Sermon 19th May 2019

ST COLUMBA’S, PONT STREET

SUN 19 MAY 2019, EASTER 5

Listen Here; https://soundcloud.com/user-942286720/sermon-19-may-2019 

 

1“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples,

if you have love for one another.” John 13:35

 

In the book, Out of Africa, by Karen Blixen, there is a tale about a boy named Kitau.

Appearing at the author’s door one day, Kitau asked for a job as a domestic servant.

She hired him, but was surprised when after three months,

he asked her for a letter of recommendation to Sheik Ali bin Salim,

a Muslim who lived in a nearby town.

Blixen offered to raise the pay of Kitau in order to keep him,

but money was not his interest.

Kitau had decided to become either a Christian or a Muslim,

and his purpose in working for Blixen had been to see, close up,

the way a Christian lived.

Now that he had worked for her and seen the ways of Christians,

he would go and observe Sheik Ali to see how Muslims behave;

then he would decide.

The author remembers how she wished Kitau had told her that

before he came to live with her.

 

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples,

if you have love for one another.”

 

The sands are almost run through the hour glass;

Judas has left the Upper Room;

Gethsemane and betrayal are close at hand.

Last opportunities; no more parables, no more paradoxes,

just a simple command:

“Little children, love each other.”

Not – preach/pray/baptise – all advocated by Jesus, at other moments.

But “Love one another.”

 “…simple enough for a toddler to memorize…

profound enough that the most mature believers

are repeatedly embarrassed at how poorly they comprehend it

and put it into practice.” D A Carson, The Gospel According to John

 

Love is the litmus test. By this everyone will know – 

who we are, and whose we are.

Love is how the world will sees Jesus.

Fail to love, and the world won’t know

that God is love and Christ, the embodiment of that love.

 

Jesus’ new commandment – gives us a road map,

a clear and beautiful way forward:

“As I have loved you.”  

Follow my example; love as I have loved.

Weep with those who weep.  Laugh with those who laugh.

Touch the untouchables.  Feed the hungry.

Welcome the child.   Release the captive.

Forgive the sinner.  Wash each other’s feet.

Confront the oppressor.  Comfort the oppressed.

Tell each other the truth.  Hold each other close.  

Guide each other home. [Debie Thomas, Journey With Jesus, May 19]

 

Simple to say; hard to do.

As a wag once said: “I love humanity – it’s just people I don’t care for!”

Out of the blue this week, I received an e-mail from a former colleague.

He reminded me of a conversation that we had had some fifteen years ago.

At the time, discussing someone who was “difficult to love!”:

the remark offered then, and remembered still:

“You don’t have to like them, but you do have to love them.”

 

This week 751 members of the European Parliament (MEP’s) will be elected.

73 MEP’s will represent the United Kingdom – perhaps only briefly.

The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland recently reminded us:

The Church has a unique role in providing the space for individuals and groups,

who are often on the margins of society

but who are most directly impacted by political decisions,

and whose voices are seldom heard.

As Christians we are called to play our part as individuals and groups within God’s Kingdom. One way we can do this is to encourage open and respectful debate

on the decisions that voters will face on May 23, 2019,

and to use our democratic right to vote. 

 

As we approach this, or indeed any vote-casting moment,

are we informed by the spirit of Peter, encouraged in Acts,

to make no distinction between us and them? (Acts 11)

Or when we choose a party or candidate –

how much does the command to love one other,

inform the positioning of our cross?

 

If that feels like Big Picture stuff, let me finish with grass roots.

This week I had the privilege of being shown the words of a young woman.

[She lives and studies far from this place – so I do not betray confidences.]

 

She is about to leave school, progressing to further study.

That was not always her prospect.

Due to family circumstance she and her sibling experienced in their early years, circumstances that are beyond imagining – at least for most of us.

Separated parents; a life on the move in temporary accommodation;

witness to domestic violence.

Things that no child should not have to face.

 

In this particular case, circumstances changed.

Via excellent foster care, committed social service support and subsidiary assistance

This young woman can reflect on a remarkable road travelled.

In a piece of her own writing she reflected:

 

I was once told that there are two types of people in the world,

the givers and the takers.

Inspired by a Guardian newspaper article on imaginary Last Meals:

If I were to hold my last dinner party I would invite the following givers:

 

My brother – who through desperate early years of childhood, stood by:

My old taxi driver (who undertook the school run for two years)

Although his life revolved around the essence of the clock

he had the most time to give, for others.

And a family member, who has opened new doors for my brother and I.

 

They’re not famous. Collectively it doesn’t seem a lot

but the impact they each have made in my life is extraordinary;

they have defined me.

 

This dinner for four would certainly be a relaxed occasion,

full of what I call ‘good chat’

and yet I know I would feel overwhelmed to have them all in the same room

for collectively they have enabled me to leave my past behind.

I now live in a world of opportunities;

Thanks to (them) I genuinely know what love is now.