6th Sunday of Easter, May 6, 2018
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
My younger sister and I are very close. There were times when we were growing up when we were not so close, nor did we agree on certain things. In High School, I was college prep and she was business prep. When I got out of college, I tried to find a job so that I could afford a car before seminary. After graduation, my sister went to work in the office of the factory that my dad worked in. He worked forty years as a setter operator on the floor of the assembly line. I had difficulty finding a job because I was told I was overqualified even for cleaning toilets. That seemed strange to me since I was willing and able to do just that. Many places rejected me. Then I went and applied at a factory. Our family doctor was in the plant the day when I went in for my interview. He asked why I was there and so I told him. â€œDo you really want to work here?â€ He asked. â€œYes, I replied. I need the money and I am willing to work for it.â€ So I got a job on the assembly line. I went home all excited, my mom and dad pleased. My sister said â€œI canâ€™t believe youâ€™re working in a factory. Youâ€™ll get your hands dirty, and smell like the factory. How can you stand to be around those kinds of people?â€ I responded, â€œUm, Iâ€™m making a dollar an hour more than you are, and donâ€™t forget, our father is one of those kinds of people.â€
â€œThose kinds of people.â€
We seem to have a fascination in this country with â€œthose kinds of people.â€ I have heard parents express it this way, â€œI donâ€™t want my kids playing with their â€œsort.â€ It is usually because they may not have much money, they may be different in some way that shouldnâ€™t really matter, or they are from the so-called wrong side of the tracks. People and even children can be really cruel.
But I can give you even better examples of the â€œthose kinds of people.â€ What about the rugged looking man with the beard whose close a rather dirty and he really smells. You know, smells kind of like rotten fish? Who would want to associate with someone like say, Peter, the big fisherman and number one disciple of Jesus?
Or what about the woman with the unsavory background, certainly we wouldnâ€™t want to be caught anywhere nearâ€¦â€¦. the first person to see the resurrected Jesus, Mary Magdalene.
Or the guy who was kind of pushy and zealous? We wouldnâ€™t hang out with him. He persecuted people, you know who that was? St. Paul?
We sometimes forget the old adages, â€œlooks can be deceiving, or you canâ€™t judge a book by the cover.â€ We jump to conclusions much too quickly about people. We jump to conclusions
In our gospel lesson for today, Jesus talks about abiding in his love. Abiding means to stay, to live, and so we are to stay in his love and live in his love. This lesson comes on the night that Jesus is arrested, and he is sharing with them some parting words, most importantly his commandment to love one another. â€œAs my father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.â€ And, â€œThis is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down oneâ€™s life for oneâ€™s friends.â€
When we believe and follow Jesus, we follow his command to love everyone, even â€œthose kinds of people.â€ Why? Because for one, Jesus said so. And for another, the love of God is not personal or private.
Nowhere in the New Testament does Jesus tell us not to share his love.
On the contrary, he sends us out in order to share his love with the world, including with and especially with â€œthose kinds of people.â€
It is a really short distance for any of us to go from where we are at right now, to being considered â€œthose kinds of people.â€ The loss of one job, a catastrophe at home, a catastrophic illness or misfortune of some kind. It can happen to any of us, and donâ€™t even dare to think that it could not happen to you or one of your loved ones. I have been there more than once in my lifetime, and it could happen to you as well.
I heard recently of an elderly man who was in a local nursing home who was removed and threatened with a lawsuit because he was 22,000 dollars behind in his rent at the home. He was moved to another home on Medicaid, because he had dementia and had told them he had loads of money when he didnâ€™t, and his wife knew nothing of their finances. It can happen to any one of us.
For Christians, love is central. The love of God for our salvation and our love for other as commanded by Christ. St. Thomas Aquinas argued that to love is â€œto will the good of the other.â€ The Early church Father, Tertullian wrote, â€œTo love oneâ€™s friends is common practice, to love oneâ€™s enemies only among Christians.
Strive to the right thing. Strive to love others, even when they donâ€™t look like you, act like you, drive a car like yours, or own a house like yours.
John 3:16 is a well-known passage for us. But it is two-faceted.
â€œFor God so loved the worldâ€ and â€œFor God so loved the world, why donâ€™t we?â€ Something to think about. This day, and every day.