Fifth Sunday of Easter – Sunday, May 19, 2019

May 19, 2019  

John 13:31-35

As followers of Christ, we live in the between times.
We are between “then” and “when”—which isn’t an easy place to be.

“Then” was the time back then, when Jesus was alive, when Jesus walked this good earth. He taught people and he touched people. He loved his followers and he served those in need.

“When” is yet to come. In the “when” time, Jesus will return to earth, bringing with him a perfect glory. “When” will be the time salvation is known in all its fullness. “When” will be the end of the between.

When John wrote his gospel his readers were living at the beginning of the between.
Early Christians were beginning to experience life without Jesus. Jesus was no longer physically present; Jesus’ followers had to learn how to live without him. To guide them, John reminded them that Jesus said

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” (John 13:34).

In order to know how to live, the early Christian community needed to remember how Jesus lived. In order to know how to live, the early Christian community needed to remember how Jesus loved. Which is why John wrote his gospel. To remind them how Jesus lived and how Jesus loved.

Jesus began his ministry calling a small group of people to a new way of living. Their life with Jesus was a life of teaching and learning. Their life with Jesus included being taught how to share the good news Jesus shared with them. They learned how to heal. They learned how to serve.

Jesus, practicing what he preached, served those who followed him. As his group of “disciples” grew larger and larger, his teaching and his service increased.

The evening he spoke to his disciples, telling them to “love one another,” Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, a task most leaders of households would have left for servants.

And so, to live as Jesus lived, to love as Jesus loved—was first a call to community and second a call to humility. Jesus called his expanding group of followers to love one another, and to be humble servants.

There’s more. There is a third piece. To live as Jesus lived, we are called to live in community. To live as Jesus lived, we are called to humility…
To live as Jesus lived, we are called to sacrifice.

Jesus died for his disciples and he died for the world. Jesus died for us as he died for the world. Jesus died because of his love for his disciples. Jesus died because of his love for us. Jesus died because of his love for the world. If we are to love one another as he loved us—our love has to be sacrificial.

This between time—living between “then” and “when”—it is not easy.
Gathering together, humbling ourselves and loving sacrificially, is not easy.

As twenty-first century disciples—we must discipline ourselves.

Coming to worship, gathering with our faith community is a disciplined act… there are a lot of other things that demand our time. Look around. Think about who you know that isn’t here because they are sick or because they are traveling or because they have sports or because they have to work.

Humbling ourselves is a disciplined act… Humility demands we prioritize the needs of others, which runs counter to much of society’s values. Society is about me or we, not you. Humility asks us to prioritize you, to prioritize others.

Sacrificial living is a disciplined act… an act that takes us a step beyond humility. Sacrifice is not just about prioritizing others. Sacrifice us about giving up parts of ourselves. Sacrifice is not impossible but it is never easy.

We know it isn’t easy because we know how often we fail.

Life between “then” and “when” is not easy.

So how do we carry on, knowing the difficulties?

First, we admit our failures. As much as we want to live in Christian community and we want to be humble and we want to be sacrificial—sometimes we fail. Maybe we fail often! Knowing our tendency to fail we need to admit our failures and remember we are forgiven. Then we need to forgive ourselves and try again. And again. And again.

Second, we carry on when we remind ourselves that we are loved. Jesus does love us. This we know.

Carrying the love of Jesus in our hearts empowers us to do as he commands: to love one another. Because our love is really Jesus’ love overflowing. Knowing Jesus’ love flows through us—makes gathering in community and humility and sacrifice easier. Recognizing the love of Jesus flows through us means living like Jesus and loving like Jesus is not about us. Loving one another as Jesus loves us is about Jesus. We are making way for Jesus to live in all that we say and all that we do and all that we are.

Amen.