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Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year C

John 13:31-35 - link to NRSV text

If I were preaching this Sunday, I think I might be tempted to make this one of the shortest and most repetitive sermons ever by simply stepping up to the pulpit and reciting John 13:34 three times. If I wanted to make it a little longer, perhaps I'd make it John 13:34-35:

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just 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.

I'm not preaching this Sunday at St. Martin's, though; the graduating seniors from the high school youth group have that duty, and I don't doubt theirs will be a sermon that, in the words of the current youth group president, "rox my sox." I hope that as they move on to where God calls them next, they deliver a charge to the congregation like the one that Jesus gives his friends in the gospel passage they'll be preaching on. I hope they deliver it in terms as strong as Jesus'.

I think we need a strong reminder. Too often, we churchy people live as though Jesus had said something more to the effect that the world will know whose disciples we are by the bumper stickers we buy, or by our prosperity, or by the indignation with which we condemn others, or by how much we avoid controversy and increase pledging units, or worst of all, by our respectability.

Our gospel for this Sunday says none of those things. it says that the world will know whose disciples we are by our love for one another -- for each member of Christ's Body.

I have 1 Corinthians 11 and sacramental theology on my brain at the moment, and here's what I'm thinking:

Like it or not, for better or for worse, the quality of our life together declares loudly and, in some cases, more clearly than we'd like whose meal it is we celebrate when we celebrate the Eucharist.  What does your congregation celebrate when you gather?

Last Sunday, I listened to someone at St. Martin's say that she was saddened our liturgy didn't allow for an altar call.  But we have an altar call every Sunday, and every other day we celebrate the Eucharist.  The invitation to the altar is an invitation to Jesus' table, an invitation to remember with our own breaking of bread what Jesus did with his invitation to feast.

In what ways are our celebrations of the Eucharist a celebration of what Jesus did in his meals, in feasts like the feeding of the five thousand?  To what extent do we break bread with whoever is gathered, and bless whatever gifts are offered?

To what extent are we more concerned with screening, with determining whether the guests are the right sort of people and the gifts the right sort of food?

To what extent do our celebrations of the Eucharist proclaim the Good News that St. Paul proclaimed, that there are no barriers of gender, or social class, or ethnicity in Christ Jesus?  And to what extent do our celebrations of the Eucharist proclaim that "there must be factions among you," and to what extent do we make use of Jesus' table to affirm what our culture blesses and despise those who, in official or worldly terms at least, have nothing?

Every invitation to Eucharist, to the meal Jesus instituted in remembrance of him of and his ministry, is an altar call, an invitation to conversion.  And it's more than an invitation to conversion; it's an invitation to inversion.  It's an invitation to give honor to the lowly, riches to the poor, honor to those our world thinks of as shameless.  If we don't do that with our Eucharistic altar calls, it's not Jesus' meal we eat, regardless of the vestments we wear, the words we say, or the building we gather in.

I feel called to say that it's time that those of us who assemble to break bread in Jesus' name take that seriously enough that the whole world notices us for that, instead of for whom we despise and how much we affirm what any respectable American thinks is respectable.

But whether we take it seriously or not, whether we are worthy of his name or not, Jesus is present when we gather in his name.

Thanks be to God!

May 3, 2004 in Easter, Eucharist, John, Year C | Permalink

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Dylan's lectionary blog: Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year C

« Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year C | Main | Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year C »

Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year C

John 13:31-35 - link to NRSV text

If I were preaching this Sunday, I think I might be tempted to make this one of the shortest and most repetitive sermons ever by simply stepping up to the pulpit and reciting John 13:34 three times. If I wanted to make it a little longer, perhaps I'd make it John 13:34-35:

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just 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.

I'm not preaching this Sunday at St. Martin's, though; the graduating seniors from the high school youth group have that duty, and I don't doubt theirs will be a sermon that, in the words of the current youth group president, "rox my sox." I hope that as they move on to where God calls them next, they deliver a charge to the congregation like the one that Jesus gives his friends in the gospel passage they'll be preaching on. I hope they deliver it in terms as strong as Jesus'.

I think we need a strong reminder. Too often, we churchy people live as though Jesus had said something more to the effect that the world will know whose disciples we are by the bumper stickers we buy, or by our prosperity, or by the indignation with which we condemn others, or by how much we avoid controversy and increase pledging units, or worst of all, by our respectability.

Our gospel for this Sunday says none of those things. it says that the world will know whose disciples we are by our love for one another -- for each member of Christ's Body.

I have 1 Corinthians 11 and sacramental theology on my brain at the moment, and here's what I'm thinking:

Like it or not, for better or for worse, the quality of our life together declares loudly and, in some cases, more clearly than we'd like whose meal it is we celebrate when we celebrate the Eucharist.  What does your congregation celebrate when you gather?

Last Sunday, I listened to someone at St. Martin's say that she was saddened our liturgy didn't allow for an altar call.  But we have an altar call every Sunday, and every other day we celebrate the Eucharist.  The invitation to the altar is an invitation to Jesus' table, an invitation to remember with our own breaking of bread what Jesus did with his invitation to feast.

In what ways are our celebrations of the Eucharist a celebration of what Jesus did in his meals, in feasts like the feeding of the five thousand?  To what extent do we break bread with whoever is gathered, and bless whatever gifts are offered?

To what extent are we more concerned with screening, with determining whether the guests are the right sort of people and the gifts the right sort of food?

To what extent do our celebrations of the Eucharist proclaim the Good News that St. Paul proclaimed, that there are no barriers of gender, or social class, or ethnicity in Christ Jesus?  And to what extent do our celebrations of the Eucharist proclaim that "there must be factions among you," and to what extent do we make use of Jesus' table to affirm what our culture blesses and despise those who, in official or worldly terms at least, have nothing?

Every invitation to Eucharist, to the meal Jesus instituted in remembrance of him of and his ministry, is an altar call, an invitation to conversion.  And it's more than an invitation to conversion; it's an invitation to inversion.  It's an invitation to give honor to the lowly, riches to the poor, honor to those our world thinks of as shameless.  If we don't do that with our Eucharistic altar calls, it's not Jesus' meal we eat, regardless of the vestments we wear, the words we say, or the building we gather in.

I feel called to say that it's time that those of us who assemble to break bread in Jesus' name take that seriously enough that the whole world notices us for that, instead of for whom we despise and how much we affirm what any respectable American thinks is respectable.

But whether we take it seriously or not, whether we are worthy of his name or not, Jesus is present when we gather in his name.

Thanks be to God!

May 3, 2004 in Easter, Eucharist, John, Year C | Permalink

Comments

The comments to this entry are closed.