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Easter Sermon April 10, 2016

Posted 1:44 PM by

[We get a lot of joy and insight from our animals.  Recently our cat was heard to opine, “I think sleeping dogs should have to tell the truth, just like everyone else!”]

Jesus said to Simon Peter,

Simon, son of John, do you love me?

The other night I had a bad dream – an anxious, fearful dream…

My big black dog Paddington – Paddy – could not get up.    He’d lost use of his legs and hind end.  We’ve been through this with other dogs, it’s horrible, and leads to a painful and difficult death.  I was in tears to see my boy suffering. 

Now, Paddy and I are very close.  He’s way too young to be failing physically…  Paddy is only three, although he’s about to have his fourth anniversary of being three…  (He and I agreed early on that Paddy would never age beyond the three year mark.  J  Too much risk in growing old….)

Simon, son of John, do you love me?

The next morning, I got up, stumbled downstairs in my early-morning stupor, and let the dogs out as usual.  Paddy took off at a gallop, his black locks flying, and ran a few loops around the yard, his domain.  What a beautiful sight that was!  Paddy was not dying, he was alive and well and beautiful!  It was resurrection.  

That experience tells me a lot about love, what it means to love someone completely….My love for Paddy (and the pain of imagining him suffering), and Paddy’s love for me – as unconditional and joyful as I can imagine.

Jesus wanted to restore his relationship with Simon Peter, who had messed up pretty badly, denying knowing Jesus not once, but three times.  That relationship needed a resurrection.  I have no doubt that Jesus has already forgiven Peter; but now he creates a channel for reconciliation so that Peter can truly receive that forgiveness, and their love for each other can be restored.  And so it is with each of us….

It can be hard to tell the truth, especially about ourselves.  If we’re honest, we know that we betray Jesus all the time.  We don’t stand up for Jesus’ values; we don’t always respect the dignity of every human being we meet.  We can be short-tempered and insist on getting our own way.  When situations get difficult, when relationships are strained, we may feel like running away.  I have felt that at times. 

But Jesus doesn’t run away.  Jesus comes back, showing all his scars, limping no doubt…but he comes back.  And therein lies all the difference. 

Reconciliation means not giving up; not walking away.  God’s love has reached across every barrier to embrace us.  Our love for each other must do the same.  Reconciliation is a close cousin of resurrection.

Jesus asked,

Simon, son of John, do you love me?

Jesus asks us today,

Good people of St. Dunstan’s, do you love me?

  • Do we love Jesus? 
  • Do we love Jesus and his new law of love more than we love our own views and opinions? 
  • Do we love Jesus more than we love the sacred cows and golden calves and other livestock we have set up in our lives to worship? 
  • Will we truly walk in love – together – as Christ loved us? 

What does that love of Jesus look like in a congregation?  In my experience this love is both strong, and fragile.  It doesn’t mean we’ll never disagree or fight; but it does mean we will go the extra mile to seek reconciliation, as Jesus did with Simon Peter.  It means we’ll work together for the common good, in spite of disagreements.  It means we’ll tackle our problems together, without insisting on our own preconceived solution. 

St. Dunstan’s is hugely blessed as a Christian community with many resources – we have beautiful facilities, a loyal congregation, and a desire to serve in our neighborhoods.  We also have our challenges, as all churches do these days.  As society changes at warp speed, we and other churches are trying to adapt, to envision what a local church needs to be and do in this age of speed and technology and hectic lives.  This is hard work.  It requires some new thinking, and lots of experimenting.  There will be some successes and some failures. 

Here’s some of what we are learning about loving Jesus and each other in the church in 2016:

·       It’s all about relationships.  Without building one-to-one relationships and small groups, people aren’t fed – even by a glorious liturgy.  We won’t all agree on priorities, social justice issues, or even which hymns to sing.  We just need to agree to love Jesus and seek his kingdom.   

·       It’s all about food – sharing food is the oldest form of human community.  We do a lot with food, and we probably need to do even more! Today’s “Spring Social” is a great example of how food brings us together.  We’re thinking of doing more with breakfast on Sundays next year….

·       It’s all about welcoming and invitation: INVITE, INVITE, INVITE is some good advice we’ve received.  Have you invited anybody to the Cabaret on April 23? 

·       Above all, it’s all about God – the God we meet in Jesus, the God who loves lavishly, forgives easily, challenges us wisely, and always seeks to reconcile broken relationships.  This isn’t easy in a human community; I have often failed to love as Christ loves us; many of us have.  Sometimes it may seem easier to “let sleeping dogs lie.”  But it’s never too late to try, and try again.  We’re on the trail, on a journey together.  That’s what God’s people have done since Abraham left his home, since Moses and the Hebrews left Egypt, since Jesus set out with his disciples to change the world…one precious person at a time. 

One of our newer parishioners in the last few years said to me, “I have attended Episcopal churches all my long life, and I have never felt the warmth of friendship that I feel at St. Dunstan’s.  I am so grateful to be here….” 

Simon, son of John, do you love me? 

We have something precious here – the capacity to love God, and love each other, and share that love openly when new people cross our threshold.  Jesus has shown us the trail of forgiveness and reconciliation, just as he did with Peter. We are people of many nations, with many needs and many gifts to share.  We are people of various social and political views.  But when we come together here, we focus on one thing: Love…the love of God we see and know in Jesus.  If we always strive to do that, God will bless this congregation.  AMEN.  


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