Worship for Sunday, May 9, 2021

Acts 10:44-48

While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days.

The Word of the Lord.

Psalm 98

Sing a new song to the Lord, who has done marvelous things,
whose right hand and holy arm have won the victory.
O Lord, you have made known your victory,
you have revealed your righteousness in the sight of the nations.
You remember your steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.
Shout with joy to the Lord, all you lands;
lift up your voice, rejoice, and sing. 

Sing to the Lord with the harp,
with the harp and the voice of song.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
shout with joy before the king, the Lord.
Let the sea roar, and all that fills it,
the world and those who dwell therein.
Let the rivers clap their hands,
and let the hills ring out with joy before the Lord, who comes to judge the earth.
The Lord will judge the world with righteousness
and the peoples with equity. Amen.

1 John 5:1-6

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth.

The Word of the Lord.

The Holy Gospel according to Saint John 15:9-17

[Jesus said:] “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.”

The Gospel of our Lord.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

A few weeks ago – on a perfectly – perfect spring day – I escorted the McFarland sons to the Louisville Zoo.

Yes – the McFarlands head to the zoo a lot these days – because Jack works there. Jack has been one of the helpful guys in blue at the zoo for almost a year now.

But this trip was different. Jack wasn’t going to work. This trip was just about fun! Jack and Will had plans for a McFarland brother adventure. They were going to eat jumbo orders of Dippin’ Dots – slurp Icees and hang-out with the animals.

I too had big plans. I was going to sit in the shade and read and knit while drinking coffee. And if I ran out of coffee – I had a back-up tea.   Honestly – I hoped Jack and Will stayed at the zoo a long – long time.

While Jack and Will had a marvelous time devouring ice cream and hanging out with the animals – I watched approximately 100,000 human children make their way into the zoo. In fact – I think every single child in Jefferson County was at the zoo that day.   There were small humans everywhere.

Most of the kids were happy to be at the zoo. But there was one little girl who was not happy. Actually – she was MAD! Like fire shooting out of her eyes – MAD. And even though she was one furious little lady – I liked her right away.   In fact – I could tell we were kindred spirits. Maybe even soul mates.

She was sporting a messy bun/up-do that looked like it had been styled in a blender and so was I. She was wearing jeans and a springy – yellow hoodie and so was I. Plus she felt the exact same way about bossy – domineering people that I did when I was 4! (Okay – I still feel this way about bossy – domineering people . . .)

Because there she stood in the middle of the busy – bustling zoo crosswalk – crossing her sweet little arms – stomping her foot – setting her jaw – and declaring with great passion to her entire extended family (grandparents included) and to anyone else within earshot that they should “ALL JUST STOP TELLLING HER WHAT TO DO!”

And even though I am a bossy britches – mom – I found myself cheering for her in my mind! “Preach it little sister!” – my soul declared. “You take your stand. You make yourself heard. You tell that bossy – domineering big sister of yours just to give you some room to breathe!”

(I could – of course – think these thoughts of solidarity – because I wasn’t the mom – standing in the busy zoo crosswalk having a face-off with my stubborn – outraged child!)

I think we all can relate to that little girl. We don’t like to be bossed around. We don’t like to be told what to do. And we often rebel when someone tries to do just that.

Instead – we want to be in charge.   We want to be the boss. We want to make the rules.

Wow – has he grown over the last decade . . .

And yet – here we are – being challenged once again by our Lord and Savior. Because in our Gospel reading for today Jesus tells us he has a new commandment for us. Please note that Jesus doesn’t say he is giving us a new recommendation. A new suggestion. A new tip. Or some sage advice for us to consider when we feel like it.

Nope – Jesus tells us he has a new commandment for us. It is something he expects us to do

And this commandment isn’t an easy commandment. Jesus’ commandment is hard. It hits home. Because Jesus tells us his commandment is that we are supposed “love one another as he loved us.”

Seriously . . . Oh – how I wish Jesus had said – “I give you a new commandment – you are to tolerate one another.” Or “I give you a new commandment – you are to put up with each other!” Or even – I am asking you to kindly consider loving one another – when and if you are in the mood . . .

I don’t think I would try to tell this guy what to do!

That would have been a whole lot easier. We might even get that commandment right once in a while.   Tolerating people is so much easier than loving people. But Jesus didn’t say tolerate or put up with each other – he said love.

Love one another. Jesus commanded us to love one another. That is hard. That is not for the faint of heart.

When Jesus said we are supposed to love one another – he meant we are supposed to love absolutely – positively everyone on the planet. EVERYONE! Really – EVERYONE!

Of course – Jesus meant we are supposed to love the people who are easy to love. You know – the people who are like us and agree with us and are nice to us. The folks we like. And consider likeable.

But Jesus also meant we are supposed to love our enemies – and people who annoy us – and people who don’t seem very loveable.   We are supposed to love the people who get under our skin and drive us batty.

Everyone means EVERYONE with Jesus.

Thankfully Jesus showed us how to love others. Jesus showed us how to keep this commandment.

Loving one another does not mean we are always going to agree with each other. Jesus disagreed with plenty of folks. But – Jesus loved them anyway.

And the same is true for us. We are called to love even the people with whom we disagree. Even those people who don’t have their masks on or who are careless about social distancing or who disagree with us about how to handle the pandemic. Jesus showed us quite clearly through his own words and actions you can passionately disagree with someone and still treat them with kindness and love.

Jesus loved everyone – yep – that’s right – everyone. Jesus loved Judas – even after Judas betrayed him.   Jesus loved Peter even though Peter denied knowing Jesus when Jesus needed him the most. Jesus loved the men who were crucified with him and the Roman soldiers who nailed him to the cross. Jesus loved everyone!

And the same is true for us. We are called to love all people – even people who disappoint us – even people who annoy us – even people with whom we passionately disagree!

Jesus shared what he had. He fed the hungry – healed the sick – and cared for people. Jesus knew a very important part of loving others was sharing yourself and your possessions with them. And we are called to do the same thing. Jesus was generous and we are called to be generous too!

Most importantly Jesus showed us loving other people means telling them about God’s love, grace, and mercy. Jesus knew the most loving thing you could ever do for someone was to tell her about God. And the same is true for us.

This commandment asks a lot from us.   Jesus’ expectations are high.   And Jesus promises us if we do these things and have love for one another – then everyone will know we are his disciples. Truly that is Good News.  Amen.

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