A sermon by the Rev. Linda Harrison
Easter 5; May 19, 2019
Acts 11:1-18; Psalm 148; Revelation 21:1-6; John 13:31-35
God is making all things new – God will dwell among us, all tears will be wiped away, there will be no more pain. Everything is new, the destruction of the old way it used to be – a clean slate. God has made all things new and is making all things new, right now, right here … that is the celebration of Easter, that is the glory of the fifty days we celebrate – all things new in resurrection. God has changed everything in the resurrection of Jesus – God has broken the rules and taken down barriers. Nothing is or will ever be the same …. And yet …
And yet … we still live in this flawed, imperfect, and limited world. It doesn’t feel new or look new. We still shed tears. We still feel pain. We wonder, “Where is this new thing?”
It is tough – living in the here and now. We live between what God has done and what God will do. We live in the kairos time of what God is doing now. We live between resurrections, standing in stunned awe at the empty tomb of Jesus while awaiting that time of our own resurrection, when all things will be united in God.
It is hard to live in this in-between time, to trust, to hold onto hope, to believe. As if that weren’t hard enough, Jesus commands that we love one another, to love the imperfect other in this imperfect in-between time.
Jesus commands us to love one another while Jesus is living in his own in-between time: between life and death, between leaving the disciples and going to prepare an abiding place for them and for us, between his last meal with the disciples and being turned over for arrest, between betrayal by one of his own and the denial of another of who he is in Jesus. Jesus commands us to love one another during his own in-between times.
Jesus shows us what that love looks like in practice, just how very difficult that is … how sacrificial and vulnerable that love is. How real and how raw. During Jesus’ own in-between time, Jesus squats down with basin and towel in hand. Jesus kneels before the one who will betray and the one who will deny. Jesus kneels there and, in all love and tenderness, washes the feet of the ones who will wound him body and soul. The Christ of God, knowing what is to come, shows love, compassion, and tenderness; Jesus acknowledges their humanity.
This is what true love looks like – a love that understands what it is getting itself into and still loves abundantly, for the sake of the world.
It is hard to love like that; so very hard.
As parents, though, isn’t that what we do? As spouses, partners, siblings, dear beloved friends, adult children caring for parents … isn’t that what we do? Love vulnerably, knowing a bit of what we are getting ourselves into? As your pastor, isn’t that what I do? Isn’t that what we do here in community? Put ourselves, our love on the line, knowing that that love will sometimes hurt? And oh, how it can hurt deeply! And we love, anyway. We love knowing something of the consequences of that love, like Jesus loved his friends to the last, at that final meal, washing the feet of those whom he chose and called, and who in a very short time would betray, deny, and scatter.
Maybe, just maybe, if we loved the stranger just a little like that during this in-between time, our world would look a little more like ‘all things being made new’. If we loved like Jesus – vulnerable and abundantly and with eyes wide open – those persons who revile us and say awful things about us and lie about us, who shun us or unfriend us on social media because of our abundant love, maybe we too can catch a glimpse of that new thing; we can live into that new thing; we can show others that that new thing is possible.
Loving so lavishly and with such abandon may seem a herculean task. It would be impossible, as mere mortals, to do so constantly. And yet, we are called to that kind of love for neighbor and stranger, so we do our best with the help of Christ. We do our best, acknowledge and repent of the times we fall short, accept forgiveness and love from God so freely given … and then we go into the world with that same forgiveness and love wrapped around us, sharing God’s love freely and lavishly, for God withholds love from no one – not you, not me, not ‘them’.
This is the continuation of God making all things new – through you and through me, as disciples of Love Incarnate … Love defeated hate, fear, and death itself. Vulnerable Love cried out from the cross, “It. Is. Finished!” … and the old ways were destroyed, how we thought it was or should be was wiped away.
And yes, here we are living in the in-between time, with Jesus, loving as best we can. Coming here to this community, being fed at this table, to be filled by Christ’s love in order to share that love.
Because that is how God dwells among us; that is how we manifest all things new, here and now.
Blessed be God forever.