Sunday 2 May 2021: Fifth Sunday of Easter
Let us love one another, because love is from God
Acts 8:26-40; 1 John 4:7-21; John 15: 1-8
Context: a Eucharistic service involving a small (approx. 20), mostly older congregation - in the suburbs of a small city.
Aim: to emphasise how God’s love for us spurs us on to love one another.
As we continue to walk in the light of Easter, our readings remind us not only of God’s love for us but also that we are compelled to act in response to that love. How have you known God’s love? Where has this love borne fruit in your life and in your love for others?
CALLED TO SHARE THE GOSPEL
The compulsion to act in response to God’s love is evident with Philip in the first of our readings. He is responsive to the Spirit and to the opportunity to proclaim the good news about Jesus. I often feel jealous of the clarity of the earliest disciples. They hear God’s voice and respond. But this isn’t quite what happens here with Philip. While his sense of God’s call is certainly strong, and he responds to the prompting of the Spirit to approach the chariot, nothing more is directed. What happens next, the fruit of his action, all come from his response: ‘Then Philip began to speak…’ The voice of the Spirit leads Philip to where he needs to be. From this point on, it is for Philip to find the words to say.
How do you experience the prompting of the Spirit? What is the good news you are compelled to share?
‘HIS LOVE IS PERFECTED IN US’
Our second reading brings us to the heart of what it means to live as a Christian. We are loved by God and spurred on to live lives of love in response. Or to put it another way, being loved by God has consequences for how we live and act. All three readings suggest this in their own way; as we become more aware of God’s love, our lives are transformed into lives of loving action. ‘The commandment we have… is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sister also.’
This verse (resonant with the great commandment to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love neighbour as ourselves) is the very heart of what it is to be a Christian. We are compelled to pour out the love we have received from God in our concern for others. As our second reading goes on to say, ‘We love because he first loved us.’
This may often seem unachievable, and we certainly fall short. How can our response possibly measure up to the love God has shown to us? We may feel this more acutely now in how we as a Church have responded to the pandemic. We have been living through such difficult and unsettling times, often feeling overwhelmed by the darkness of it all. But there are always flickers of hope in the examples of love and concern we see around us – and in even the smallest of our acts of love. As president Kennedy is remembered as saying; ‘We are not here to curse the darkness, but to light a candle that can guide us through...’
ROOTED IN LOVE
Where might we begin to find the strength to live up to this calling? Our Gospel reading speaks of abiding in God, where our capacity to grow and be fruitful disciples of Christ is not reliant on our own strength but the strength that comes from being rooted in the true vine.
Philip has already exemplified this. He is responsive to God and ready to share the Gospel as a fruitful disciple. The recipients of John’s letter were also rooted in God’s love and learning to know what this meant for the way they responded in love in their own relationships: ‘…if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.’ And finally, here in our Gospel reading, we are encouraged to know that when we abide in God’s love we will be fruitful in ways that we cannot begin to imagine.
‘…ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.’
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