Homily By The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. Francis Episcopal Church, Goldsboro, NC, 6th Sunday of Easter, 21 May 2017
Year A RCL Acts 17:22-31; Psalm 66:7-18; 1 Peter 3:13-22; John 14:15-21
Thank God we are created in love! Thank God for God's love which enfolds us & the Holy Spirit which helps us live what we proclaim at Baptism: We put our whole trust in Jesus' grace & love.
Jesus says in our Gospel: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” What are these commandments?
- John 13:34, Jesus says: “Love one another”. He repeats this in John 15:17.
- John 15:12, he says: “Love each other as I have loved you.”
- Matthew 5:44, Jesus really puts it to us:
“Love your enemies & do good to
those who persecute you.”
Love may be easy or hard. Remember: we are not alone in this work. We have each other & the Holy Spirit.
Notice what our lesson from 1st Peter says about Noah & the ark: the water foreshadows Baptism. Baptism washes away our sins & gives us new life. Through Baptism we are clean & don't need to be baptized again.
Reality check: We do sin after Baptism.
Like needing a bath after you bathe & get dirty again, we have ways to “come clean” with God. Our general confession we say most Sundays & private confession to a priest offer us a different way of cleaning. . . . Think of it as "dry cleaning"!
Notice: We don't baptize ourselves. We do this in community. We have each other for all kinds of support. Look at Noah; he's not alone in the ark, as our lesson from 1st Peter reminds us.
What kinds of practical, hands-on work come to mind when you think of Noah & the ark & the family with him? [Answers included cooking & cleaning.]
This apron suggests a reality we may overlook. Yes, the people were saved in the ark, yet they had practical tasks to do.
We have day-to-day tasks to do before & after baptism, including our work of love Jesus commands us to do.
How in the world can we
do the work of love?
do the work of love?
Jesus assures us he will send us an Advocate, Comforter, Helper – the Holy Spirit...1 so we can obey Jesus' commandments to love.
Love is about relationships. Relationships are what we have with God the Father, with Jesus, with the Holy Spirit, with each other & in the Body of Christ. As Christians, we rely on the Holy Spirit as we reach out in love to those who do not know Jesus.
In our Baptismal Covenant [which we have the joy of sharing as we baptize an adult this morning] we promise to do specific acts, including proclaiming by word & deed the Good News of God in Christ, to seek & serve Christ in all persons, to strive for justice & peace & respect the dignity of every human –
As we start to build relationships, we can reach out as Paul does as we read in Acts: wisely, gently, meeting people where they are.
Notice how g e n t l y Paul talks with people in Athens about the “unknown god”. He quotes their writers: 6th century BCE philosopher Epimenides & 3rd century BCE poet Arastus.2
Wisely, Paul doesn't say: “You are wrong about your gods.”
People in Athens may think he is an atheist: Jews & Christians of his day were often called atheists because they never took their gods with them when they traveled! People traveled with their “gods” / their man-made idols out of fear.
Jesus meets people where they are. How do we meet people where they are? As we say in Cursillo:
"Make a friend. Be a friend.
Bring a friend to Christ."
Bring a friend to Christ."
This way we can spread God's love & help individuals move from a life of fear to a life of love. God is love, so we must live the life of love. Fear is the alternative.
Fear is why the people Paul talks to make idols. God tells us in the Ten Commandments don't make idols. To make something, we have to imagine it in our minds & hold the image inside us.
Some folk get stuck in their mind an image of God waiting to catch them doing wrong – like a cosmic cop as we spoke of in our Forgiveness Forum.
Cosmic Cop rides around & people don't think of this god until blue lights flash in the rear-view mirror. That's a sure sign to
“Stop in the name of the law!”
That's not the God we know through Jesus, who willing dies for us on the cross. That's not the God who claims each of us as a beloved child.
The God we know through Jesus & through the guidance of the Holy Spirit may tell us to stop:
"Stop in the name of Love!"
Cosmic Cop imprisons people in fear. God's love casts out fear. Fear is the biggest false god & can be very subtle. Fear keeps us from moving forward, from reaching out in love. Fear of pain is a subtle aspect of this false god. Pain is the challenge we face with love.
As one Bible commentator says: “The moment love enters into life, pain enters...(I)n Jesus we see God caring intensely, yearning over (us), feeling poignantly for (us) & with (us), loving (us) until he (bears) the wounds of love upon his heart.”3
Jesus assures us in our Gospel he does not leave us orphaned. He sends us the Holy Spirit so we can keep loving through the pain, through life's challenges, through whatever we face.
We know the early Christians have different challenges Peter addresses in our 2nd lesson today. Peter also speaks of gentleness. Gentleness is one of Love's characteristics.
The beauty of love we have in our relationships is worth this pain. We are not alone in our pain. We are not alone in our love. We love in community. We love in God's family. We read in Acts: we are God's offspring, God's beloved children.
Our Psalm says God has not rejected our prayers, nor withheld God's love from us.
We are right when we fear God – fear as in to stand in awe of such great love.
We have abundant love to share with our sisters & brothers who do not know God's love, beloved brothers & sisters in the human family who think they are not worthy of God's love, brothers & sisters imprisoned in fear. We must proclaim this Good News:
The task of life is not to get God to love you or to try to please God.
The task of life is to wake up to the fact
God already loves you.
God already loves you.
Some people don't know this!
We must go out these doors into this hurting world & make as much noise as we can to tell our fearful sisters & brothers:
Stop! In the Name of Love!
Stop breaking YOUR heart!
to paraphrase Diana Ross & the Supremes.4
We must go into this hurting world &
tell our fearful sisters & brothers:
as Steve Bhaerman says,
“...stop trying to earn God's love...
Start spending it!”5
Barclay, William. The Gospel of John. Vol 2. Revised Ed. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1975.
Book of Common Prayer. New York: The Church Hymnal Corp., and The Seabury Press. 1979.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers. 1988.
Holy Bible. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
“Stop in the Name of Love.” Diana Ross & The Supremes. Songwriters: Holland, Edward, Jr. James/Dozier, Lamont Herbert/Holland, Brian. Published by: Lyrics © EMI Music Publishing, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc. http://www.metrolyrics.com/stop-in-the-name-of-love-lyrics-the-supremes.html. Accessed: 20 May 2017.
Voyles, Robert J. Restoring Hope: Appreciative Strategies to Resolve Grief and Resentment. Hillsboro, OR: The Appreciative Way. 2010. www.appreciativeway.com.
Wright, N.T. For All The Saints? Remembering the Christian Departed. Harrisburg: Morehouse Publishing. 2003.
1 Barclay, William. The Gospel of John. Vol 2. Revised Ed. Pp. 166-167.
2 Harper’s Bib le Commentary. General Ed: James. L. Mays. P. 1103.
3 Ibid. Barclay. P. 161
4 “Stop in the Name of Love.” Diana Ross & The Supremes. Accessed: 20 May 2017.
5 Quoted P. 25 of “Teaching Forgiveness” based on Voyles, Robert J. Restoring Hope: Appreciative Strategies to Resolve Grief and Resentment.