Easter 6b: Who are we?

Acts 10:44-48 Psalm 98 1 John 5:1-6 John 15:9-17

Who are we?
Alleluia! The Lord is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!
It is still Easter season. It’s hard for us to remember that some days, isn’t it? We are back in school, or at work, the lilies have faded; we and the world have moved on. We are still considering Jesus, but we have also moved on. In our reading from Acts we are meeting the resurrected Jesus, the Christ, through the actions of the apostles in the world.

Because of the risen Christ, a eunuch was baptized. Because of the risen Christ, Peter baptizes a bunch of people – not Jewish people, but Gentiles. We remember that at this time, the usual path to become a Christian was to first become Jewish. Whether or not Judaism and its associated laws and practices was a requirement for Christianity was a big controversy for the early church. People’s faith was challenged; people in all walks of life had an opinion on who might be a true Christian.

The gospel from the book of John takes place in a quite different time and place. We are with Jesus, not yet crucified, in that room. We know the one. It is the room in which the disciples met with Jesus for a meal, the room in which he washed their feet. It is in this context that Jesus says “I no longer call you servants but friends.” It is this pre-crucifixion context that Jesus says “I give you these commandments” in order that … you will be my friends.
In order that you will walk side-by-side with me in companionship, shared purpose, and love. I have told you everything, and the disciples don’t understand the way in which they will carry out their work, with a Christ who is present in “abiding love,” but not in body. It is a difficult understanding.
In order that you might love one another. Jesus tells us that he loves us with the complete and total love of God who created us in God’s image. This love “indwells” within us; it is already and always there.
We remember that word “abide.” It is a staying with, being part of, existing within sort of existence.

In that complete context we enter resurrection time: new life. We haven’t seen Jesus in awhile, have we? We read about him, hear about him, but I wonder for how many of us he is a friend.

Jesus the Christ just got very dangerous. No longer at arm’s length, no longer safely stored in a tomb, resurrection Jesus is reminding us of what he told us to do.

Perfect Love told us to love one another. We are not alone while we are doing this loving, because God the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit abide with us. We are not alone.

What are we to do?

Last week we looked at love in the form of mission, in reaching out within our community and into the world in the many offerings that we as a community and as individuals make. It was energizing, wasn’t it? Did we learn something about one another? I did. There was new life in this place, not because we were doing some particular new thing, but we were lifting up our many gifts and proclaiming them within a time of holy presence. Holy presence. Mission.

Follow my commands
That you might love one another.
There has been a lot of conversation about which commandment Jesus meant: probably not the ten commandments, but if the “do this” is about all that went on in that upper room, then we might need to wash some feet, break some bread, and drink some wine. The texts that we have are marvelously vague.

Wash some feet.

What if …
Washing feet was about serving one another?
We have a good start, don’t we?
And a good continuation of service that we are doing.
Thanks be to God.
Loving one another had something to do with
Seeing Christ in one another? We promise to do that, right? When/where? Yes, in our baptism vows.

Christianity is about to get scary.
We are going to take our Christianity to other people. Eunuchs, maybe, or Gentiles – whatever and whoever today’s equivalent of a totally other person. To someone (or someone’s) we often don’t even see.

Ready? I didn’t think so! It is going to be okay. Stay put, and take a few deep breaths with me. (do that)

Let’s hear about what I’m talking about with some words from Barbara Brown Taylor:
At its most basic level, the everyday practice of being with other people is the practice of loving the neighbor as the self. More intricately, it is the practice of coming face-to-face with another human being, preferably someone different enough qualify as a capital “O” Other – and entertaining the possibility that this is one of the faces of God.

That’s what I was just saying, right? Imagine with me: in a capital “O” other person we see the face of God. Here is how we take this practice into the world. I am asking each of us to take this spiritual practice into the world this week. (Stay with me)

Barbara continues:
This spiritual practice requires no special setting, no personal trainer, no expensive equipment. It can be done anywhere, by anyone who resolves to do it. A good way to warm up is to focus on one of the human beings who usually sneak right past you because they are performing some mundane service such as taking your order or handing you your change. The next time you go to the grocery store, try engaging the cashier. You do not have to take her home for lunch or anything, but take a look at her face while she is trying to find “arugula” on her laminated list of produce. Here is someone who exists even when she is not ringing up your groceries, as hard as that is to imagine. (94-96) [End of quotation]

Now: meet this person’s eyes for just one moment. In so doing, you have (in one small way) changed both of your lives forever. This person has worries, joys, and as many things to do as you do – and maybe more. This person is someone’s daughter, perhaps someone’s sister or mother or friend. And you have now gone beyond seeing him/her as a means to the end of your shopping. You have acknowledged this person as a brother or sister in Christ, no longer “Other,” and one in whom God already abides. You just looked into the face of Christ.

For many of us, our inner self is going to fight this action. I don’t have the time to look at everyone I meet in a day. I’m busy, I have a thousand things to do, I have to be home by three, thank you very much, someone else can to do this. I do not have the time. Or: I’m shy, people exhaust me, what if the person looks back, what will I say, what will we do? No excuses. Try this at least once this week. Look at a person you might not have noticed before. Get out of your car and walk into the fast food place to get your coffee, that you might have a bodily interchange with a real live person who is providing you with sustenance, and that you are not squawking at a box and catching a bag of whatever from a torso in a window. You are seeking an experience of the living, resurrected, loving, abiding, indwelling Christ in something that you do every day. We are giving one another that we are the living image of God.

When we can escape ourselves and see God in the others who we meet, then we are learning to love our neighbors as ourselves. We are finding a geography for our faith. We are not confined by place to be people of faith.

Jesus gave us these commands in order that we might love another. We are to dwell with Jesus, in order that our joy might be complete. There might be no better friendship to cultivate, no better way to be loving Christians. I wonder where we’ll meet Jesus this week.

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