Jesus is Love

6th Sunday of Easter
Jesus is Love!

Acts 17:22-31
Ps 66:8-20
1 Pet 3:13-22 
John 14:15-21 

They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them. Alleluia! John 14: 21

Tena koutou katoa e te whanau o Te Wairua Tapu.

Well, it seemed like we might be back at Te Wairua Tapu sooner than expected. However, Archbishop Glen Davies tweeted, “Step 1 is not the time to re-introduce Sunday public worship……The coronavirus is still a very real danger for us all, so the need for ongoing vigilance is paramount.” So whanau, to be vigilant means we remain in this space for a bit longer and there must be some more lessons for us to learn while we are here. 

In our gospel reading today, Jesus says, “I will not leave you orphaned.” Yet, it seems like we have been orphaned during this time of absence from Te Wairua Tapu, Moorebank and Wollongong. In those few words, Jesus speaks directly to some of our greatest fears and challenges; abandonment, isolation, loneliness and vulnerability. Those words remind us that we are not destined to live life without an identity or direction. Something we have been constantly confronted with during this time.

You see, there are times and moments of life. Just like now. Times when transitions, changes, and tragedies can leave us feeling like orphans. And for reasons beyond our control, we seem to be living like orphans today. Facing the same questions. What will I do now? Where do I go? What happens next? Who will love, nurture, and guide me? Who is on my side? Those are the sort of questions that orphans would pose just like the disciples did. Remember last week, it was the last supper. The disciples had been fed, feet washed and the betrayer had left. It was nightime and Jesus announced he was leaving. The one for whom the disciples had left everything now tells them he’s leaving. “We don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?” “Show us the Father.” Those are orphan questions.

That is our biggest fear, becoming orphaned. I remember losing my mother, broke my heart and I never thought I’d get over it. Still miss her today. But my fear and I am sure your fear points to the deeper reality that by ourselves we are nothing. It’s not because we are not good enough. It’s because we were never created to be self-sufficient. We were never intended to be alone as individuals. Read the book of Genesis. Instead, we were created to be in community or communion with others. To love and be loved, to live in relationships as persons giving themselves to each other, to dwell, abide, and remain within each other just as God is in Jesus and Jesus is in God; the total opposite of being orphaned. “I will not leave you orphaned.” That’s what Jesus promises. No matter what the circumstances are in our lives; the storms and troubles we encounter, the death of loved ones or the separations we face, we have never been and will never be orphaned or left alone by God. 

How strange those words must have sounded to the disciples. Jesus tells them that he is leaving and then coming back. Leaving and coming sure sound like opposites. But don’t fall into the trap of trying to make sense or figure all this stuff out. It’s not something to figure out. It’s rather a means to see and live in a different way and that’s why we struggle get it like the disciples. And why shouldn’t we? Jesus is coming and going, here and there, present and absent. But that’s what Jesus has set before us in today’s gospel. He confronts us with the ultimate question of whether “Jesus Christ”, for you and I, is just a past memory or a present reality, a sentimental love story that makes us feel good or Jesus is alive and he challenges, guides and nurtures our lives.

The answer to that question is determined by the love that is revealed and fulfilled in keeping Jesus’ commandments. The commandment to love our neighbour as ourselves, to love our enemies and to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Do we keep the commandments? Is our love growing and transforming ourselves and the world? If so, then Jesus is probably a present reality in our lives and we know that we are not left orphaned. If, however, we are not sharing much love, especially in our homes, then we remain self-centred and isolated and we allow ourselves and each other to join all the other orphans of this world, and there’s plenty! Jesus’ promise is real and he remains faithful to us but we haven’t claimed it for ourselves. Perhaps today is the day you claim it and own it!

You see, keeping the commandments is our access to Jesus’ promise that we will not be left orphaned. However, keeping them doesn’t make Jesus present to us. Instead, it makes us present to the already ongoing reality of Jesus’ presence and love. The commandments don’t earn us Jesus’ love nor gain us automatic entry into heaven but they reveal our love for him, a love that originates in his abiding love and presence within us. Every time we expand the boundaries of our love we not only get to experience God’s unconditional love but we get to push back on becoming orphans in this world. This also creates space within us where God and Jesus Christ can make their home. Regardless of what is happening in our lives Jesus’ promise stands. “I will not leave you orphaned.” So don’t give up on yourselves or others. Love with all that you are and all that you have just as God the Father and God the Son, Jesus Christ love us with all that they are and all that they have. Amen.

God who speaks in silence; help us wait in quietness. When you seem absent, grant us the faith that knows you are there, bringing to fulfilment all you have started. Through Jesus Christ our Liberator, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

The Venerable Kaio Karipa
Sydney Maori Anglican Fellowship Church of Te Wairua Tapu