A sermon for our first Green, Growing Sunday of the year, about how God invites absolutely everyone, with no partiality, and invites us to pass on that invitation to everyone we meet.
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.
This Gospel is a convicting Gospel.
Every time I read it,
And I read it pretty often,
I am convicted by the fact
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,
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 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,
Because he did not regard actual, literal equality with God
As a thing to be grasped.
A thing to be exploited.
Was and is co-equal with God
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 –
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.
Is not the same thing
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.
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
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.
Songs that praise “the power of love”
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.
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
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,
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.
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.
We know that that love endures
Even through grief.
We know that 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 is the rock upon which the wise man built his house.
That is the sure foundation of everything we hold dear,
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.
Rev. Jordan's sermon + Renewal of Baptismal Vows + Prayers of the People on May 20, 2018.