St. Mary Nanoose Bay

May 19, 2019

John 13:31-35

Help us to love one another, and in doing so, love You.              

Take in a deep breath and then exhale. And now another. Do you think this is something you are doing on your own? Did you take in the breath? Where did that breath come from?            

What we are made up of, our ancestry and the stuff of this physical world is as it was, is now, and ever shall be.            

And what we have been given, we share. And as we share we are changed. Hopefully, for the better!            

Consider your breath. What you just breathed in and out again was created in the beginning and has been with us ever since. What you inhaled is the same air that others previously exhaled. Nature – the trees and plants of our earth- clean and recharge the air for us. But effectively, we are sharing the same air that Jesus, Hitler and those in the church here today have inhaled. As a matter of course. As a matter of life.            

Maybe this amazes you. Maybe you’ve thought of this before.  Maybe this is a startling idea or even one that repulses you. But as the writer of John writes earlier in the gospel, “The truth shall set you free.” What we share intentionally commands great power for good, what we share without awareness, can wreak great havoc and suffering.            

When I looked up the word “commandment,” I was delighted to read the definition – “a divine rule.”  I think of this as “divine law” in essence meaning the ways life has been ordered so when followed, justice and mercy, the qualities of God’s love, are ensured. When Jesus gives or offers us a commandment, He does not order us to do anything. After all, God created us with free will.  But knowing how much support we need, He is points us to a divine truth – that as he is one with the Father, we too are one with God, Son, and neighbour. We are, in fact, one body. One divine body.            

Jesus says, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” So, if we love, we love all of Creation, God, neighbour and ourselves because we are, in fact, not separate. We cannot hate one person and love ourselves. In the same way, we cannot truly love ourselves without loving others. One writer I recently read pointed out that when we hate or are angry with others, that emotion goes through our own heart, and that energy is not good for us.            

This love of self and other is what compassion is based on. The understanding that we share in the One – the One great love, the one air, water, and light that have been here since the beginning of time.            

This past week I spent time with a friend who asked me if it’s OK to church hop. I prefaced my response with, “You’re the one who needs to decide what’s right,” to which she hastened to add, probably expecting a judgment from me, “I put money in the plate wherever I go so support each church I attend. I just want to hear all the different sermons. I don’t want to miss out.”

 “Do you want to hear what I think?” I asked, knowing that she had been badly hurt in a church situation many years ago. “Yes,” she replied.            

So here’s in essence what I told her.  Attending church is an outside activity that involves going somewhere physical. Of course, you may feel nourished and uplifted. And that’s a good thing. But it does not necessarily fulfill the divine exchange – the giving and receiving that build community. But it is not being church.            

Being church, which is the true meaning of church, is how we learn to grow as people in community – how we learn to live into this reality we glimpse now and again – the body of Christ. By rubbing up against each other, we are challenged to see our own failings and can work to make the changes necessary to be more compassionate and open people. And in acknowledging our own weaknesses we become less judgmental and more supportive of those around us.            

When we’re afraid of missing out, of wanting to experience everything, we believe that we must seek God out. With this understanding, we are under the illusion that we are in control. We make sure that we go only where we feel comfortable and at ease.            

When we are in community, we can trust that God isn’t somewhere out there, but inside us and our community. We don’t need to find the perfect situation. God is waiting for us to open up wherever we are and uses the experiences at hand to open our eyes to the truth and give us ample opportunity to grow in love and wisdom. God uses our past to compost what we have let go of, and our present to challenge and guide us, and our future to give us hope and motivation. All we need is in community, and what better place than a parish community where the values are clear and inspiring, to grow?            

My friend was quiet. She said, “I want to think about this.” So I don’t know yet how my words landed. I will find out soon. We have that kind of relationship.            

So if you think you are going to find the perfect community, think again! Anyone who has lived in a family, or in a partnership knows that there is no perfect situation; at least not externally. Every situation allows us opportunity to grow.            

But sometimes a situation becomes intolerable, the rubbing up against another doesn’t promote love and growth but rather destroys and oppresses.            

A long time ago we attended a church that we loved. But when a new priest started using the bible to condemn others, to speak words that promoted hate, and modeled behaviour that encouraged division rather than connection, we felt unable to stay. We left. I was mortified and relieved at the same time.            

And with time, trust and a willingness to listen and follow, here I am. Today I am grateful to God for the painful nudge me to move on and find a new path forward. And I am grateful to that priest for his role in my movement forward. Imagine!             Loving one another means understanding how deeply interconnected we are. That God moves in and through us as cells in a body. Calling each one of us to well being and joy.            

On Friday I watched a recording of the funeral of Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche.  For the rest of the day, I felt incredibly open, vulnerable and uplifted. Even via the internet, I was touched by the love present at that ceremony.            

So it is not only breath we share, it is the love at the centre of all life. When we experience love and acceptance in community, we are changed. When we receive the gift of the body and blood of the one who loves us, we are changed.            

We may think we’re in control, but the more we open up to the love of God and the love of neighbour, we see life as divine, supporting us in being consciously loving. And in this love that we breathe and share, everyone will know that we are His disciples, by the love we have for one another.