[Jesus said] ’This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.’ John 15:12-13
Brothers and sisters, think about those you know who are most loving and it is likely that they will be able to identify those in their past who showed them deep love. Think of those people who most struggle to love and is likely - through no fault of their own - they will be able to identify those in their past who caused them deep hurt. Love and being loved makes such a crucial difference in a person’s development that the midwife was right when she said to Natalie and I you can’t love your baby too much. Love makes the world go round, for love in turn breeds love. It should be no surprise to Christians, that this is how it works in our world, for this is how it works on a cosmic scale. As the Apostle John puts it: ‘We love because God first loved us’. Just as loving children often coming from loving parents, so loving people come originally from a loving God. However, there the analogy ends for a loving parent has love as one option and often chooses that option, but as we all know there are times when any parent - however loving - has moments which are less than perfect. But this is not true of God. As the Apostle John also makes crystal clear is this: ‘God is love’. God is not just loving, it is not that God has love as an option, as one choice among many, no, God is love. And therefore every action He takes and has taken has been an act of love. When God created the world, He created out of love and for love. That those He created might share in the love of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Sadly, human beings chose, and often choose, not to love and in so doing, walk away from God. But God does not stop loving them, and so the God who is love comes into the world - as the person of Jesus of Nazareth - in search of His people whom He loves. The Creation of the world, and the Incarnation - which we remember at Christmas - are two signs of the love of God. The next acts of love we have been remembering at Easter. Because God is Love He goes to the cross - His supreme act of love - and dies so that those who have separated themselves from Him, might have the choice to love Him in return. The love of God does not stop at His death of course! Death could not hold Jesus down. Love raised Him up, and this new resurrection life is then offered to the world. This new resurrection life - this new life of love - is given to the world as a gift.
Well that’s a long introduction, but now that we have the context we can understand our two readings for today. First, Acts 10:44:
‘While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles’.
Peter has been sent to preach this Gospel of Love to the world. Peter thoughts the Gospel of Love, and the new kingdom of God was just for the Jewish people, but God would have no limits placed on His love, and so He sends Peter to the non-Jewish world. And what happens astounds Peter and the other Jewish Christians, for as Peter preaches the Gospel of Love, and recounts the deeds of the cross and the resurrection, God pours His love into the hearts of the hearers through the gift of His Spirit. Notice, that it is God’s initiative! God sends Peter, and God pours the Spirit into the hearts of those who hear. It is always the God of Love who initiates. And it is always us who are called to respond.
Finally then, how are we called to respond? The answer lies in our second reading, John 15:12:
‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’.
In response to the love of God - the love which created us, the love which came and found us, the love which died to heal us, and who rose to give us new life - in response to that love, God calls on us to love Him, and to love other people. In loving the One who first loved us, our hearts are able to begin to heal, and then - as those who are in the process of being healed - we are sent out to love others in word and deed, so that they too might be healed by love. Brothers and sisters, beloved of God, God chooses to send His love to the world through you! Now, you may well say - and indeed it would be surprising if you didn’t - that you don’t feel all that loving. That if you’re honest there are times when you don’t love God, and you certainly don’t love those sat around you in the pews, not those out in the world. This is how I often feel too; so what can we do? We look to God - for He is love - and He is the one who gives us love. We look to God, and we pray to Him and say “God, I don’t feel loving towards You, Please put your love into my heart”. “God I don’t feel loving towards other Christians Please put your love into my heart’. God I don’t feel love towards those who don’t know you Please put your love into my heart’. for God is the source of love and it is only He who can supply it. God is the source of love and He longs to give you more. So ask, seek, knock, and God will enable you to love Him, to love those who love Him, and to love those who don’t yet love Him. Let us draw near to God this morning, receive His Love, and then go and bear fruit, fruit that will last. Amen. (from Fr. Mike).