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The message for May 9 2021    

Today’s reading comes from the gospel of John 15:9-17 and it goes like this; As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. 12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants[a] any longer, because the servant[b] does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

Jesus commands us to love one another. What do you think it means to loves one another as a community of faith? Does it mean we are to be nice to each other just in church? Does it mean we have to be nice only people outside of church? Does it mean we need to be nice all of the time, even if someone cuts in front of us in line or is not a nice person? Do you think that faith communities or religious groups in general project love just like Jesus calls us to do?

These are all good questions. Questions that can be a challenge to answer, depending on the circumstances we have had or are experiencing now.  In a book I’ve read called “The Jesus I Never Knew”, by Philip Yancy,he tells a story about a girl down on her luck, to whom he asked if she would like to go to church. Her response was a response that was the same response that many, many ministers throughout time have heard. “Why would I want to go to church when I already feel badly enough as it is?” Sadly, it doesn’t matter what she felt badly about, it only matters that she felt the church is not warm and welcoming. She felt that she would not be loved in the church. Her story is a story that has been heard throughout history. In fact, there is a belief that church or religion has been the cause for many people feeling that they are not worthy. It goes beyond people feeling that they are not worthy, it is also about those who feel religion is the cause of many of the problems in the world today.

It is difficult to hear that there are people in the world who blame faith groups for the woes of the world. It also does not help when there are people claiming to be Christian, but do not act like people following the commandment of Love. The question is how can we change this image? How can we get the world to understand that people of faith wish to project the love of God and follow the commandment of loving one’s neighbour?

There is a story about an old Jewish about a Rabbi and a soap maker, to help us understand how we can change the image of faith communities. A Rabbi and the soap maker went for a walk together one day. As they walked along, the soap maker said to the Rabbi, "What good is religion?  Look at all the trouble and misery in the world after thousands of years of teaching about goodness, truth and peace and this after all the prayers, sermons, and teachings.  If religion is good and true, why should this be?"The Rabbi responded “What an excellent question this is. The question that so many of us have asked when we encounter suffering.” The soap maker continued saying “What good is God? What good is religion, if all this misery and suffering exist, what good is religion if it makes us feel unworthy?” Well, anyway, the rabbi said nothing.  They continued walking until he noticed a child playing in the gutter. Then the rabbi said: "Look at that child.  You say that soap makes people clean, but see the dirt on that youngster. Of what good is soap?  With all the soap in the world, the child is still filthy.  I wonder how effective soap is after all." The soap maker protested, "But, Rabbi, soap can't do any good unless it is used." "Exactly", replied the Rabbi. “So, it is with religion. It is ineffective unless it is applied. Applied correctly!”

 

The statement “applied correctly” is where many faith communities are challenged. Please note, mine is not to judge other faith communities, for each of us has our positives and our negatives. Ours is to do our best. I repeat do our best, to let others, (those who feel church is a negative place to be), know that we are friendly and church is not a bad place to be.

 

To help us, we can look back at our reading today. Remembering that Jesus speaks of loving one another, but also telling the disciples that they are friends. That they are not servants. We can add to Jesus’ words by saying that we all need to love one another and that we too are friends of Jesus. Our role in life, then, just like the disciples, is to ensure others know that they too are loved and Jesus is their friend too. Our role is, by using our personal gifts and talents, is to let others know that they are, just like ourselves, worthy of God’s friendship and worthy of God’s love. God so loved the world that he gave us his only son to take away our shortcomings. Not just our shortcomings, but everyone’s shortcomings. What we are asked to do from our reading should not be a task that has to be done like a chore or job. No, this should be something that we want to do because we wish to help our friends. We should help others because we are loved, not that we loved first, but because God loves us.

 

Thanks be to God!

Pastor Paul