Love One Another

Preacher: 
Rachel Bauer Eskite
Sermon Text: 

Easter 5

May 19, 2019

Love One Another

When I was in elementary school, I got a cootie shot.

Because….as all elementary school girls know…boys have cooties.

I thought, since I had two younger brothers, I would have a certain level of immunity, but alas, I still got my cootie shot.

Circle circle dot dot now I got my cootie shot.

Or: Circle circle square square now my cooties are over there.

Classic elementary school grouping to decide who’s in and who’s out.

I sometimes think about being in elementary school now and I become overwhelmed because cootie shots are the least of kids’ worries these days.

There is bullying, mental illness, gun violence, poverty & not knowing where your next meal is coming from, trying to wear the right to fit in, to belong. Being a child is probably one of the more challenging things we can do as human beings, and we often don’t give as much attention to it as we should.

I know in my own faith journey…in that inner deep dive that is required of people going into the priesthood & other helping professions…that the habits I learned to survive my childhood, the identity & fears I formed, are the hardest ones to work around, because they are seeded so deeply in who I am.

This is where we meet Peter. He is in prayer, in a trance the text tells us, and he has a vision. In this vision a curtain descends from heaven and he sees all manner of animals & a voice tells him to EAT.

If Peter were in elementary school with me he probably would have said something like: “ew, cooties!” But Peter was not in elementary school with me, so he said, “nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.”

And God says to that—the ultimate comeback—"What God has made clean, you must not call profane.”

That is, God says: I made this, it is HOLY.

But I feel for Peter because dietary laws are no simple matter of what to eat and what not to eat. They are part of the very essence, the very being, of Jewish identity.

The Jewish people who have endured kings, the division of their nation, invasion by outside powers, and exile. The exile is a turning point in Israelite history—being taken away from everything they knew, caused them to hold on to the things that showed them that they were God’s people.

So they wrote down their stories into Scripture, they circumcised their men, they practiced dietary laws.

Thus, the Israelite people were marked as God’s people no matter where they were.

This is not un-relevant to us today.

Instead of dietary laws, Jesus simultaneously simplified things and made them more complicated by telling his disciples that the only commandment they needed to follow was LOVE. That is love God, love self, love neighbor (even the neighbor with cooties).

Through Love, everyone will know we belong to God no matter where we are.

Love, in biblical context, is not an emotion. It is loyalty, trust.

In Peter’s language love would have been translated to something like “rock-solid covenant loyalty.” Covenant—that is: the partnership between God and God’s people.

That’s why dietary laws are important: because it’s how Peter and the rest of the Jewish people lived into their partnership with God.

So for Peter to see a vision where God tells him that the dietary laws don’t matter anymore is a BIG DEAL. It is something that would have shaken Peter’s faith to the core. Because while Peter knew—felt in his bones—that something had happened in the crucifixion and resurrection of his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Peter was still trying to fit that into his framework of covenant loyalty.

But here’s the thing: in the resurrection, God revealed a new aspect of God’s self. The new revelation said to ALL of God’s people that the rock solid covenant loyalty that is promised to the Israelites is now promised to all through Jesus Christ.

That means to us, the Gentiles, those grafted into Israel’s covenant.

Gentile, that is, non-Jews, have been made by God. Like the Jews, Gentiles are God’s creation, and nothing God has created is unclean.

Which is to say: all flesh is holy.

The text tells us this interchange between Peter and the Lord went on 3 times until Peter finally got it. He then tells his fellow apostles—"there is no distinction between Jew and Greek! The Holy Spirit has come to all of us. Let us go forth into the world.”

So let us reflect upon Peter’s vision & see what it has to say to us…

We hear A LOT from the Acts of the Apostles in the Easter season. That is because we are Apostles. Meaning: ones sent out.

The lectionary people chose to highlight Acts in the season of Easter because they could not think of a more appropriate reaction to the resurrection than to GO OUT and TELL IT TO THE WORLD.

This is where Peter’s vision is important to us: because as people of the resurrection we are charged with loving everyone.

That means people who are NOT us. People who believe differently than us. People who look different, worship differently, raise their children differently. People who may, in fact, challenge our own beliefs.

To which we might respond as elementary schoolers: “ew, cooties!”

OR we might ask: “you want me to love even these people God?”

To which the answer is a loud & resounding: YES.

[Remember God’s response to Peter: What God has made clean, you must not call profane.]

It is no easy task to recognize in our very life and ministry that God created us all Holy and therefore there is no distinction among us.

Like the Body of Christ image we hear frequently: that though we are all different and bring our own gifts to the Body, we are all ONE Body.

Our Eucharistic practices affirm this too: We are all One Body because we all share in One Bread, One Cup.

But the thing about being a Body is that we are meant to do.

We are fed at the Table of the Lord so we can go out into the World and be the Gospel.

We are children of God, and we are to be the resurrection to ALL people.

That means we are to bring LIFE to people as God granted us Life.

The Life that raised Jesus Christ from the dead is the Life that shines in all manner of darkness. The act of the resurrection tells us WITHOUT A DOUBT that God is stronger than any evil or sin the world may throw at us.

It is stronger than poverty, homelessness, gun violence, childhood bullying, our own internal habits, stigma about mental health, fights we have about religious beliefs.

In our own liturgy, after Communion, we are SENT OUT in the dismissal. You know, the “Let us Go forth in the Name of Christ.”

Well that Dismissal is not just a way to end worship, but it is the way we are told to live our lives. It is what marks us as God’s people.

We are to go into the world as people of the resurrection and bring life to people who need it. We are to Love people as God in Christ has loved us.

So, this is the challenge from me to you: to Love someone—that is show rock solid covenant loyalty to someone—who challenges you. Is that a Fundamentalist neighbor who uses the Bible to spread hate? Is that someone who posts political comments on Facebook? Who is that person for you?

Remember to Love someone does not mean to let them harm you. Or to lose yourself in them.

Love is giving voice to someone who is silenced.

Love is listening to your children and taking seriously the climate in which they live.

Love is acknowledging mental illness and working to destigmatize it by talking about it and normalizing it.

Love is being willing to break down our own internal boundaries of who is in and who is out.

Love is accepting non-binary definitions of gender, of celebrating individual bodies, of affirming a person for who they are as God’s own creation.

Remember: everything God has Created is Holy.

So let us be sent out into the world and proclaim that all flesh is holy in our words and in our actions.

Amen.

 

 

 

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