Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year B
O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Jesus said to his disciples, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
“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. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.”
In these weeks of Eastertide, we are using a group bible study format for Faith from the Margins to the Web which rotates facilitators for each week’s Gospel lesson. Each week features highlights from the group gathered that illustrate each week’s Gospel lesson. People who had participated in a previous interview were invited to become the group facilitators, and that core group added new participants for each lesson.
Group participants for Easter 4, Easter 5, and Easter 6: Willie. Christina, Kaiju, Paul, William, Jamillah, Angela, Leroy and David.
Willie read this Gospel lesson for the group and offered up the first reflection:
“God commands us…we do his word…and we don’t want to do all those things we once used to do, because we feel convicted. And by that, I don’t mean guilt. I mean love. When the Holy Spirit convicts us, it opens us up to abide in love. It isn’t to be convicted to be cast out, it’s being convicted to want to be part of something greater.”
“That’s right” said David, “It’s like going to the club, you want to get in and once you get in you want to stay in…but it isn’t that kind of club…it’s God’s Club and its full of love.”
Kaiju expanded on that, thinking about the images of this Easter season: “Remember, when Jesus was crucified, it was in the middle of two people, a murderer and a thief. Two people nobody loved and nobody trust. But Jesus not only forgive them, He invited them to paradise, to let them know they were already forgiven. And all they had to do was to hear those words.”
Christina was reminded of her upbringing: “You know, I grew up in the church, went there my entire life. I was always told you could be on your death bed and still accept Jesus Christ and you’d go to heaven. Now, I know that there are different religions that believe different things and some say you have to be baptized, but that’s always the way I was taught it.”
David was polite but puzzled: “What do you mean by that, stop right there. I mean, that might be true and all, because I’ve heard that too. But you know, even if that’s true, I mean it’s a growing process, too.”
“Like the prodigal son” said Willie, “I mean, imagine you had someone, a parent who always wanted you to come home. You were out there doing what you pleased until you realized life was about to end and then you come running home. It isn’t that you aren’t welcome, of course you are. But it’s that you spent so many years missing out on the relationship, missing out on all that love.”
Paul chimed in: “Once you get Christ in your heart, you know, he’s going to guide you. It keeps us there, close to God, inside God’s understanding of us. It’s powerful, that love, powerful. Every day, I read and I study but I still fall short. That is why we need God. God knows everybody’s heart. Everybody in the Bible, they all did wrong sometimes. But God knew them, and loved them, and God loves us in the same way.”