Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Easter 5 Sermon (May 2)

Jackie DeShannon sang to us “What the world needs now is love, sweet love”
The Beatles told us, all we need is love.
U2 asked where is the love?

Of course St. Paul said “The greatest of these is love.”

And it is Jesus who tells us about love in today’s gospel. Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

The greatest challenge that we have as Christians, is to be that open, loving person that Christ calls us to be. It is a love as Jesus and his disciples understood it, love that connects one to kin or friends, family or village. It wasn’t just a feeling but love that also entailed an action, one that supported the well being to those whom one loved.

At home the other night, it was a child waking up from a nightmare, needing the hug of reassurance from mommy that everything will be OK.

We see that love in the life of Jesus, who gave his life for his friends, to those whom he loved. A saving action that shows the depth of his love and his connection to them & us. We are his family & he gave his life for us. It is this love that Jesus tells his disciples to follow, to give to one another. It is not his new suggestion, or his new idea, or his new thought. This is Jesus new commandment for us. Jesus never held back his love and yet we constantly put barriers around ours, we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. Sure, we have loved people who look like us, or talked like us, or believed the same things as us, but Jesus will not allow us to live with such a narrow view of his love.
I am reminded of a beautiful collect from the Book of Common Prayer, which begins with… "Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace. "
What Jesus asks of us, is to help with that saving embrace, how we reach out our arms of love to this world. A world that is so filled with hate, spite, violence, inequality, and death. As we think of that saving embrace and that love that Jesus commands us to give, I thought about what is that love to a homeless man …
His name was Hugo, and he was homeless, but one night he stepped in to help a woman in need. He was stabbed while attempting to rescue a woman from an attacker, and as he lay dying on the New York City sidewalk, two dozen people walked by without stopping or calling for help. We failed to see his humanity for he was homeless and he died alone on a street in a city of millions, if just one person had called... Any animal that is hurt on the street, the city or anybody walking by goes to rescue it. But in this case, he saved this woman’s life, and where was the conscience of the people around him? They have to realize that it could be a member of their family who is the next victim. - Rolando Tale-Yax, Hugo’s brother (Source: USA Today)
We need to love even those in our midst whom we are not used to loving or seeing, like the homeless or immigrants or anyone. For if we love one another as Jesus commanded, loving as deeply as we can, than we honor the love of God even when we don’t think we are loving God. For this love is not just about loving those whom we like or agree with. Think of the Last Supper with Jesus, and at the foot washing of the disciples, Judas, his betrayer was among them. He ate with them, his feet were washed. Jesus still loved Judas, even when Judas refused to love… This love Jesus commands is much more complicated and difficult, for it asks us to do more, to love even if we don’t feel like it.
As the monk Charles de Foucauld wrote: “love consists not in feeling that you love, but in the will to love.”
So what is love to someone in need of a transplant?
East Haven Mayor April Capone Almon offered to be tested as a potential match after Carlos Sanchez, one of more than 1,600 of her Facebook friends, posted a status update on the social networking site last summer that said his friends and family all had been tested and couldn't donate a kidney to him. (from NPR) She was tested and was a match and she donated her kidney to him. "I don't want people to see this as something larger than life," she said. "There's nothing special about me. Anybody can try to do this, and if it's meant to be, you'll be a match and a donor and you can really help someone."
Indeed we are all called on to love one another. It’s the will to act, to love and not sit on the sidelines that marks us a Christ’s own. To share with someone in need, to be tested is an act of love to a complete stranger or a facebook friend. It can be a small simple act for a loved one and after the town was made purple yesterday in support of the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, I thought of this story I recently read:
Cindy was diagnosed with breast cancer. After surgery and six rounds of chemo therapy, Cindy's hair first shed and then fell out in clumps. "Shave my head," Cindy asked her husband. So Cindy sat down on a bathroom chair and Willie slowly and gently began to shave his beloved's head. When he finished, Willie gently massaged her shoulders and squeezed her hands as Cindy looked in the mirror. But her image in the mirror mattered little; what Cindy remembers was the closeness of that moment. As Cindy watched Willie gather up the scraps of hair. She remembers: "I could see that the act of shaving my head had given my husband great joy; he'd been able to do something for me at a time when he'd felt helpless to help me. As for me, it was perhaps the most romantic, spiritual night of my wedded life." [From "The Most Spiritually Intimate Minutes of My Marriage" by Cindy Williams Newsome, Spirituality & Health, January-February 2010.]
The love of Christ exists in such seemingly small moments and acts of compassion, hugging a child after a nightmare, giving a kidney to someone in need, helping a spouse deal with their cancer. Our identity as disciples of Christ is centered in such persistent and constant love towards our loved ones and strangers. Today, we are called in faithfulness to imitate the compassion and forgiveness of our Risen Lord with an openness of heart and in a spirit to love selflessly, completely and unconditionally, just as God has loved us in Jesus Christ. Amen.

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