6 Easter 2017
I Peter 3:13-22; John 14:15-21
Living and gracious God, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ you have brought us out to a spacious place where we are called to live as those redeemed. Empower us by your spirit to keep your commandments, that we may show forth your love with gentle word and reverent deed to all your people. Amen.
It’s very easy to say to a frightened child, or an adult, don’t be afraid. But the readers of the Epistle of Peter and the disciples with Jesus were living in terror.
Our Epistle was written to Christians who were facing persecution because they did to subscribe to Roman authority. The disciples with Jesus as we have seen these past few weeks were terrified. Jesus is preparing them for his death; they have no idea how they will live or who they can trust. And to both groups, as well as to us in our 21st century lives, we are to focus on living a life that is Christ-centered but not fitting the prosperity gospel mold. Suffering is part of this kind of life whether it be persecution or standing with someone who is undergoing their own kind of struggles. And how do we do this? By being in love with Jesus. Which means to be filled to the brim with his Spirit of truth. It’s hard for the best of Christians to imagine a reality through the lens of the Holy Spirit. Spirit is often an ethereal concept not a perceived reality. It is this Spirit of Jesus, this Spirit of truth that will teach the disciples who are with Jesus in that upper room as well as the thousand upon thousand of disciples who will follow, how to love Love lovingly. By being a practical and practicing person of love that knows no judgmental attitude, that accepts quirky comments about being a follower of Jesus, that seeks ways to personally and communally stop the global structures of oppression. For it was those structures that put Jesus to death and will destroy the life of every one
of his early disciples. We are to live apart from the empires of our present age
and be so filled with the Spirit we can see our way to standing against that which would seek to put our faith into seclusion.
There are times when we need to be very afraid, but then those are the times when we rely completely on the Spirit of Truth. For the empires of destruction are with us today, maybe not in Laytonsville, but certainly in our country and definitely in our world. And our stance as committed followers of Jesus is to not only stand against them but to take a stand and raise a voice. The widening between rich and poor
only grows as people do not refuse to speak against it. But in love…always in love.
For it is love that this paraclete this one who walks beside us as a lawyer is with a client, it is love this Spirit of truth discloses. Not hatred, not gossip but pure love
that will come from Jesus even as he dies on a cross. Not some mushy kind of simpering caring but a love that is deep and broad and solid enough to love the person or the system as Jesus did then and does now. We are to perceive all lives
through a new lens which is God’s infinite and ever expanding love.
The story of told during the years of apartheid in South Africa that a particular official who had worked hard to humanize life for the oppressed died. His funeral was attended by many white people but no blacks were allowed. It was a tremendous insult which could have begun a whole new time of hatred and murder.
One Isaiah Butts, a black pastor, visited a local white judge asking him to participate in their Good Friday service which, like many Maundy Thursday services, including washing of feet, in particular the feet of a servant of the deceased man. The justice agreed as long as his presence was not announced.
When the time came for this woman’s feet to be washed, the judge came forward,
washed and dried her feet. But before she could take a step away he lifted her feet to his face and kissed them both. It was an action that set in motion a great healing movement that eventually led to the destruction of apartheid.
It’s that kind of love that we are to live. Maybe not kissing the feet of an enemy
maybe not breaking down hateful systems on our own,
but showing such love to each other, to our neighbor, to that person who is so angry and hateful it breaks down long-held barriers. And not only will we know the love of Jesus in new and deeper ways we will be set free from hatred itself.
The Spirit of Jesus is a force on the move within the communities that dare to love like that daring to live like Jesus did. Amen.