19th May 2019 – 5th Sunday of Easter – 8.00am & 10.00am Parish Eucharist – Revd Michael Beesley
“THOUGHTFUL SPOT” - 19.05.19 - “Easter 5”
Baruch 3 vv.1-15 & 32 - 4 v.4: Baruch, the prophet Jeremiah’s secretary, sends a letter to the people of Israel in exile in Babylon, saying they must learn from God’s wisdom to find their way back into His light and peace.
Acts 11 vv. 1-18: St Luke tells how when Peter was criticised by the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem for mixing with non-Jewish Gentiles, he explained how God showed him in a vision that the Good News of Jesus was for all people and led him to Caesarea to a Gentile household. There he witnessed how they’d been led by the Holy Spirit to become followers of Jesus, just like him.
St John 13 vv.31-35: Jesus tells his disciples at The Last Supper He is going on ahead of them through his dying into the glory of God; and that, while this means He is leaving them physically, they must go on reflecting His love by loving one another so the world will see Him through them.
Today’s Bible readings tell us God wants us to spread His ways of love to all the world, in line with Jesus’ commandments to love God and neighbour.
In our first reading, we heard how Baruch, the prophet Jeremiah’s secretary, sent a message to the people of Israel in exile in Babylon. He told them they were captives in a foreign country because they’d abandoned the ways of God. He said they would be freed only if they sought to live by God’s wisdom and understanding; and they must return to following God’s commandments where true light and peace are to be found.
In our second reading, we heard how St Peter was criticised by Jewish Christians in Jerusalem because he’d been sharing the faith with non-Jewish Gentiles. He explained how God showed him in a vision that the Good News of Jesus was for people of all countries and religions; and how God led him to a household in Caesarea where it was evident they’d been inspired by the Holy Spirit to become followers of Jesus just like him.
Then, St John tells us how, at The Last Supper, Jesus told his disciples that he was going on ahead of them through his dying into the glory of God; and that, while that meant He was leaving them physically, they must go on reflecting His love by loving one another in a way that shows to the world He is living through them. .
There are some powerful themes running through all our readings today: They include: “God’s Wisdom”, “God’s Commandments”, “God’s Light”, “God’s Peace”, “Sharing of faith across all Human Boundaries”; and, perhaps most important of all, “Love for one another”.
Here’s a brief story which illustrates the meaning of this commandment. It was written down by Anthony de Mello, a Roman Catholic priest, who lived and worked in India. It comes from the Hindu faith.
A religious teacher asked his disciples how they could tell when the night had ended and the day had begun.
One said, “When you see an animal in the distance and can tell whether it’s a cow or a horse.”
“No.” said the teacher. Another said, ”When you look at a tree and can tell if it’s a neem tree or a mango tree”. “Wrong again.” said the teacher. “Well then, what is it?” asked the disciples. The teacher replied:
”It’s when you look into the face of any man and recognise your brother in him; and when you look into the face of any woman and recognise in her your sister.
If you cannot do this, no matter what time it is by the sun, it is still night!”
A key member of our church told me after Brian Cook’s funeral that someone said to her it was sad he had no family around him when he died. She replied that at his funeral the church was full of people who loved and cared for him. In fact, two members of our church cared for him personally in his last days.
Clearly, he was upheld by his Christian family, his brothers and sisters in Christ. This is exactly what Jesus meant in St Mark’s Gospel when he said, “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” (St Mark 4 v.35)
Earlier this year, I received a letter from Michael Camp to several members of our church. It began “Dear Brothers and Sisters”. So, here he was addressing us as his brothers and sisters in Christ; reflecting clearly what Jesus meant in today’s Gospel when he told his disciples to love one another.
This is not the love of physical attraction or even mutual friendship, but it’s the Greek word, “Agape” which means putting ourselves out selflessly and willingly to see and treat others as members of God’s family.
This is what I see in action so often here among members in our St Peter’s Church, and it’s what makes me feel blessed to be part of this community.
Time and time again, I’m aware of our members not only treating each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, but especially being alongside them when they go through any crisis, turmoil or distress. Also, they reach out, beyond these walls, to treat as brothers and sister in Christ, people who need help and support; like refugees trying to make a new life in the UK, abused women being sheltered in the refuge; and those living on the streets in Poole because they’re homeless.
Last year, we were visited by Mike Simpson, CEO of the charity, The Fellowship for Relief & Reconciliation in The Middle East, which helps to fund St George’s Anglican Church and Medical Clinic in Baghdad. In that medical centre, they treat people of all faiths and none.
In the Spring edition of their magazine “Restore”, Mike Simpson quotes the Pastor of St George’s, Faez Jirjees, who said this: “I would like to thank those who contribute to help the Christian people in Iraq. When we were displaced and persecuted, we would not have risen again without your prayers and financial assistance. Your aid was not limited to us, but included all the people of Iraq. This reminds me of the most beautiful verse in the Bible: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind; and love your neighbour as yourself’”
In today’s Gospel, Jesus says it’s our calling as His followers to be attractive to the world like those in Baghdad for the way we love one another and in the way we reach out with Agape to those of any faith or none, especially those in need.
I invite us now in a minute of silence to think of those around us in church this morning, and be honest with God, do we see each other as brothers and sisters in Christ and, if so, how do we show this in our words and actions and in our prayers? And, do we think in the same way about every person we see or meet beyond these walls, knowing that God loves each one?
So in the silence, the questions for you are these:
- Do you see each person here in church as a brother or sister in Christ; and, if so, how do you show this through your words, actions and prayers?
- Do you think in the same way of every person you see or meet beyond these walls knowing God loves each one individually and personally?
(One minute silence)
Finally, let’s pray that we will love one another as Jesus tells us to do, using these words from a well-known hymn:
Brother, sister, let me be your servant, Let me be as Christ to you;
Pray that I may have the grace to let you be my servant, too. Amen.