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Easter 6 May 10, 2015 - The Rev. Canon Janet Campbell
EASTER 6 Year B  (Rogation Sunday)
Acts 10:44-48; Psalm 98; 1 John 5:1-6; John 15:9-17
Christ Episcopal Church
Tacoma, Washington
Sunday, May 10, 2015
The Rev. Canon Janet Campbell
“By this we know that we love
the children of God,
when we love God and obey God’s commandments.
For the love of God is this,
that we obey God’s commandments.”
Love was no problem for Jesus.
He was, in a sense, made of Love.
Loving was as natural to him
as breathing.
Breathing in love from God,
breathing out love for the world . . .
It didn’t matter to Jesus
who you were
or what you had done . . .
he loved you.
From my reading of the Gospels,
I’m sure Jesus met people he didn’t like.
But he never met a person he didn’t love.
He may passionately have wanted you
to be differently in the world . . .
to do differently in the world . . .
to change . . .
but it was because he loved you,
and wanted to show you the way
to the God who is Love.
In his loving,
Jesus was living the way
God meant the world to live . . .
a world designed to be a garden of love . . .
with love as the soil, the seed, the fertilizer,
the water, the sunlight,
the green shoot, the blossom, the fruit . . .
love, the only thing necessary
for the full flowering of creation which
Jesus called the Kingdom.
It was love itself that God the gardener
planted in the world
in the Incarnation,
in the flesh and blood coming of Jesus,
in his living and dying,
a seed of Love buried in the earth
to germinate and rise in resurrection.
It is Love that resurrection sets free
in the Easter world.

The Risen Christ
God’s persistent, insistent love undefeated,
active in the world
          through the Holy Spirit,
who is everywhere at once
          loving everyone and everything at once.
“As the Father has loved me,
so I have loved you,”
Jesus said to his disciples,
and says to us . . .
“abide in my love.”
Love was no problem for Jesus,
but it is a problem for us.
Maybe that’s why
Jesus doesn’t just ask nicely
that we love . . .
He requires that we love.
“This is my commandment,”
(not my request)
“that you love one another
as I have loved you.”
And how does Jesus love us?

With complete hospitality
toward our particularities and peculiarities . . .
complete openness
to our possibilities . . .
complete gratitude
for our efforts . . .
complete compassion
          for our struggles . . .
complete forgiveness
          for our failures . . .
complete respect
          for the image of God
          in which we are made . . .
complete desire for us
          no matter how much
          we may have distorted that image.
He loves us completely.
We may cause him grief . . .
          we do cause him grief,
and dismay, and frustration, and anguish.
We may break his heart
          over and over,
and stretch him on a cross,
          but he loves us
with the greatest of hope and expectation.
Because we were made out of Love for love,
as Jesus was,
and made to love as Jesus does.

We should not confuse this Way of Loving
with the love that arises from
affection, attraction,
the need to share comfort, companionship, protection . . .
Sustaining even this love that comes from liking and need
is hard enough,
but we are directed by Jesus
to a still more difficult love –
not so much
a movement of the heart
as a movement of the will.
Even if I don’t like you,
or don’t know you,
or am afraid of you,
or jealous of you,
or angry with you,
even if you are strange or a stranger to me . . .
I will love you . . .
want the best for you,
pray for you,
recognize you as one of God’s children,
honor you as one of God’s beloved . . .
receive you as someone God has already received,
respect you as someone God respects,
listen to you,
hear your truth,
tell you my truth,
give you the benefit of the doubt,
forgive you,
ask you to forgive me,
be reconciled with you . . .

I will love you as someone
who, just like me,
brings both joy and sorrow to God
as we stumble our way through life.
We can’t depend
on our hearts,
on our emotions,
to lead us toward
and sustain us in
          this kind of love.
“If you keep my commandments,
you will abide in my love . . .”
“This is my commandment,
that you love one another
as I have loved you.”
Easter is a time to renew
this greatest of disciplines,
this abiding in love.
This thinking of the other,
approaching of the other,
          whether near or far,
with respect, kindness, gentleness, welcome.
Easter is a time to practice Love’s resurrection.
At first, because we are commanded to do it.
Then, because we begin to see that it is right to do it.
And at last,
because we have become what we practice,
          we have become Love.
          A lifetime’s becoming.
“I have said these things to you,”
said Jesus,
“so that my joy may be in you,
and that your joy may be complete.”
And what joy there would be
if we human beings had such love for one another,
rejoicing in and sharing and caring for each other
and all that God has given us,
          and guarding God’s world garden
                   for all the world’s children
                   and their children
                   and their children’s children.
I do imagine . . .
but I am only one small person;
we are only one small community!
What difference can we possibly make
with our small practices of loving
in a world over-run
with hatred and greed and violence and oppression?
In the mysterious interdependence
of all things in God’s world,
in the patient, persistent, secret workings
of God the gardener,
even the smallest seed of love
planted here in Tacoma
may grow into a great tree
          heavy with fruit
halfway around the world –
and we may never know it!
The crucifixion of Jesus
was apparently just one small
senseless, unjust, violent event
in a world of violent and unjust events. 
But through the resurrection,
Jesus’ gift of himself in love
has flowered over the centuries,
borne fruit in countless lives,
generated countless acts
of self-giving love.
Such is the mystery of the operation
of God’s Love in the Easter world,
moving the groaning creation
in ways seen and unseen
toward the Kingdom.

Today, as Christians have done for centuries
          in the Great Fifty Days of Easter,
we celebrate Rogation Sunday –
          the Church’s “Earth Day.”
After the liturgy,
we will make a procession around our grounds,
giving thanks for and asking God’s blessing on
our small part of the world garden.
It is only recently,
and still incompletely,
that we, the Church,
have begun to put our proclamation
where our procession is –
to recognize the preciousness and fragility
of the Creation
and our responsibility as its stewards
for both its present wounded state
and its future restoration.
We can love our sisters and brothers
around the world
and in future generations,
(people we will never know
or have a chance to love in person) . . .
we can love them
by loving and respecting the earth,
our shared home,
and living gently and lightly upon it.

How might we
as individuals
and as a faith community
become better stewards of God’s creation . . .
become better informed
          about how
          our individual and communal and governmental
          decisions and actions
                   affect the environment,
                   contribute to climate change,
                   upset the balance
                             of fragile eco-systems,
                   despoil this fragile earth,
                             God’s beautiful garden.
How might we incorporate that knowledge
into our own practice of love . . .
How might we become a voice and example
          for ecological justice in our diocese and communities?
When we pray today
          for God’s blessing
          on these grounds and gardens,
it would be hypocritical
were we not also
to admit and accept
that we must ourselves be agents
          of environmental responsibility and healing.

By virtue of our practice of abiding in love,
we, God’s Easter people,
participate in a web of loving exchange
through which the Holy Spirit
is renewing and re-creating the world.
By this practice of loving,
we proclaim the meaning of Easter:
Love is come again,
like wheat that springeth green.