Reflection for Sunday – May 14, 2023
Readings: Acts 8: 5-8, 14-17; 1 Peter 3: 15-18; John 14: 15-21
Preacher: Susan Howard
“If you love me you will keep my commandments…”
What does this love look like?
The great commandment to love one another and your neighbor (stranger or in this case a neighboring country) as yourself is a difficult and arduous undertaking if you try it on your own. It’s not a weekend DYI project that can be accomplished with brute strength, a few tools and Google knowledge. It is not a problem to be fixed by throwing money at it or gathering knowledge. Rather, it is possible for all humans, no matter their station in life, to actually change the world, or at least their corner of it.
This is how it begins…The Samaritans had a contentious relationship with some of the Jewish factions. Despite this, Jesus had visited them during his early ministry and planted seeds of God’s love in their hearts. The fact that Jesus did not hold a grudge nor deny them God’s love is a sign of great respect even for one’s enemies and that peace is achieved through non-violence and patient teaching.
That peace is finally achieved through the ministry of Philip the Deacon. He uses his gift of preaching to bring about a change in a whole community. In his preaching and teaching he would have shared with them the whole story of Christ, his ministry of healing, his teachings, his suffering, death, resurrection and assumption into God’s heavenly home.
In the name of Christ he was able to cleanse people of their unclean spirits. One can just imagine the joy that comes from being cleansed from the of the sins of pride, ambition and the desire for grandeur, all those human failings that separate us from the love of God. In this manner Philip is witnessing to the message of Christ, and his words, so full of Truth, are life changing.
The peace building kind of life that Jesus embodies is also evident in 1 Peter 3:8 (a scripture passage just before today’s reading) where we hear a description of what this life entails: “be like-minded and sympathetic, love as brothers (sisters), be tenderhearted and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. Even your enemies can be changed…”
Sanctify Christ as Lord in your heart (1 Peter 3:15) so your life in the Spirit can be a force of good in the world. This sanctification is a daily practice of choosing to live like Christ. To choose to love rather than hate. The power of faith grows and is nurtured when we attend to it every day, just like food, sleep, and exercise. In some Christian homes you will find a holy water font by the door, a crucifix on the wall, or other signs or shrines they keep reminding them daily of their call to love as Jesus did.
I was witness to this grace this past weekend. After a homily about sharing one’s gifts with those in need, a friend of mine who has very few possessions offered to donate one of his belongings to a person who is not a very nice man. This man has been condescending and snobbish to my friend and yet he is willing to let that go in order to give this rude man a gift. What a wonderful sign of the generosity of heart that can be opened by listening to the word and letting it work in our lives in a real and visible way.
And so, it is our joy and privilege to participate in the Eucharist each week. Fed by the words of truth, the prayers, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the Body and Blood of Christ we can realize the workings of God in our midst. In our communities of faith, we meet others who share our values. We pray with them for strength and patience to live out our calling. We bring all our worldly cares and concerns to the foot of the cross and unite them with the suffering of Christ. We ask for the help of the Holy Spirit to wash over us and fill us with Christly compassion and grace. With songs and prayers, we open our hearts and weary souls to come forward to receive the very gift of Christ, God’s own self, to bring new life to us and the whole world.