Loving is Living Easter

The text of the sermon, based on 1 John 5.1-6 and John 15.9-17, preached with the people of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Spartanburg, SC, on the 6th Sunday of Easter, May 9, 2021.

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Love and God.  This reflexive pair of realities form the heart of today’s epistle and gospel passages; both appropriate Eastertide-pathways in our continued pilgrimage toward our deeper understanding of the resurrection of Jesus.

From the epistle: Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ (the preeminent Easter proclamation) has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent (God) loves the child (all who are born of God).

From the gospel: As the Father (God) has loved me (Jesus) so I (Jesus) have loved you (therefore) abide (remain, reside) in my love.

Yet these passages call us beyond deeper understanding to greater living of the resurrection of Jesus.

From the epistle: By this we know that we love God’s children, when we love God and obey his commandments.

From the gospel: If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love.

Now, despite the word commandment, love is not a Divine demand. Rather as love is the nature of God, love is the essence of our humanity created by God. Therefore, love is not only the way we are meant to be, must, ought, or should be, but already are!

Now, God grants us free will. If, when we disobey the commandment, we fail to fulfill, not some higher, yet unattained calling, but rather who we already are. When we choose to follow Jesus, loving one another as he loves us, we live his life, our life in him made real by his resurrection.

Recall last week’s gospel. Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit.”[1] The chiefest fruit is Jesus’ love.

All this is theoria, the theory; the “what” and the “why” of Easter-living. Now, for the praxis, the practice; the “how” of Easter-living. What it looks like when we’re doing it.

Back to our free will. For you know and I know that our human condition – manifested in our individual families of origin and histories, attributes and attitudes, strengths and weaknesses, predispositions and perspectives, observations and opinions – gets in the way of our loving. In a word, when we are faced with another, especially one who, in the aforementioned elements of our human condition, is different, we are tempted (and oft fall prey to the temptation) to allow our preferences and prejudices to condition and constrain our active benevolence.

For this reason, Jesus says, “apart from me you can do nothing.”[2] Apart from Jesus and the enabling power of his Spirit, we are inescapably inclined to be natural and, thus, not supernatural in our loving.

Therefore, to paraphrase our Collect,[3] let us pray with constancy, trusting that God who bids that we pray, hears our prayers and will answer: O God…pour into our hearts such love towards you that we loving you in all things and above all things can and will do andbe as you are: Love.

And when we, as St. Francis,[4] allow ourselves to be used by God as “instruments of peace”; and especially, in our world and in this time rife with division, “where there is hatred,” doing, being love, then we are loving God and obeying his commandments…

We are keeping Jesus’ commandments and abiding in his love…

We, in our loving, are living Easter.

© 2021 PRA


[1] John 15.5a

[2] John 15.5b

[3] Collect for the 6th Sunday of Easter (full text), The Book of Common Prayer, page 225: O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

[4] A Prayer attributed to St. Francis (full text), The Book of Common Prayer, page 833: Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

2 thoughts on “Loving is Living Easter

  1. Thank you Paul!!

    In our loving we are Living Easter!! That absolutely preaches for me!!! The other piece that really resonated with me that I’ll be thinking about this week is “Therefore, love is not only the way we are meant to be, must, ought, or should be, but already are!” That means less “actual” work for us to change ourselves, BUT ….we do have to “apply it”…to demonstrate each day that love is who we are!!!!

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    1. “That means less “actual” work for us to change ourselves, BUT ….we do have to “apply it”…to demonstrate each day that love is who we are!!!!”

      Precisely! I couldn’t have said it (AND I DIDN’T say it!) more succinctly and any better! Thank you!

      Love

      Like

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