Based on Acts 10: 44-48 and John 15: 9-17
Opening Prayer: Faithful God, make our hearts bold with love for one another. Pour out your Spirit upon all people, that we may live your justice and sing a new song in your name. Amen.
Yesterday morning on the CBC news channel I watched an interesting interview with our former prime minister, Mr. Paul Martin. It was interesting to me because Mr. Martin was speaking about his passion and his commitment about equal access to education for Metis, Inuit, and First Nations’ people in Canada. Equal access to education, says Mr. Martin, is not only a tool but a ‘right’ for all Canadians. I agree with Mr. Martin that equal access to literacy is a topic dear to my heart for any minority in Canada, but most especially First Nations people.
However, what really caught my listening ear was Mr. Martin’s very high regard for the wisdom and traditions found in First Nations culture- wisdom and traditions of its elders that has all been obliterated over the centuries in the name of colonization and progress. Mr. Martin’s passionate commentary reminded of that famous quote popular some twenty years ago now coming from the mouth of Chief Dan George who named that we are all but a strand in the web of Creation.
Mr. Martin’s responses to the interviewer’s questions also called to mind a quote I came upon just the other day attributed to the Dalai Lama. I offer now as we embark upon our time of reflection on our readings from Scripture as we celebrate Christian Family Sunday, Mother’s Day, and Communion.
The Dalai Lama, like Chief Dan George and Paul Martin reminds us that “because we all share this planet, earth, we have to learn to live in harmony and peace with each other and with nature.” He goes on to say: “This is not just a dream, but a necessity. We are dependent on each other in so many ways that we can no longer lie in isolated communities and ignore what is happening outside those communities.”
Who here would argue the truth about our world as spoken by the Dalai Lama, Chief Dan George, or Paul Martin? But then, it seems that our actions do always speak louder than our words.
This morning our readings from scripture also remind us that saying ‘yes’ to being followers in the way of Jesus also calls us beyond our own small concerns, our own safe, secure, homogenous, self-sustaining, and self-organizing groups.
Jesus calls us, alone and together, into ever widening circles where love in action can be shared abundantly, knowing all the while that the Holy Spirit will surprise us nudging and nurturing us into new understandings of ourselves and each other and new ways of being in relationship.
This is what I believe lies at the heart of the story from Acts as Peter and Cornelius and their followers find themselves experiencing the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the most abundant and surprising ways. Where previously clearly defined boundaries between Gentile and Jew were clear and defined, they now become blurred and unimportant when the gathered community discovers together a God who knows no partiality.
This is also what I believe to be at the heart of our reading from the gospel according to John we heard this morning as Jesus is described as offering a word of comfort and of challenge to his followers.
Comforting and summoning them at the same time, Jesus calls them to offer that same comfort, not only one another, but also, in ever widening circles embracing those in need. And they are to do this, Jesus says in the spirit of joy despite the real and present obstacles they face.
For those first listeners hearing these words taken from what we know as Jesus’ Farewell Discourse composed and offered some 80-90 years after Jesus’ death on the cross, such blueprints for living or commandments to love one another would be no small feat given the Greco-Roman world being so neatly divided up into black and white categories of good and evil, darkness and light, truth and falsehood, death and life, them and us.
Further to the idea of living out their lives from a perspective of love as a decision or a response to need and encouraging them that just as he, Jesus was one with the Father; just has he, Jesus, abided in God’s love, was indeed ‘at home’ or we might say ‘rooted’ in God’s love, Jesus presents them with another novel idea which is this: They are no longer to be his servants but rather, his friends.
For those early listeners the movement from servanthood to friendship between master and slave would have been an unthinkably foreign concept. But there it was, Jesus’ call to them to enter into the building God’s vision of shalom, God’s kingdom where friends with a common mind and a sense of mission could achieve unimaginable change for good, where friends might even be called upon and would act on being asked to lay down their lives for one another.
This re-jigging of relationships is not uncommon in John’s gospel as we remember Jesus gives his mother over to his beloved disciple’s care, as we remember his conversation with Nicodemus about being re-born, as he encounters the woman from Samaria, as healings and resurrections happen, and as his relationship with Peter changes and, as, returning to this morning’s reading from the gospel of John, his listeners and we, are reminded, it is Jesus who chooses his followers and not the other way around.
In the stratified context of the Greco-Roman world, this upending of the status quo would cost Jesus and his friends dearly but it would also set in place the unleashing of Jesus’ mission of healing and wholeness for the world still active in our world lo these 2015 years later.
Turning now to what this morning’s readings might hold for our personal lives and our lives as a Christian community, I want offer you this final quote from Charles Cousar who says this: “Being friends with Jesus ‘means’ being captured by the story.
Following the sometimes comforting, sometimes disturbing plot that leads to the cross and the empty tomb, and finding in it the light to guide our way in the world” has surely got to be worth it for our church, for our world, and for the whole of God’s good Creation.
At the start of Jesus’ Farewell Discourse, he tells the disciples “I am the true vine” As an Easter people, we are the branches. Let us continue to reflect on God’s word of call and challenge for us this day to be bearers of good fruit in hope, faith, and especially, in love lived out as conscious decision making.
For all of our sakes and for the sake of God’s good Creation, may it be so amen.
Quotes from the Dalai Lama and Charles Cousar taken from Kate Matthews Huey’s reflection found at www.ucc.org/worship_samuel_sermon_seeds_may_10_2015