05 May 2024

Again the Lectionary continues with the call to live a life of sacrificial love in order to know and share resurrection. This week the “one another” that we are called to love expands in radical and universal ways, leaving us with no excuse for any refusal to love, and inviting us to become part of the cosmic love-community that God has established in Christ.

May our love for God, expressed in our worship, expand to include all of the creation that God created and loves with death-defying love.

Acts 10:44-48: As Peter preaches to the Gentile believers in Cornelius’ house, the Holy Spirit comes on them and they begin to speak with other tongues. Peter then baptises them confirming that God’s salvation is for the Gentiles as well as for the Jews.

Psalm 98: An exhortation to all creation to praise God for the wonderful works God has done, revealing God’s righteousness to all nations and bringing God’s justice into the world among all people.

1 John 5:1-6: When we love God and keep God’s commandments, we love God’s children. It is by this love that we know that we are born of God, and it is this faith that overcomes the world.

John 15:9-17: Jesus calls his followers to love one another just as he has loved them. There is no greater than to lay down one’s life, as Jesus does, for one’s friends. Through this obedience to Jesus’ command to love we bear fruit that lasts.

The theme of love continues in the Lectionary this week, but the “one another” that we are called to love expands radically. In the Psalm all creation is called to praise God for the righteousness and justice that God brings to all people. In the Acts reading, Peter preaches to a group of Gentiles, with the result that they, too, receive the Holy Spirit, revealing that God’s love, grace and salvation is for all people, not just the Jews. With these two readings in mind, John’s letter, which calls us to love all of God’s children, becomes even more challenging because we realise that the whole creation is God’s child, and all people who inhabit God’s world are God’s children – which means that there is no one to whom we can legitimately deny love. Finally, in the Gospel, the call to love one another must now be understood to go beyond just our companions in the faith. The “one another” whom we are called to love through the sacrificial laying down of our lives, now includes all people and all creatures. The moment we begin to try and exclude some people from our love, for whatever reason, we have failed to truly embrace the love of God. But, when God’s love flows through us to all – including even our “enemies” – we know the vibrant, abundant life of resurrection, and we become life-bringing agents of God’s love to the world.

Global Application:
The radical inclusivity of the Gospel is one of the hardest truths to embrace. In so many ways the world is easier to manage and navigate when we can easily distinguish between friend and enemy, between “us” and “them”. National boundaries and patriotism become important lubricants for this divided world. Personal agendas and interest groups are easier to maintain, and the world is much simpler when we only have to love those who love us, who are like us and who are part of our group. In this view of things, we can make economic, military and even environmental decisions easily, because we only have to worry about ourselves and “our world”. Unfortunately, we inevitably discover the fallacy in our thinking when we see the connectedness of everything, and we begin to see that our actions have consequences for others, even as theirs do for us. Our divisions are, ultimately, illusions, and so the Gospel call to love all people is really the most common of sense. When we begin to love sacrificially, we become more mindful of how our decisions and actions and agendas impact others, and as we start seeking to live in love, the world becomes a more peaceful, loving, and co-operative place – which ultimately benefits us. If there is anything that gives a clear picture of resurrection life it’s love – and as we learn to love sacrificially, as Jesus did, we bring life to others and we enjoy a more vibrant, abundant life ourselves. The challenge, of course, is that the onus is on us, as Christ followers, to be the first to embrace Jesus’ way of love, no matter the cost, in order to prophetically reveal the power of love to the rest of creation.

Local Application:
The global call to love described above can only really be expressed and lived locally – but it is here where the real power of love can make a lasting impact on the world. It starts in our homes as we begin to learn to lay down our lives for our parents, children, and spouses. Then, as our love expands, we begin to learn to lay down our lives for our faith community, loving our Christian sisters and brothers as Christ loves us – embracing worship styles that may not be meaningful for us, giving up our agendas for the sake of others who need God’s love revealed to them, treating one another with grace and kindness instead of criticism and judgment. Then, inevitably, as our love grows, it will expand beyond the walls of our churches into our neighbourhoods, to touch those who are lonely, impoverished, hungry, abused, homeless, and displaced. As this happens, our love becomes like a pebble dropped into a pond, raising ripples that expand ever outward to make the world a more just and gracious and peaceful place. All it takes is the daily decision to lay our lives down for one another, and allowing that “one another” to continue to grow as God brings new people into our circle of influence. St. Francis’ prayer is, perhaps, the best way to think of living this life of love that Jesus calls us to. You may want to sing or pray it this week.

A Love So Strong
Divine Lover
How You Have Loved
Love In Action
Where Is The Love?

Hymn Suggestions:
Christ For The World We Sing
Christ From Whom All Blessings Flow
Make Me A Channel Of Your Peace (Link to YouTube video)
God Of Justice (Link to YouTube video)
As We Gather (Whatever We Do)
A New Commandment (Link to YouTube video)

A Liturgy for the Agape

Video Suggestions:
Salvation & Love
Abide In Me