May 6, 2007 Fifth Sunday of Easter (c) Acts 11: 1-18; Rev. 21: 1-6; John 13: 31-35
I would begin this morning with a “Rector as Siskel and Ebert, Two Thumbs Up” movie recommendation, from a few years back, 1998, “Pleasantville,” written and directed by Gary Ross and starring pre-Spider Man Tobey Maguire and lovely Reese Witherspoon and wonderful William H. Macy in I think one of his best roles. “Pleasantville.” What came to me as I thought about the propers for this Fifth Easter Sunday. --Not to give away the plot, an odd story perhaps shaped somewhat by the literary trends of magical realism--but to say something about the theme, which is that it is about the incredible, miraculous power of deep, passionate emotion--and above all, love--to shake things up and turn things upside down, to clear away the underbrush, to bring energy and color, transformation, life and hope, to make human experience truly human. Love like the rain that falls on the dry fields in the springtime. Bringing forth life and giving growth. That’s my recommendation: rent the movie!
Perhaps you’ve known that power in your own life, felt it, the transformational power of love, and seen it in the lives of others. From isolation to connection. From a state of being without direction and purpose, to a life that is full of meaning, full of joy. There are lots of movies about this, actually. I kid you not. Novels, poems, stories, songs. What we dream about. Not just romance. Though romance is part of it, it goes deeper than that. What we yearn for, deep down, whether we give it a name or not.
It’s what Jesus talks about that last night with his friends. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. It’s what seems to be at the heart of John the Divine’s great vision, this moment of celestial revelation: And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. All about love. And Peter’s vision too, in Acts, that strange picnic blanket coming down from the sky with all the forbidden foods in it. All these old rules, customs, boundaries: love conquers all.
The old anxious law of obedience transformed not by a new law, but by this passionate relationship with Christ himself. In whom we live and move and have our being.
This is not simply the old world slightly improved. He doesn’t enter our lives to give us a better set of skills. It’s not about passing along some clever insight or word of wisdom. It is about what love does. About how love doesn’t just change aspects here and there about the things you do—but about how it changes who you are. The mother studies the face of her newborn with a joy and spirit of appreciation greater than anyone has ever given to the finest work by Leonardo or Michaelangelo. The young lovers sit side by side on the park bench, unwilling to leave as evening falls, simply resting in the presence of the other, the minutes and the hours slipping by without being noticed as they pass. Two old friends sit together at the bedside of another friend, in the local hospice, telling stories, laughing together. Remembering old times.
The word from the throne of God. the alpha and the omega, the first and the last, the one from whom we have come, toward whom we journey: Behold, I make all things new. Which is his promise to us, exactly for you and me, today, the promise of Easter, the promise of the banquet we share at the Holy Table this morning. Behold, I make all things new.
Like the song says, like all the songs say, it’s in the air—it’s all around us. Love. God’s love, which gathers together, which includes and with abundance overflows into all the love we share and know. If somebody asks, what was Bruce’s sermon about this morning—in a word. One great big word of love being painted in image after image and episode after episode over the canvas of our lives.
Not simply for us to receive, but for us to be a part of, to be expressing, incorporated into, making happen in new ways. In a world of hurt, war, isolation, deprivation. You read the same papers I do every morning. It is what the world needs now. Like the song says. What we want to be about, what we need to be about. To be the way God seeks to be the lover of the world. The vehicle. In us, through us. By this, everyone will know you are my disciples.
It is what he said. Our invitation today, the first new day of our lives, in his love for us. As in the fourth chapter of First John, at the seventh verse: Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and everyone that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
Of dietary laws and motor vehicle regulations, doctrines and dogmas, wise sayings, good books of philosophy and theology, discussions of comparative religion, moral codes and guidelines for ethical behavior, there will be no end. And these are not bad things. Not at all. They are the ways we learn to dance, step by step, in time with the music. But we begin here, in this time of Easter, where he meets us, and where that empty space at the center of our heart is all at once, in the flicker of an eyelash, full and alive. At the empty tomb. The stone rolled away. In the Garden. Along the Road to Emmaus. In the Upper Room. At the table here this morning. “I give myself to you,” he says. Heart and soul. Flesh and blood. All that I am. All for love. All for love. All for you. Behold, I make all things new.