SUNDAY, MAY 5, 2024 | EASTER - 6th Sunday of Easter (B)

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Revised Common Lectionary 5-5-2024: Sixth Sunday of Easter

First Reading Acts 10:44–48

Psalm Psalm 98

New Testament 1 John 5:1–6

Gospel John 15:9–17

Acts: Spirit backed up Peter and then Peter used it - baptism is for everyone, just like the Spirit!
1 John: tautology again, it is all connected...
He called us friends - we are called to obey the commandments from Jesus as friends, just like Jesus obeys his from the Father as a son - nobody is some hired hand just doing what they are paid for...
Good morning,
This is our last Easter Sunday, believe it or not.. Time sure flies, incessantly so. And theme is still love.
The radically inclusive, non-coercive, and graceful love. In Acts, we can see that even then people struggled to imagine that EVERYONE has access to God’s grace. Fortunately, the Holy Spirit backed up Petter in his inclusive preaching and then Peter used it to drive home the point - baptism is for me, you, them. Jewish, Gentile, or whatever! Alleluia! God’s grace is not withheld from anyone. Both Johns - the letter and the gospel then expand on this love, but let’s focus on the gospel.
Jesus considers us friends - not servants or hired hands that are simply doing what they are told and then they do not know anything else. No, Jesus is open towards us and he does want us to know what he received from the Father. Whether we understand it is another thing, but he doesn’t want to keep secrets from us! The point of our faith is not some deep secret that only some will get to know - personally, I would want nothing to do with such a faith. No, Christian faith is, at its core, a public faith - no membership fees or NDAs needed to learn the basic truths of it:
Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again!
But of course, that also brings its challenges - if we are called friends and we are in the know, then Jesus can call on us and say - love each other and bear fruit! And as friends, I really do not think it is a threat (do it or else you will disappoint me and burn in Hell), but rather a loving invitation (here we are, let’s do it!).
Our life is full of things that have an underlying threat somewhere - go to work or else you will not have enough money to survive, obey the dress code or be punished, do what we do or you will be cast out out of our midst…and various permutations of these things. It is then just natural that it crept into our religious imagionation as well - you better be a good, obedient Christian or you will be cast out out of our community and INTO the eternal fire. The right faith then become yet another existential threat - you better have it! Or lose it all.
But that is not how a loving friendship goes or at least shouldn’t. Rather, it is a place of acceptance, care for each other, support, and also potential growth. Good friends support us, but they will also challenge us to become better people, when our relationship deepens. And vice versa, we can be the same for them. That is what is at the core here, I think - Jesus calling us into a more intimate relationship, so that we can get to know each other and thus experience growth that goes beyond just our needs and wants, but envelops us into God’s mission of reconciliation and justice for the sake of the world.
It calls on us to have a positive voluntary motivation, rather than a negative forceful one, be it fear or hate. With horror, I watched the violent arrests of students, faculty, and staff just because they challenge the status quo of war profiteering at university campuses and some fear they will lose their golden trough of big military contractor bucks. Likewise, I observe how politicians jettison their conscience out of fear for their reelection chance - be it ignoring the root causes of gun violence, not challenging patriarchal antiquated abortion laws, or stand up for the wellbeing of unaccompanied immigrant minors. They’d rather fall in line rather than stand up for what is truly the right thing to do!
And that is where our faith comes into play - we are called to love and to bear fruit through this love, which may take many forms - advocating for justice for those that are marginalized and mistreated like refugees, young impoverished women, or war affected civilians in places like Palestine, Ukraine, or anywhere else; showing generosity to worthy causes such as labor movements or antidiscriminatory laws; or perhaps by voting for candidates that will actually prioritize what is right over lobbyist money and mere reelection survival.
And guess what, Jesus will be with us through all that and more, because as our friend, he wants to spend time with us doing what we together believe in. He is not some commander or king that will simply tell us what to do under the threat of violence and then hide in a commander tent sipping on port and moving battalions on a map. No, he will be out there alongside us, fulfilling God’s mission. Let us work on the friendship to become stronger and stronger! Amen.
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