During this season of Easter, we invite you to set aside some time on Sunday evenings at 5 pm to pray and worship at home. Rooted in simplicity and practiced in community, even if separated by space and circumstance, we celebrate Christ’s resurrection from the dead and seek to be renewed by His risen life.
The worship folder for this Sunday is available here.
The readings for this Sunday are:
- Acts 17:22-31
- Psalm 66:7-18
- 1 Peter 3:13-22
- John 14:15-21
- Link to readings
My daughter, Josie, is nearly three – though Becky and I often joke that she acts like a threenager – and she enjoys reading that old Robert Munsch book about the boy named Thomas who refuses to put on his snowsuit. Asked over and over again, his answer is always a defiant ‘No!’ The book hasn’t really aged all that well, and there’s some awkwardness about gender roles and swapping clothes, but on the whole the book is lots of fun.
Fairly recently, Josie decided that it is funny to imitate Thomas. We might ask her to do something, even something that she really wants to do, and she’ll smirk and let out an exaggerated ‘No!’ Or we might ask her a question, and she’ll get the same smirk. And even though she knows the answer, she’ll respond with the most ridiculous thing she can think of.
She thinks all of this is hilarious.
Especially as the second month of pandemic lockdown comes to an end, Becky and I often find it to be a little less funny.
The point is, my delightful nearly-three-year-old daughter has already learned something about disobedience. And not always in such a playful way.
If you love me, you will keep my commandments, Jesus says.
Those who keep my commandments are the ones who love me, and they are loved by my father, and I will love them.
This sounds an awful lot like conditional love. Almost transactional. Do the things I ask, and be rewarded. And if you don’t…
At a minimum, Jesus seems to present a strange contrast between love and obedience.
I’ll confess to not having read all of the most current books on parenting and child psychology, but this tactic doesn’t seem like it would work very well – at least not in my household. Surely Jesus knows this. So what are we to do with this passage.
First, we should remember that in the whole of John’s Gospel Jesus only offers a single commandment. He gives it after he humbles himself, taking the posture of a slave, tying a towel around his waist, and washing his disciples’ feet. He gives it with his eyes firmly set on the cross, well aware of the self-offering he is about to enter into. Aware of his betrayer, whose feet Jesus also washes. In the midst of all of that, Jesus gives a single command – to love one another as he has loved them.
When Jesus speaks of obedience, of keeping his commandments, he’s speaking of participating in love. He’s speaking of relationship. The opposite of keeping Jesus commandment isn’t disobedience, it’s choosing to be cut off from relationship, choosing to turn away from love.
The kind of love Jesus speaks of isn’t just a feeling – it’s a verb. It includes within it all of the beautiful, life-giving desires that God has for us and for all people. It’s a call to serve those around us, to give ourselves away, and to put others first. Even those who betray us.
At times, it feels like it’s hard to participate in this kind of love while we’re in lockdown and quarantine. Some days, I wonder what the point of it all is – if my prayers or my reflections or my efforts amount to anything in these strange days.
But then I remember the members of our community who have tirelessly knit prayer shawls and sent them to people in the midst of pain, loss, and misery. By doing so, they have helped to remind others of the abiding, present love of God. They help to make real the promise that God will shelter us under the shadow of his wings.
Or I think of the members of our community that have gone out of their way to care for others. To call those who feel isolated. To drop off groceries. To share medicine, hard-to-find household items, or to send a thoughtful card.
These things remind me of the real, valuable, effectual ways that we can – and do – participate in love.
The thing to remember is that as we strive to do these things, in efforts big and small, we tap into something bigger than ourselves. Something divine.
And in those moments God meets us, and the love of God is united with the love we offer each other, and we’re all enriched. In a very real sense, it is this kind of love that brings us face to face with Jesus, and reminds us of the abiding love that he offers.
That love is constant. It is unconditional. It’s an open invitation to all – to enter into relationship, and to practice love.
May we not only strive to keep the commandments of Jesus, but to participate in them. May we know the love of God, and may we always seek to share it with those around us.