A sermon preached on The Fifth Sunday of Easter at The Anglican Church of St. Thomas the Apostle, Kefalas, Crete, on May 19, 2019 at 11:00 am.
Readings may be found here – we used the Psalm, Revelation, and the Gospel according to John, but not Acts.
I never used to give titles to my sermons. Giving the titles always seemed to me to give them greater importance that they deserved. Part of it is that I usually write them in 24 hours before the service. Other people would ask me, sometimes weeks in advance, for the title, and I never knew what to do.
However, now that I have been posting my sermons on my blog, I’ve had to come up with titles. And today, it’s “The Glory of Love”. Now, that sounds rather clichéd, like some sort of pop song. And, indeed, there was a song with that name back in 1986 with that name by Peter Cetera, the lead singer of Chicago, right after he went solo:
I am a man who would fight for your honor,
I’ll be the hero you’re dreaming of.
We’ll live forever, knowing together
that we did it all for the glory of love.
Takes you back three decades, doesn’t it? I apologise if this gives you an earworm, sort of.
Glory and Love
The two words come from the very short gospel reading this morning. In Greek the word for the verb “to glorify” is δοξάζω and the word here for the verb “to love» is αγαπάω, and the corresponding nouns are αγάπη and δόξα.
What I find striking is how things move quickly here.
- First, Judas goes out to betray Jesus.
- Next, Jesus says that he, the Son of Man, has been glorified, and that God has been glorified in him.
- Third, he informs the disciples that where he is going they cannot follow.
- Finally, he tells the disciples,
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
What the heck is going on here?
Okay, Let’s start there and try to parse this.
First Judas leaves, and then Jesus declares that he has been glorified, and God in him.
- Jesus in the Gospel according to John is always in control of what is happening. It may look like Judas, the Sanhedrin, and Pilate are all acting to destroy Jesus, but in fact Jesus and God in him is the one who wills what is happening, both as a human and as the incarnate Word.
- The eternal Word of God has assumed all the attributes of a human being, except sin, and having accepted the lowliness of a simple Galilean Jew, he is now ready to suffer with humanity as the wicked and corrupt powers of the world seek to kill him.
- But, as the one without sin, Jesus is going to a place that his disciples or anyone else can go – to offer, as both human and divine, to pass through death. When the infinite encounters that epitome of finitude death, it appears, again, that finitude overcomes the Word made flesh, that darkness overcomes light. But the light shines in the darkness, and is not put out, but shines even more brightly from the cross and in the resurrection.
All of this is an action of love.
- The Word becomes flesh to shine among us because of love.
- Jesus calls the Twelve and forms them into disciples because of love.
- Jesus turns the water into wine, feeds the five thousand, heals the man born blind, and raises Lazarus from the dead, because of Love.
- Jesus challenges the evil forces that possess individuals, and drives them out, because of love.
- And Jesus willingly goes to death on a cross, like a slave, because of love.
- And his resurrection to new life is a sign of God’s love.
- And his resurrection is the beginning of the remaking of the world into a new heaven and a new earth and a new Jerusalem – because of love.
- God will dwell with humans, and will wipe every tear from our eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more – because of love.
That’s why the conversation shifts to the giving of the new commandment, to love one another as Christ has loved us. It’s because everything flows from love, and the glory of God is love made manifest in Jesus Christ.
We are to share in that glory. By the power of the Holy Spirit we are now Christ’s body in the world. What Christ has done we are now called to do.
We may not have to die as he died, for that is a sacrifice once offered and which was, as the Prayer Book says, is “a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world.”
A Calling to Show the Glory of Love
So what are we called to do?
- Love God, and love our neighbor.
- Proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ to the ends of the world, baptizing and making disciples, teaching them everything Jesus has taught us.
- Feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, clothe the naked, minister to the sick, visit the imprisoned.
- Seek justice, and love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.
- Sometimes, be led to places you do not want to go.
- Feed my sheep, feed my lambs.
There are many examples in the lives of modern saints of this love:
- Elizabeth Fry, prison reformer
- Eglantyne Jebb, founder of the Save the Children Fund.
- Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche.
Listen, then to these so familiar words: ““I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
How will you – how will we – show forth the glory of love?