NOTES FOR A MORE COHERENT SERMON—Pentecost 1
Sunday, June 3 , 2007
St. Andrew’s Old Catholic Church
Small Meeting Room, 138 Pears Ave. (Toronto)
*FIRST LESSON* 1 JOHN 4: 8 – 21
You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.
*GOSPEL* Luke 6: 36 – 42
“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
He also told them this parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
SERMON PROPER BEGINS
In John’s epistle we are told “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” In a world where we are often told to fear the stranger, we need to be reminded that in seeing the stranger we are also seeing the image of God. We can not live in the shalom kingdom, we can not build the New Jerusalem, if we can not grasp this simple, radical concept.
It is a principle one sees clearly in traditional Quaker worship where the spirit of God within each one present is listened to. This radical idea—of listening to the spirit of God within—moves out from worship into daily life as the Quakers historically have been among the first to hear the call against slavery, to raise the cry for transformative justice, to welcome the refugee and to clearly, persistently, and gently insist that war is wrong.
Those of us in the more sacramental traditions find ourselves immersed in the loving presence of Christ whenever we share in the Eucharist, infused with the loving, forever giving present of Christ. Going from the table God has set before us, we are to be present in the world as God was present—feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, speaking out for the poor and dispossessed, blessing and sharing in the work for peace.
Leo Tolstoy ends his 1894 work The Kingdom of God is Within You with a clear reminder of the real gift of God to humanity, the immanent presence of the God within us, a gift (like candy at Easter) that we can look for and find:
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matt. vi. 33.)
The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity by contributing to the establishment of the kingdom of God, which can only be done by the recognition and profession of the truth by every man.
“The kingdom of God cometh not with outward show; neither shall they say, Lo here! or, Lo there! for behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke xvii. 20-21.)
If, as Tolstoy argues from scripture, the Kingdom of God is within us, then we are already in the end time, a time when all the promises of creation can be fulfilled. God is present with us, inviting us to share the stewardship of creation, reminding us through the wisdom of our Iroquois teachers to consider the effects of our actions upon the next 7 generations. If the kingdom of God is within us, it is not something to hope for but to sustain.
God’s promise that we will never be alone was made visible when Jesus shared our life and was made tangible at the first Pentecost when God’s indwelling spirit pushed aside all human divisions to be within everyone in the assembled community. Since the first gathering of the Christian community we’ve lived within the kingdom of God, with all the possibilities that is implied with that promise. We are asked to look at ways at living truly in peace with one another—not a peace that is only the absence of war but a peace that develops from seeing the divine spirit within the other. We are to share what we have, not from a spirit of charitable obligations but out of love and compassion and a desire to ensure that everyone can both give and receive.
This is a different kingdom of God than what we may be expecting. It is a divine kingdom in the here and now, a place where imperfect individuals can find within themselves the power to do the impossible. It is not a pie in the sky hope, but a call to ensure that everyone and everything within the creation we are a part of are treated as if they carry with them the divine spirit.
A God that is with us is not a God that desires harm to us or by us. A loving God does not want wars in God’s name nor would such a God want the destruction of creation in the name of a faith based on selfishness and greed. Rather God expects us to be the image of God to the best of our ability—voices of peace in places of conflict; carriers of hope in hopeless times; those that seek to ensure that the gifts of creation are for all who in share in creation. We are to show, by precept and example, that a better world is possible now—not necessarily a world of glittering walls and celestial music but one where the light of compassion is never dimmed, where the possibility of harmony in the world is never successfully drowned out by the voices of hatred.
Last week we celebrated Pentecost, a moment when God gave us a gift—that of love. The gift of God’s love is a simple one—clear and definite. It is the radical comfort of a warm fire in winter, of a cool glass of water in the summer, of a cupboard with food. It isn’t a gift that is overwhelming but one that was sustaining.
When we leave here today we will be carrying forward into the world 2,000 years of shared experience of the Eucharist. We will also be leaving with a 2,000 year old living promise that God is present for us and with us, calling on all of us to take the light of Pentecost into the world. We get to take this light wherever we go—a peace vigil or a seniors’ residence or having coffee with a friend—because the gift is always with us.