loves us. How will we ever return such love? “If you love me” – or, since we love him, we long to keep his commandments. We are becoming more like the one we love.


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