Saturday, May 5, 2018

Dying and Rising: Reflections on 1 John 5.1-6 (RCL Easter 6B, 6 May 2018)

I hope that you forgive me for what are more meditative thoughts, even pensive, about the God who calls us 'friends'.

Dying and Rising
Reflections on 1 John 5.1-6

RCL Easter 6B
6 May 2018

Saint Faith’s Anglican Church

1 John 5.1-6

            5.1Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child.  2By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.  3For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments.  And his commandments are not burdensome, 4for whatever is born of God conquers the world.  And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith.  5Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

            6This 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.

When I was growing up, it was simply assumed that I would belong to an Anglican parish and that I would learn how to behave like a good Anglican boy.

I did not resist this expectation.

Most of my non-school friendships were with other young people in my parish or with members of my Scout troop --- sponsored by the parish.

I loved worship and sang in the choir until I went away to university.

Even at university I tended to come home on weekends --- to do laundry, to enjoy home-cooking and to worship in my ‘home’ parish.

But I only came to ‘believe’, to be in love with God in Christ and through the Spirit when I went to seminary.

Even though I had always thoughts about ordination, it was not until I had a mystical experience during our Bishop’s visit to Saint Michael’s in the autumn of 1977 that I felt the pull on my soul.

That pull grew stronger through the year and by the autumn of 1978 I was a first-year student at Nashotah House in Wisconsin.

But I was there because I belonged within the Anglican community and I knew how to behave in an Anglican community --- important experiences to be sure --- but I had not yet fallen in love with God.

But then, one night in the spring of 1978, I fell in love with God.

It was during the first Easter Vigil I even attended.

The deacon raised the Paschal Candle; its light filled the darkness of the seminary chapel.

Then he began to sing the Exsultet, the Easter proclamation:  

Rejoice now, heavenly hosts and choirs of angels, and let your trumpets shout Salvation for the victory of our mighty King.

O blessed iniquity!  That such a sin should merit such a Saviour.

How blessed is this night, when earth and heaven are joined and we are reconciled to God.

These were just a few of the words that the deacon sang and, as he sang, I realized that God was singing them to me and to all who were standing in the Easter light.

And I was hooked.

I was hooked on a God who cannot help but create and love.  

I was hooked on a God who loves us so much that Love comes down to us in Jesus.

I was hooked on a God who does not remain silent but who speaks to us through the whisper and through the mighty wind of the Spirit.

And I am still hooked.

But being in love with God, being in a life-giving, life-affirming relationship with God, is not about a moment but a life-time of commitment to and learning about the Beloved.

I have learned and I am learning that loving God means dying and rising --- again and again and again.

I have learned and I am learning that love God means laying down my life for my friends.

Laying down my life means

pursuing justice rather than privilege;

exercising mercy rather than retribution;

living humbly rather greedily;

and it’s not easy.

But because it’s difficult, by God’s grace, I belong to a community that helps me behave as a disciple of Christ.

And who are the friends for whom I am to lay down my life?

Some of these friends are people who share my commitment to follow Jesus as Lord.

Others are people who do not share my commitment, who may even be in the thrall of privilege, retribution and greed.

Then there are those folk who are seeking the way, the truth and the life, but aren’t sure where this way, this truth and this life are to be found.

The good news is that I do not do this alone; I am surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses --- all those good folks of faith who walk with me as disciples of Christ.

Christian discipleship is not a form of theological algebra.

Just last week during our Coffee Hour Seminar we found ourselves acknowledging that we are committed to doing justice --- but what is justice?

Discipleship is more a form of theological calculus, the realization that it’s more an ‘almost but not yet’ than a simple answer.

We have moments where we know we have drawn so close to God that we feel we can reach out and touch God. Then we have moments when the distance between our hopes and our reality seem impossible to bridge.

But Love bids us welcome and draws us near --- and we touch the face of God --- in friend and stranger, in the beauty of creation and in the hope that draws us on.

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