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Easter 6 May 6, 2018 - The Rev. 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 6, 2018
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.”
Loving was no problem for Jesus.
It’s clear from the Gospels
that he saw the truth
of everyone he met . . .
and sometimes didn’t like what he saw . . .
and so, his call
to repent of unloving words and actions
          and be transformed by God . . .
                   to be differently in the world . . .
                   to do differently in the world . . .
because he never met a person
          he didn’t love,
and wanted to show everyone
the way
          to the God who is Love.

Jesus was made of Love:
the dynamic Love
          that is the inner life of the Trinity . . .
Love flowing among the three persons
          of the one God,
and, Love begetting love
          as love will do,
spilling over
into the Creation
God had lovingly brought into being
          and was continually creating
                   in love . . .
In the incarnation of Jesus 
Love was afoot in Love’s own Creation
Loving as natural to Jesus
as breathing . . .
breathing in love from God,
breathing out God’s love for all the Creation . . .

In his loving,
Jesus was living the way
God meant the world to live . . .
a world designed from the beginning
          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, all that is needed
for the full flowering of creation
Jesus called the Kingdom of God.
It was Love itself that God the gardener
planted in the world
in the flesh and blood coming of Jesus,
in his living
and in his complete offering of self
          in his 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.”
No problem for Jesus,
          but a problem for us.
Maybe that’s why
Jesus doesn’t just ask us nicely
to 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 understanding
          of our struggles . . .
complete forgiveness
          for our failures . . .
complete compassion
          for our sorrows . . .
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.
We may refuse to respond to his love;
          still he loves us with complete hope.
We may cause him grief . . .
          we do cause him grief,
and dismay, and frustration, and anguish.

We may break his heart
          over and over,
nail him to the cross
          of our heedlessness and folly
                   and cruelty and greed . . . 
but he goes on loving us
with the greatest of expectation,
flinging wide the doors
          of the prisons
in which we incarcerate ourselves,
calling us
          to venture out into Love’s freedom . . .
because we were made
to participate
in the divine love
          of the persons of the Trinity.
We should not confuse
this divine Way of Loving
with the human kindness and love that arises from
affection, affinity, attraction,
our need for comfort, companionship, protection . . .

We are directed by Jesus
          to a more challenging love –
not so much
          a movement of the emotions
          as a movement of the will.
The will to love, as Jesus loves,
everyone we encounter,
and especially
the ones we may personally find
          most difficult to love.
We are to
want the best for them,
pray for them,
listen to their truth,
tell them our truth,
give them the benefit of the doubt,
forgive them,
ask them to forgive us,
be reconciled with them . . .
Love them as someone
who, just like us,
brings both joy and sorrow to God
as we stumble our way through life.

We can’t depend
on our hearts
to lead us toward
and sustain us in
          this kind of love.
“This is my [difficult] commandment,
that you love one another
as I have loved you.”
Jesus’ command to love
does not mean
we should accept
          or mistreatment
                   from anyone . . .
does not mean
we should continue to live in a situation
                   to our emotional
                   or physical well-being . . .
There are times
when we must love
only at a distance . . .
When there is great pain,
no hope of reconciliation or healing,
when we feel we cannot ever forgive . . .
love for the offender
can still be offered
          in prayer.
For to try to love
          as Jesus loves
means to try to love
          the impossible to love.
“As the Father has loved me,
so I have loved you.
Abide in my love.”
Easter is a time
to practice Love’s resurrection
          in us,
to renew
this greatest of practices,
          this abiding in love:
this thinking of the other,
approaching of the other,
          whether near or far,
          whether easy or difficult,
with respect, kindness, gentleness, welcome,
this seeking and loving and serving Christ in all persons,
          loving our neighbor as our self.
this striving for justice and peace
          and respecting the dignity
                   of every human being.

At first,
          simply because we are commanded to do it.
          because we have begun, not just to know,
                   but to experience,
                             the rightness of it.
And finally
          because we have become
                   what we practice . . .
                             we have become Love.
          A lifetime’s becoming
                   may take us there.
This is the divine love
          trying to gain a foothold
                   in us.
There is another loving
so long neglected,
love for the wondrous works of God
not only in human beings,
but in animals, birds, fish, insects, reptiles
plants, flowers, trees,
water, air, stone,
love that cherishes and protects
          the beauty and integrity of all creation.

“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 with and caring for each other
and all that God has entrusted to us,
          and guarding God’s world garden
                   for all the world’s children
                   and their children
                   and their children’s children.
Well might we wonder
what difference we could possibly make
with our small practices of loving
in a great wide world
with hatred and greed,
          violence and oppression?

In the mysterious interdependence
of all things in God’s creation,
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 senseless, unjust, violent 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 fragility
          of all Creation
and our responsibility as its stewards
for both its present wounded state
          and its future restoration.

We love and respect 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 love and respect them
by loving and respecting the earth itself,
          our shared home,
by living gently and lightly with and upon it,
good stewards of God’s creation . . .
When we pray today
          for God’s blessing
          on these grounds and gardens,
it would be hypocritical
were we not also
to commit ourselves
to be agents
          of that blessing,
          of environmental responsibility and healing.

Abiding in love,
we, God’s Easter people,
participate in the web of loving relationship and exchange
through which the Holy Spirit
is renewing the Creation and all that is in it.
Abiding in love,
we proclaim the meaning of Easter
for all time,
for every time,
even for this most anxious, fearful time:
Christ is risen,
          love undefeated,
Christ is risen,
          and with him, we arise,
Christ is risen,
          all creation is rising.