7th Sunday of Easter

Let us pray.

Lord Jesus, may we be one

As you and the Father are one

So that the world may know

How much you love us.

Amen.

………..

This Gospel is a convicting Gospel.

Every time I read it,

And I read it pretty often,

I am convicted by the fact

That we,

The descendents of Jesus’s disciples

Are not one.

It’s just a fact!

You don’t have to look far to see it.

It’s rampant throughout our history.

We have spent centuries

Not only shouting at each other

About what communion means

And how to read the Bible

And who’s allowed to be ordained

But we have also literally murdered one another

In increasingly horrible ways

Because we disagree

About how best to respond to Jesus.

It’s almost as if He knew.

We hear today

The conclusion of what scholars call Jesus’s Farewell Discourse.

I’m sure it didn’t sound quite as lofty at the time,

But all the same:

If we’re looking at John’s Gospel, anyway,

It sure seems like the Last Supper was an awfully big deal.

Jesus makes some pretty grand pronouncements

And issues some pretty hefty commandments.

Just as I, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet,

So too you also ought to wash one another’s feet.

Do not let your hearts be troubled;

Believe in God, believe also in me.

I am the way, the truth, and the life.

Greater love has no one than this:

To lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

You are my friends;

I no longer call you servants.

And in the section we heard today:

The glory that you have given me I have given them,

So that they may be one, as we are one,

So that the world may know that you have sent me

And have loved them

Even as you have loved me.

And that’s the part that convicts me,

Every time.

Because you see,

Our lack of unity isn’t a problem

Only because sometimes we end up hurting one another

When we put our need to be right,

To have found the only right way to read the Bible,

The only right way to worship,

Theonlyright way to ethically live in the world

Above the needs of others,

Though that is pretty bad.

Our lack of unity is a problem

Because Jesus prays that we might be one

So that the world may know

That God has sent Jesus

And loves the world

Even as he loves Jesus.

When we are not one,

The world doesn’t see,

Doesn’t know

Doesn’t recognize that good news

That God loves us

All of us

The whole world

Just as much as God loves Jesus.

The world looks at us,

A divided Church,

And doesn’t see a lot of love.

They don’t see a community that,

As it says elsewhere in Scripture

Has the same mind in us that was in Christ Jesus,

Who, though he was in the form of God and had equality with God,

Humbled himself,

Emptied himself,

Because he did not regard actual, literal equality with God

As a thing to be grasped.

A thing to be exploited.

Jesus

Was and is co-equal with God

In authority,

In glory,

In every imaginable way.

He was and is one with God the Father,

Completely unified and inseparable.

And when it was necessary

For God to come to earth

To initiate a relationship with a sinful human race

That had rejected him

Over and over again,

Jesus didn’t say,

“Hold up, you know what sounds like no fun at all?

Living among those stinky humans for 30 years

And then getting crucified.

Sounds like a you problem.”

Jesus humbled himself,

Even to the point of death

On the cross.

And in so doing,

He united us –

Our sinful, stinky selves

Who have been dragged kicking and screaming

Into goodness –

With himself

And with God.

And now we,

Who have been given this free gift of grace

For which we ought to be thanking God on our knees

Every single day

For this extraordinary gift

That we do not deserve

That we could not deserve

In any imaginable universe

Have the audacity

To turn around and try to shut the door behind us.

To try to grasp

The little, tiny authority and glory that has been granted to us

As a gift from God

To which we are not entiled.

To say to people

“You’re not an actual pastor,”

Because they’re a girl.

“You’re not an actual Christian,”

Because they’re gay.

You can’t sit with us

Because we’re right with God

And you’re not.

I mean, do we hear ourselves?

Now, I know some folks disagree in good faith,

But here’s the thing:

When Jesus prays that we may be one,

He’s not asking us all to agree.

He’s not saying that we have

To come to one unified position

About what certain passages in the Bible mean

Or how we ought to worship.

If we look at the world around us,

We can see that the God who creates

The spectacular diversity of creation,

Purple mountain’s majesty

And amber waves of grain

Pines and maples

Great prairies spread

And lordly rivers flowing

From coast to coast to coast

And the whole world round

To every single continent and island

Does not shy away from difference.

Unity

Is not the same thing

As uniformity.

Unity

Does not require one, single, agreed-upon point of view.

I had a meeting last week

With Archdeacon Travis,

And he taught me something

About the way that the Cree view the idea of consensus.

I have always thought of consensus as agreement.

Everybody is on board.

But Archdeacon Travis said that the Cree have a different way of seeing it.

That in their culture consensus means

“I can live with it.

I might not like it.

But I can live with it.”

The unity of the Church

Isn’t a state that we achieve

By bullying everyone into agreement

And forcing out those who feel differently.

The unity of the Church

Is a gift from our Creator

So that the world he loves

May know how much he loves.

And so we need not feel guilty

For failing to reach the oneness he prays for,

Since it was never our job to make it happen anyway.

But I hope you will join me in feeling convicted

Into working for unity.

Wrestling with it.

Laying down our pride for it.

Laying down our lives for it.

Because being kind is more important than being right.

And the world getting to see

Just how much God loves us all

Is the only reason the Church exists.

Amen.

 

 

Maundy Thursday

In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

……………….

Love one another.

It’s basically a cliché at this point.

We have all heard this commandment

That Jesus offers as new

So many times

That we’ve stopped listening to it.

Love one another.

What does that mean?

In some places, it has become so watered down,

So dumbed down,

As to basically mean

Be polite.

Be kind.

Don’t ACTIVELY seek to be a jerk to other people.

The commandment becomes less “love one another”

And more “don’t NOT love one another.”

It’s read as passive.

Weak.

Songs that praise “the power of love”

Are dismissed

As sentimental claptrap.

Politicians tell us that love is a luxury

For safer, more prosperous times.

In these times, it’s weak.

Because love makes you vulnerable.

When those who do evil know what you care about,

They know where to hurt you.

Safer, then, not to love.

Or only to love a few.

We had to put our dog down last month,

And I was hit with a grief that knocked me over,

Like I had been standing in the ocean and an unexpected wave had hit me

Right at the knees.

“Grief is the price we pay for love,”

People told me at the time,

Which just made me angry.

It felt like one of those bait and switch ad schemes

Where you’re hit with an unexpected bill

At the end of a holiday.

I was vulnerable.

I cared.

And while nobody was actively seeking to make me hurt,

It was tempting to retreat into cynicism.

To say “never again.”

To shut myself off from the possibility

Of paying that price in the future.

Because sometimes it feels like the only power love has

Is the power to hurt

Those who have willingly made ourselves vulnerable to it.

And so we see Peter,

Already bruised by never really knowing

What wild thing Jesus is going to do next –

Ride a donkey? Ok.

Throw the money changers out of the Temple? Uhhhhhh …..

Accept an expensive anointing from a woman that prefigures his burial?

Hold on, now. –

Peter resists this invitation

Into vulnerability.

Oh, the story is often told as a morality play on humility,

But I don’t actually think that’s what Jesus cares about.

Because you see,

Jesus is about die

For Peter’s sake.

That’s the price

That Jesus is willing to pay for love.

He is willing to die –

To literally die,

Painfully,

All alone,

Abandoned by his key followers,

Including Peter, who will deny even knowing him –

Because he loves.

And in so doing, Jesus will offer Peter a gift.

The kind Peter can never repay.

The gift

Of eternal life with him.

This makes Peter vulnerable.

Because what if Jesus changes his mind?

How can Peter trust

That Jesus’s love will endure?

Better to make sure that he’s earned his own way.

Now, I’m sure nobody here tonight has ever felt like Peter.

But if you ever have, then hear this:

Love is powerful.

If you don’t believe me, as Presiding Bishop Curry says,

Then just remember how it felt

When you first fell in love.

It might be a time when you found your romantic partner.

It might be the first time you held your child, or your grandchild.

It might not have anything to do with another person at all!

You might have fallen in love with a vocation,

Or a place.

How many watched the spire of Notre Dame de Paris fall

Earlier this week

And found themselves knocked over by grief they didn’t expect,

Grief as intense as for a person

Or a dog.

Grief is the price we pay for love,

We know all too well.

And,

We know that that love endures

Even through grief.

We know that love,

Real love,

Has the power to withstand

Even the most dreadful,

Wracking gasps of pain

And to come out the other side

Ready to keep on loving,

Like the cross that still stands

Inside the flame-gutted cathedral.

That’s power.

That is the rock upon which the wise man built his house.

That is the sure foundation of everything we hold dear,

Jesus Christ,

The cornerstone.

Because he loves us,

We are able to love one another.

Not a cheap, sentimental, passive love,

But active love.

The kind of love that costs us something.

It might be our status or position in society

As we take on the humiliating task of caring for those

Folks would rather forget about.

It might be money,

As we stop chasing material wealth

And dare to own less so that others might have more.

It might be life itself

As we declare that some things in this world are worth dying for.

Jesus says to the Peters around this table

That we are worth dying for.

And when we walk out on that water,

When we trust him enough

To accept that gift,

We will find that his love holds

Through every fire

And every storm.

Amen.