Sermons from Rev Julie Wagstaff
Sunday 15th May
If you love me you will keep my commandments. Those words of Jesus to his disciples – are just as important for us today as to those gathered together that evening.
Jesus said that the greatest and first commandment is ‘you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind.’
Clearly then our first and most important priority is our relationship with God.
Jesus went on to say ‘and a second is like it: you shall love your neighbour as yourself.’
So we have God, our neighbour and ourselves ....... not separately but in relationship. We are loved by God, made worthy by God’s love, and express our love for him by loving our neighbour as we are loved.
At the last supper Jesus gave his disciples a new commandment ‘love one another 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’.
Jesus’ love for us is Agape love the love that has redeemed the world. The love that was revealed on the cross. Through the cross of Jesus our relationship with God has been restored. We are now counted as fellow sons and daughters.
Do others see the family likeness? Do others recognise that we are Jesus’ disciples. Does our love for one another attract those who have yet to recognise our Lord. How do we love as he loved us?
Well, following his resurrection, Jesus asked Simon Peter three times ‘Do you love me?’ Three times Simon Peter replied ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you’. Jesus said to him ‘Feed my lambs’, ‘tend my sheep, ‘feed my sheep’.
If we love Jesus then we will love other people as he loves them.
Who is our neighbour? In Jesus time, Jewish teachers often interpreted the command to love their neighbour as requiring only that they love their fellow Jews. In his parable of the Good Samaritan Jesus teaches otherwise.
Who are the sheep Jesus tells Peter to tend and feed? Jesus refers to them as my sheep so we could interpret that as meaning fellow Christians. But God’s Agape love, the love that was revealed on the cross, was a love that redeemed the whole world. It is an unconditional love, a gift of grace that is offered to everyone.
As Christ’s body here on earth we are called to show love in spite of cultural or religious boundaries.
God’s love is expressed in loving each other, loving our neighbours, feeding them, tending them, making sure that they not only hear but experience the good news that they are loved unconditionally by their creator. The outcome of this love is that it is recognised as being from him and will reflect his own nature. It will feed his sheep both physically and spiritually.
Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. He is the bread of life, the light of the world. It’s by loving him, by allowing the Holy Spirit to truly live within us, that we can reflect that love in our thoughts, words and deeds, we can enable others to taste that bread, to see that light and to come to recognise our Lord.
The actual act of repentance and turning to follow Jesus is the work of the Holy Spirit. Our part is to love as he has loved us.
The outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost enables the disciples to communicate, to be able to speak to people in a way they could understand. If we are to communicate the good news to those who have yet to recognise Jesus, we need to allow the Spirit of truth to abide with us and be in us. ‘All who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God’. We are Christ’s church, his body here on earth. Our lives have to reflect that. We have to be seen to be a loving, caring, Christian community ...... actions speak louder than words and they provide a universal language.
During our intercessions we will be praying for a young mother whose name is Morsheda. Morsheda lives on a low-lying island in the Brahmaputra River in Bangladesh. She can hardly imagine life without fear and suffering. The home she shares with her four children is a single room, corrugated-iron shack that has already been flooded several times.
Christian Aid is seeking to help Morsheda, through their partner GUK, by providing a Home Safety Package which will keep her home safe from the flood waters; give her a grant to buy livestock and vegetable seeds and a composting wormery and support her as she works for a brighter future.
Morsheda lives hundreds of miles away in a way so different from our own. We cannot begin to understand how she thinks and feels. The society she lives in, their history and their culture mean nothing to us – and the danger is that we cease to see people like Morsheda as individuals, they become part of a number that despite all the efforts of wonderful aid organisations seems to get bigger and bigger.
As we seek to raise money for the work of Christian Aid we may come across people who ask ‘if there’s a God why doesn’t he do something?’
What more can he do? We are his body now, we have to love as we have been loved.
This Christian Aid week we need to take God’s love into our community to show our local neighbours our love for our global neighbours ..... and in the weeks to come we need to continue to take God’s love into our community and pray that his Holy Spirit will fill us all with his truth and power.