April 28, 2013: Everlasting Love


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

One or the other of a couple contacts me about having a St. Paul’s wedding. If it’s a go, we begin counseling and planning. Sometimes a couple chooses today’s gospel text as a reading for their ceremony. I ask, “Why do you like that one? “We don’t fight. We love each other, just like Jesus says.” And I’m sure they’re sincere – at the moment. I don’t know why it’s used for weddings though. I believe Jesus has a little more in mind. And that really hits me when a couple asks to add a clause, “This is my solemn vow; as long as my love shall last.” I hate to break the news, but love, Jesus’ style – is more than a feeling, or that silly, clingy, touchy, goof-eyes stuff.

Is there really a love that lasts? One evening, Jesus announces this could be his last meal with his friends. Jesus knows his time is short. A friend he loves has just turned on him and left the ranks. It’s a sad night.

What would it be like to know you are at a last meal with someone dear and close? We never know when it might be. We probably don’t think about it a lot, unless we have to. A woman in hospice tells her family she’s dying and is not going to eat anymore. Two days later as her family prepares breakfast, she walks into the kitchen and takes a chair at the table. Her children are wildered. “We thought you weren’t eating anymore.” “Well a poor old woman can’t die on an empty stomach.”

Jesus’ supper reminds us a last meal awaits us all. Some people express regrets when that meal comes, often out of the blue: “I wish I could have said ‘I love you’ one last time. If I’d known, I’d have been nicer; or more patient; or, wish we’d spent more time together.”

Jesus tells his friends his end is near. “You’ll look for me.” And that’s what we’ve been doing ever since. We have a longing, hunger that there’s something more. Death, illness, despair bring a certain desperation to find “it.” People keep changing churches, and deep down, maybe they are still searching to find Jesus or something that’s missing. Religious and spiritual books fly off shelves today, because people are hungry – for happiness, love, the meaning to life. Something’s missing. We build church buildings, and gather to worship faithfully. We of all people should know where to find lasting love. It’s found with Jesus. The problem: “Where I am, you cannot come.” That love seems just beyond our reach.

Frederick Buechner tells of a church Christmas pageant. The usual Nativity characters huddle to glimpse the Christ child. Parish children, robed in white, sit with their families, awaiting a cue. On cue, the heavenly host rises from pews, and rushes the manger. So many little angels crowding to see block one small girl. She tries, stands on tiptoe to no avail. The angels begin to sing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” At a brief pause, she cries out in frustration, “Let Jesus show!” The priest/pastor stopped the pageant. Nothing else needed to be said. He gave the blessing and dismissal, and people left in stunned silence – “Let Jesus show!” still ringing in their ears. “Let Jesus Show.” Isn’t that why we are here?

Jesus leaves a commandment: “As I have loved you, love each other. That way everyone will know that you are my disciple, by your love for one another.” That’s how we let Jesus show – by loving each other – all others – with the love Jesus has for us. His love is everlasting, from before time. His love for us is God’s love for us. His love bangs down hell’s doors for us. His love is freely given for all. He waits patiently for some to get weary and come home, and he goes looking for others who get lost and stuck. He’s with us wherever we are. He opens spigots of divine love that flows into us and through us.

Jesus doesn’t say believe certain things, say some creeds, learn spiritual laws, and watch who you let into my church. He says, “Love one another, as I love you.” Let Jesus show – in our love for one another. It’s in doing love – loving others as he does, we let Jesus show. At a certain point talk must end. Words alone do not reveal love. Only the one who dwells in us, coming from within us, can show lasting love.

Want to know how to love one another – look for the good in them, and tell them. Don’t raise yourself up by pushing someone else down, especially when they’re out of earshot. Go hug an enemy, and scare the bee-jeezus out of them. Find a sinner and get to know them. Go make peace with someone who annoys you. Forgive someone. Count your blessings, not what you lack, and be grateful. Welcome the outsider. Serve food at the Gathering. Tutor a child. Join the GreenFaith team.

Jesus is the source that lifts us into love that lasts – love he and the Father have for each other. That’s also called resurrection – God’s gift of new life. People know whose we are by how we love. When we take Jesus seriously – follow him faithfully, then in weddings and marriages and partnerships, friendships, families, and even in relationships that don’t last, we can still let Jesus show. Maybe if we love as Jesus loves each of us, we really could change the world. Bottom-line, I think that’s what God’s after. He’s given us the resources. So if it’s not happening – well, you supply an answer. God’s doing His part.


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