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Easter 5 May 3, 2015 - The Rev. Canon Janet Campbell
Acts 8:26-40, Ps. 22:25-31; 1 John 4:7-21; John 15:1-8
Christ Episcopal Church
Tacoma, WA
Sunday, May 3, 2015
The Rev. Canon Janet Campbell
In the Great 50 Days of Easter,
we remember anew
what it means to be Easter people,
Easter people not just in these 50 Days,
but all year round.
“Beloved, let us love one another,”
John writes to his community,
and to us,
“because love is from God . . .
God is love.”
We are God’s beloved,
(not God’s only beloved,
for God loves all that God has made)
but we are God’s beloved
          called together
          in this time and place
                   by Love . . .
to open to the world in love,
to go out in love to the world.

God is Love,
and everything that comes from God
comes from Love:
God’s grace,
          God’s power,
God’s judgment,
God’s forgiveness,
God’s justice,
God’s mercy,
all welling up
from the heart of God
which is Love.
 In the adventure of life,
joys and sorrows,
delights and tragedies,
changes and challenges;
times of peace and times of struggle,
times of certainty and times of questioning . . .
In the adventure of life
there is one constant:
“God is love,
and those who abide in love
          abide in God,
and God abides in them.”  

In every moment of our lives,
God, loving us,
is shaping us in love
so we may love as God loves.
God’s shaping love
may not always be easy
for God or for us,
as a parent’s shaping love
may not always be easy
for parent or for child:
The love that seeks only good
for the beloved
must be both tender and tough,
it must be clear-eyed and full of truth . . .
We have come to know
          that tender and tough,
                   honest love
          in the person of Jesus Christ,
God’s love incarnate,
God’s love
          walking around on the earth,
teaching, healing,
          forgiving, renewing,
challenging, correcting,
          admonishing, truth-telling  . . .
God’s love rejected, crucified
but risen and
abiding with us always.
“I am the vine,”
said Jesus to his disciples,
“and you are the branches . . .
and God is the vine-grower.”
Without branches, the vine can’t produce grapes.
Without the vine, the branches wither and die.
Without the constant care of the vine-grower,
          neither vine nor branches will thrive,
                   and the fruit,
          if there is any,
                    will be poor.
Through the interdependence
of vine, branches and vine-grower,
through this mutuality of love and desire,
comes a bountiful harvest.
“I am the vine,” says Jesus to his disciples,
“the stock from which you branches spring.
You belong to me as branches belong to the vine;
you have life because you abide in me.”
What flows to us
through the vine that is Jesus
          is love . . .
Abiding in Love,
nourished by Love,
disciples bring forth the fruit of love,
which is God’s Love alive in the world. 

God the vine-grower
watches over us,
pruning away what is harmful to the vine,
          what is life-less,
attending to the health of the branches
so we can bear
the luscious, full, ripe grapes of Love.
Pruning . . .
the tough part of loving as God loves . . .
loving that may not always look or feel like love
          to the lover or the beloved . . .
          but is loving nonetheless:
the time-out in the corner after a tantrum,
the grounding after a blown curfew,
the refusal to enable destructive behavior,
the decision to leave an abusive relationship,
the calling to account
          by someone who loves us enough to risk it,
the sudden glimpse of ourselves
in the mirror that is Christ,
revealing our foolishness, ignorance, self-centeredness,
our arrogance, cruelty, complacency,
our inaction . . .
our failures to love as we have been loved.
          leading to a more bountiful harvest.
At the harvest,
the beautiful, plump grapes
are torn from the branches,
thrown into a vat
and crushed underfoot
to make wine,
          wine to slake the thirst
          and gladden the heart
                   of those who drink it.
The fruit of discipleship is
our own beautiful lives
poured out
to slake the thirst and gladden the heart
of an anxious, weary, tarnished world.
In this is love,
that we
watch over our neighbors,
                   old, young, and in between,
          adopt a dog or cat from a shelter,
          pick up the piece of litter on the trail
                   even though it’s not ours,
          smile in the checkout line,
                   no matter how agonizingly slow it is,
          think the best of others,
                   until there’s reason not to,
          speak up for the rights of all,
          be kind, as the saying goes,
                   for everyone is fighting a great battle . . .
In this is love,
          that we bear the ambiguity
          of not always knowing
                   what is the loving thing,
In this is love,
          that we don’t take the easy way out,
          that sometimes our answer is yes
                   and sometimes it must be no,
          that sometimes there are competing loves
                   and we must choose one over the other,
          for love is not all sweetness and light.
Sometimes it’s the hardest thing
          we’ll ever do.             
In this is love,
          that we view the world
          and all that is in it
          through the lens
                   of a love wise as a serpent
                             and innocent as a dove.
This is love lived in the pattern of Christ –
Christ, the Good Shepherd
who lays down his life for the sheep,
Christ, the Bread of Life,
          broken and given for the life of the world.
Christ the Vine,
          pouring his life into the branches,
                    so we may bear the fruit of Love . . .
For this is the test of Love . . .
          that it give life, and bear fruit,
          the fruit of a discipleship
          that goes beyond pleasant feelings
          of affection and benevolence . . .
          the fruit of a discipleship
          spent in self-giving,
          specific concrete actions
          that stretch us,
          cost us,
          change us . . .
                                       and change the world,
                                                one small loving act at a time.
We are Easter people,
gathered by Love,
abiding in Love,
nourished by Love’s food and drink,
building one another up in love,
incarnations of God’s love
          sent forth by Love
for loving encounter with the world . . .
branches of the vine
that is Christ
reaching out to embrace
the whole creation in love.

We are God’s beloved,
(not God’s only beloved,
for God loves all that God has made)
but we are God’s beloved
          present here in this time and place.
let us love one another . . .
Let us love parents and children,
sisters and brothers,
strangers and neighbors
and faraway people we will never know . . .
Let us love Christian and Jew and Muslim,
          atheist and agnostic,
let us love
          black lives, brown lives, red, yellow, pink, white lives . . .
                   for all lives matter.
Let us love Republican and Democrat and Independent
          and Tea Party-er,
let us love adversary and friend.
Let us love
mouse and elephant,
wolf and lamb,
bug and beetle,
camel and hippo,
rock, tree, rushing river, burning desert,
soaring mountain,
this fragile earth our island home . . .

Let us love the unloving and angry,
the broken and ugly,
the weird and the worrisome,
the annoying and troublesome . . .
Let us love ourselves . . .
Let us love all these . . .
with tenderness and toughness,
honesty and integrity,
          with the love from God that abides in us.
For God made and sustains all these,
and God is Love,
and if we do not love as God loves,
we do not love God.
In these 50 Days of Easter,
and every day,
let us drink of, bathe in,
the waters of love
with the excitement and anticipation
of the Ethiopian eunuch,
who hearing the story of
          Love crucified and risen,
hurried to the water to be baptized,
eagerly giving himself
          to that life.
He went on his way rejoicing,
to learn Love’s cost
and Love’s reward.