Jesus loves us.
The following sermon was preached by Ashley L. Hochhalter, LSTC student, in Augustana Chapel at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago on Thursday, May 2, 2013.
Many Voices, One Story. This has been the theme for LSTC this year (although I think some Seniors would argue that the theme is Dinosaur Year), we have been digging up the history and the stories of those who are a part of the much larger story of LSTC. We each have a story, and LSTC is a part of this story. For some of you that story is ending on May 19th as you graduate and move onto to a new part of your story with a new chapter called: Get a Job!. For some of you, the LSTC story is put on hold as you dive into new communites and new stories on Internship. Some of you will have a brief pause as you integrate yourself into the stories of your patients in the hospitals and care facilities of CPE (but be warned: you will also my diving deep into your own story). And then for some of us, we are here continuing our story of LSTC as we welcome a new community in the Fall…
We all have our stories, our different voices, and we are united in the greater story of LSTC. But we are also united by a much bigger story; that is the Story of all Stories-the one that comes through Christ.
In our Gospel today, Jesus has just washed the disciples feet, he has just had dinner with them, he has shared in the stories of their lives, and now Jesus is preparing them for his departure. Their story is changing; it is moving in a different direction and Jesus can no longer stay with them in this story. And yet, Jesus does not give them a long list of things they should do, or things they should say, but rather he gives them one commandment which is to love one another-love another as I have loved you.
As we look at the Gospel of John, I can’t help but think that it has something to do with a story; a love story and our stories and the ways in which we have been changed and made new by a God who is revealed to us through Christ; a God who comes to us in every page of our lives.
You see, as Jesus is talking to his disciples he says: Little Children. In those two simple words, Christ is taking us all the way back to the beginning of the story of God- to the beginning of the beginning and in that Prologue we hear “Yet to all who receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, children born not of blood or of the will of the flesh or the will of man (or woman), but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us.”
Little Children, Christ is connecting us to the beginning of creation and is claiming us as his own-and dwelling with us throughout our whole story. Christ dwells with us and opens us up to see that there is a whole lot more to this life. That the resurrection and new life does not begin at death, but that it is now.
From the very first moment Christ encounters Peter, he says to him, Simon, son of John, you will be called Peter; I know you and I love you. Even as Peter questions Christ during the foot washing, and here soon after he questions Jesus’ departure-Christ knows Peter’s story, he knows that Peter will deny him, and he knows that he will be standing with him on the shore after his resurrection and Christ knows that the story will continue and there is so much more to it. Simon, son of John, I know your story and I love. Christ says to us: I know you and I love you.
In worship, we say: Christ has died. Christ has Risen. Christ will come again. And because of Christ there is a whole more that happens between that dying and resurrecting and waiting thing. Because in between all of this, the whole of Creation has been changed forever. God is revealed to us and the Spirit has united us together in Christ. We are all a part of this story- and Christ knows us and Christ Still loves us-we have all been connected by this love that Christ has for us.
There is this beautiful place in Northern Minnesota called Itasca State Park; which also happens to be where the headwaters of the Mississippi are. What we know of as the roaring Mississippi begins as a small river that you can wade in and let the waters run through your toes. And as you stand there-there is this divine connection between all of creation: the voices of the birds, and the fish, the children’s laugher, and moving waters. This water you have touched, this water that you are now a part of runs in and down through the Mississippi all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico. The Spirit of God runs in and through us and unites us to Christ. We have been drawn into the renewing waters of God and sent out to love one another as Christ has loved. These waters that are ever changing in this community and we hear “see I am making all things new” and we are loved and forgiven and joined together forever through Christ.
The Christ who comes to us in the deep, dark places of our lives and says ‘I love you. I have always loved you. I will always love you.” The Christ who unites us together in love and grace. The Christ who draws this love out of us and brings us into community with another. It is this story of love from Christ that unites us. We do indeed have many voices, and we are all united under the Great story of Christ’s love through death and resurrection.
Jesus says, love one another as I have loved you. But this is really hard, Jesus. Can’t I just love my enemies and go about my merry way? Because the truth is this kind of love is a lot harder than loving our enemies. If we love our enemies, we can smile, walk by, say ‘what’s up?’ Or ‘how are you doing?’ And then walk away never needing to hear the answers to those questions. But loving one another as Jesus has loved means walking with each other and listening to the answers to those questions we throw around so often. To be willing to walk into the dark, scary places of our lives; to enter into those moments we don’t often want to share with each other, because then we actually might feel something.
Today, Christ is drawing us into community through love. So, as we prepare to leave this place-look around-where is this love? And as you move into your new communities in hospitals, or internship sites, or first calls- where is the love? Christ is drawing us together and Christ has given us a new commandment. Love one another as I have loved you. Love one another as I have loved you. Love one another as I have loved you: you are not alone.
Many voices, one story-and this story is love. Amen.