Revised Common Lectionary Reflection, Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year A
May 17, 2020
Lessons: Acts 17:22-31; Psalm 66:8-20; 1 Peter 3:13-22; John 14:15-21
Theme: God’s faithful and generous people show their love for Jesus by striving to keep his commandments.
Key Scripture: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever.” John 14:15-16
In this week’s gospel lesson, Jesus continues to prepare his closest disciples for his impending “departure.” Jesus is big on promises in this passage—promising to deliver the Holy Spirit, promising he will not leave them (and us!) orphaned, telling us we will still be able to see signs of him, and reminding us that those who love Jesus will be loved by God. Sounds pretty good, right?
There is no “quid pro quo” to this arrangement; however, there is an expectation for us as disciples. After all, relationships work well only when all parties are all-in. The expectation sounds pretty simple: Show our love for Jesus by keeping his commandments. This is how you show your love to me, he says. This is how folks will know you are different, by your love and by the way you live out that love in a hundred little ways every single day.
Of course, it’s not actually that simple because it’s tough to be all-in as a disciple. It takes discipline and requires focus. Discipleship demands full participation according to the greatest commandment. Love God with every fiber of your being and your neighbor as yourself. Anyone who’s lived a few years knows that this expectation is easier talked about than met. Our beautiful/broken humanness gets in the way, and the ego can play havoc with the very best of intentions.
So what’s a disciple to do? The first thing is to remember how deeply the Creator of the cosmos loves you. Love is the language of life, of faith, of every molecule and atom spoken into being. Once we accept that God loves us, failings and all, we can get on to the work of truly loving and understanding ourselves as God sees us. Once we practice some radical self-love, then and only then can we get down to the hard, holy work of loving our neighbors.
One of the complications is that many people have a tough time loving themselves. Old negative tapes play loudly and persistently: Can anyone else really love me if they just knew what I’m really like with my “public face” off? How can God love me when I’m such a failure? With such a steady negative playlist blaring in our minds, we do find it hard to love those who remind us of our own inconsistencies and shortcomings. And the more we “fail” at what we believe is faithful discipleship, the more frustrated we become and the more futile following the way of Christ may feel. The second thing to remember is to hit stop when those old tapes start playing. Go read some of Jesus’ promises to you instead.
Third, don’t buy into the lie. Listen to Jesus. His closest disciples were at least partially clueless. But Jesus persists. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Love comes first. Every time, love will win over honor, duty, and responsibility alone. Yes, love is often displayed in honorable behavior, in faithfully carrying out duties and responsibilities, and in giving and sharing God’s abundance. The more we love Jesus, the more we want to live like him. And the way we learn to love God and neighbor is to spend more time with them.
This week make a commitment to get to know the Christ and his love more fully by spending time with him. There’s no one-size-fits-all formula. Do what feels right and makes sense to you: pray, meditate, walk, run, serve, rest, study scripture, and give. A good place to start is by reading this week’s gospel lesson every day. Let the love in that passage seep deeply into your bones and embrace your spirit. Let Jesus whisper to you: “They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”
Invite worshipers to share stories about where they are seeing love-in-action during this time of COVID-19. There are so many examples of radical generosity, compassion, kindness, and sacrifice–all bearing the marks of love.
Challenge congregants to write “love letters” of encouragement and gratitude to health care workers, government officials who may not be getting much positive feedback, or to essential workers in food service, elder care, and other industries. You might even write a letter to families who are struggling at home to continue educating children, or to teachers who have taken their instruction online. It won’t take much thinking to make a short list. If people don’t want to write, invite them to be creative and call, text, draw a picture, paint a sign to hold or post, write a poem or a song. Everyone can do something to share the love of Christ with a hurting world.
You might also consider one of these music videos since recommendations suggest avoiding singing to prevent spread of the virus.
If you have the opportunity to gather digitally with your youth this week consider the first lesson, Acts 17:22-31. Think about how Paul used the context and situation to preach about the Christ in front of the Areopagus. How might we use our current situation and context to share with others the good news of Christ? What do they think about Paul’s approach? Was it effective (have them read more before and after this week’s lesson so they’ll have more of the narrative)? How might we do something similar in our context as we emerge from our time of sheltering in place?
This week’s focus verses are John 14:15 – “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
Normally when we hear someone say, “If you do this, then…” we figure there’s a catch, and usually there is. I can remember when I was a little girl and needed allergy shots, my mother would always take me to a restaurant called the Huddle House (a lot like a Waffle House) for hash browns. Even though I knew that following that delicious treat I was going to get a shot, I (and my stomach) fell for it every time.
In this week’s gospel lesson, we have Jesus making a promise that sounds a lot like there’s a catch. But here’s the thing–with Jesus there is no catch. It’s just all pure love. Jesus looks at you, and you, and you, and me–all of us–and sees us through the eyes of love. Because of his great love for us, he expects that we will return that love and share it by living as he taught and modeled. Because Jesus has given all for us, it makes sense that we would do the same for him, loving him and living as close to him as we can.
This week I hope you will find some ways to show your love for Jesus and for others. It can be as simple as a smile, a drawing, or ___________ (you fill in the blank).
Finish with a simple echo prayer and blessing.
Dear God (Dear God),
Thank you for loving us (Thank you for loving us). Thank you for sending Jesus (Thank you for sending Jesus) to show us how to love and how to live (to show us how to love and how to live). Help us to love you (Help us to love you), and to love our neighbors (and to love our neighbors). Help me to see (Help me to see) myself through your eyes (myself through your eyes) so that I can learn the way of love (so that I can learn the way of love). Keep us hopeful. (Keep us hopeful). Make us helpful (Make us helpful). Give us peace (Give us peace) Amen (Amen).
Weekly Stewardship Bulletin Insert
Love is an important part of stewardship. Jesus tells us that if we love him we will keep his commandments. Love is one way we live as faithful stewards of God’s abundance.
Stewardship at Home
How about going on a mission of radical love this week? You may have to plan carefully to avoid exposing others or yourself to the COVID-19 virus. How can you meet a need someone else has this week? Do you have a food pantry or meal program still in operation at your congregation? If so, maybe you could help there. If your neighbor needs an errand run and you are healthy enough to do so, you can show Jesus’ love by a simple errand. If you’re picking up food as take-out or fast food drive through, leave an extra large tip and/or pay for the next person’s order. We are all in this together, and love always wins.
2017 Reflection: https://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2017/05/do-you-see-jesus/
2011 Reflection: https://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2011/05/do-you-see-what-i-see/
Images: Kenny Uh Avondale Patillo UMC, Creative Commons usage license.© Thanks!
Note: Reprint rights granted to congregations and other church organizations for local, nonprofit use. Just include this note: “Copyright (c) 2020, Rev. Sharron Blezard. Used by Permission.” Other uses, please inquire: firstname.lastname@example.org.