Sunday June 2, 2019
When taken out of context today’s passage from the Gospel according John it is quite confusing. What we heard today is the end of a five chapter discourse, given by Jesus, where he summarizes his teachings and then asks God to bind the disciples to Jesus with love so that they will be able to continue to understand and spread his teachings. The source of that Love is of course God, we know of the love because of the life of Jesus and we are bound together in that love through the Holy Spirit.
When we are baptized, we accept the love that is God and agree to live in relationship with that love. A part of living that life is accepting the fact that we are bound together forever, even after death. We use many different words to explain this relationship, sometimes we refer to ourselves as “The church” and sometimes as “The body of Christ” and I suspect that many of us think these are metaphors, but they are not. We are the church, not because we claim to be, but because we are bound to each other through the love of God. The bond between us and God is eternal, it exists outside of time and space, and it exists whether we acknowledge it or not. I once heard a description of God that described the Holy Spirit as the love that flows between God the Creator and Jesus. We are bound in a similar way, the love of God, the Holy Spirit resides in each of us, it binds us to God, it binds us together, and it flows freely between us, guiding us and nourishing us.
When we recite the creed each week, we begin by saying “We believe in one God”, that one, simple phrase summarizes the entirety of Christian hope and belief. What it means is that “we give our hearts to God” and by doing so we acknowledge that we are connected to God and that because of that connection we can have a profound effect on the world. The model life, as given to us by Jesus, shows us that the deepest moments of life are those when our hearts and habits are wide enough to include others. It is our unity with God and one another that allows us to lead the world to believe; the challenge of living faithfully is not only a call to personal goodness, it is a call to let our lives invite others to follow Jesus. Which begs the question, how do people know that we are followers of Jesus? We may feel unified because of our common perceptions of Christ and through the fact that we set aside time to gather together, but I am sure that we all struggle when it comes to accepting that God loves all people, even if they don’t fit our definition of how people should look and act.
Coming together on a regular basis is an important component of believing in God because it is here that we are reminded of the love that binds us together, however Jesus prayer for us was not that we would get together regularly, his prayer was that we would know God in the same way that he knows God so that we, equipped with God’s loving grace, would be able to invite others to follow Jesus; but before any of us can do that we need to first understand why we believe. Do we believe because our parents did? Do we believe because we are afraid not to? Do we believe because we enjoy the social aspects of being a part of the church? The reason we need to at least try to understand why we believe is because until we understand how God’s love impacts our own lives how can we expect other people to do the same? At this week’s vestry meeting we watched a portion of a Ted Talk by Simon Sinek, who is a motivational speaker, he said, “what you do, proves what you believe.” This phrase caused me to ask myself what we already do to show the world that we believe in God. While I am not entirely sure what the answer is, I am sure that sitting in the pew and talking about it is not what Jesus taught and prayed for us to do. Each and every one of us is filled with God’s loving grace, and so is every person who isn’t sitting here listening to me ramble on about it. There is a world out there full of people who do not know that they too are filled with God’s loving grace and they don’t know because there is a good chance that we forget to take our belief in God with us when we leave this building. Which does not mean that we stop believing, simply that we associate our belief with certain symbols, such as buildings, crosses, and even other people. The problem with this is that these symbols have no meaning for people that have not given their hearts to God, which is why it is vitally important that we show people what we believe through action based on love. Those actions can be simple or elaborate, the most important thing is that they be consciously rooted in the love that is God.
Jesus’ prayer was that we all be bound together in God’s love so that we would have the strength to carry God’s message to others and when we don’t have that strength, we can rely on the gift of the Holy Spirit to assist us in relaying the message to others in ways that we can’t even imagine, but only if we are willing to allow it to happen and the first step is making sure that we take our belief with us wherever we go. We need to wear our belief on our sleeves and make it clear that every person we meet matters. Christianity is not a social club; it is a way of life. It is a way of life that requires constant attention and it’s hard. It’s hard because we are busy people, who have many responsibilities. Jesus knew it would be difficult for us and that we would stumble most of the time, that’s likely why he asked God to send the Holy Spirit to be among us, so be a source of comfort and grace. As difficult as it might be to share our belief with others, as difficult as it might be to love all people all the time, God knows that we will struggle, God knows that we will often faulter and even fail, and even though God knows this, God continues to support us through the Holy Spirit and continues to forgive us for everything we do and don’t that is not consistent with the teachings of Jesus because we are forever bound together in love.