Many of you have heard my story
of standing at the bus stop on Rebecca Street,
in front of my high school,
where I would inform anyone who would listen...
well, anyone who couldn’t get far enough away from me,
and had to listen...
I would tell them that Jesus loved them,
and if they didn’t believe that, and refused to name Jesus as their Lord and Saviour...
then they would go to hell. Simple.
And... you will also have heard me explain,
that it didn’t take long for me to become
very uncomfortable about that message...
so I stopped annoying people,
and learned that the love Jesus was talking about,
was to be shared, not demanded or forced out of people.
By the time we get to the tenth chapter of Luke
the disciples have spent enough time with Jesus,
to witness healings, miracles, teachings... kindness, hope, love and goodness.
After an odd discussion about who can truly follow the Jesus...
seventy people, in addition to the twelve disciples
were appointed to go on ahead of Jesus
to all the places that he intended to go.
We don’t really get a clear explanation
about why Jesus did this,
but perhaps more people were needed to share the ‘good news’...
to tell of love and justice and hope.
‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.’
I think it is important that Jesus
sent people out in pairs...
also important that he told them to find community,
and build community
- stay in one house where you are welcomed
and live in fellowship with the people.
Harassing people at a bus stop,
is not building community.
Threatening people with hell,
is not offering them new life either.
Jesus offered two phrases to the ones he sent out.
Two proclamations for them to declare and share.
First – ‘Peace’ ...
and then ‘the Kingdom of God has come near’.
The consistent promise of peace
and the nearness of God’s kin-dom
were gifts to be offered to all ...
not just to those who welcomed them,
but to everyone.
Jesus does not give the disciples instructions to argue,
convince or threaten, if they are not welcome.
And....the shaking off of dust from shoes,
is one way to help the disciples move forward.. to look ahead,
and leave the ‘changing’ up to the Spirit.
Deep peace and the ‘very present’ kin-dom of God,
are solid building stones for the new ‘church’ that was
being planted by the people Jesus sent out.
Peace and nearness of the kin-dom of God,
was what Paul was encouraging for the church in Galatia.
When there is peace, there is healthy community,
cooperation, fellowship and unity.
When people understand that God is as present as breath,
and that they are surrounded by God’s love,
then love is beyond mere emotion...
Love is defined by covenant and action.
Love lifts one another’s burdens,
serves with compassion and deeds and truth.
In his letter to the Galatians, Paul declares that there is something new in the world ...
a new creation.
Life... lived by people who live by the Spirit,
is grounded in relationships of trust, empathy and honour...
a new life, a new creation.
Paul encourages us to bear one another’s burdens,
to assist one another without judging
who is worthy and whom is not.
Paul describes the radical mutuality of living such a life.
By encouraging his hearers not to grow tired,
Paul reminds us that this is indeed a hard way to live.
Such a life needs graciousness, perseverance,
and a constant, cheerful sharing of love.
Such a life needs the Spirit’s presence
surrounding and infusing all acts and actions.
Living together and bearing one another’s burdens,
includes all ages ....
and all stages of belief and questioning and wondering.
We are called to bear each other’s burdens...
but that act of love is not to be done as a punishment,
or to cause us burdens or heartaches or suffering.
It’s about love... community... relationships and more love.
Not love as an emotional response,
but love that flows from God’s love for us,
and the love that Jesus offered as he walked among the people.
A covenantal love... a love of action because it is the right thing to do.
Paul says that... to love one another like this
is to ‘fulfil the law of the Christ.’ (Galatians 6:2)
Love has a new meaning... beyond emotion...
Love is action and relational and covenantal.
Gathering around the Baptismal Font this morning
we declared our support for Bennett, and Bennett‘s family.
We also offered to support Rebecca, Tegan, William, and Nigel,
who declared that they are willing to live out their ministry,
in this congregation.... and have joined us by membership.
Do we all have an emotional connection to these people?
Can we say we love them?
Well it’s hard not to love a little child, but you know what I mean.
And yet... we are called to be in loving relationship,
with all these people and with this community of faith... HOW?
As we gather together,
we become greater than the greatness of each individual.
In our gathering we offer each other strength,
encouragement, hope, comfort, promise and trust.
We carry each other’s burdens as we pray, sing,
worship God and sit side by side.
We hold the Christ-light for each other;
we are travellers on the same road;
we serve each other as pilgrims on the common journey of life.
We are community, not because we all like each other;
but because of our oneness in the Spirit.
Oh, it is a good thing to like one another,
but the Spirit invites us... perhaps even compels us
towards a oneness in the Christ, as a family of faith.
We bear the burdens of others in our church family,
simply because they are ‘one with us’ in the Christ.
Together we bear the burdens of hard questions,
weaknesses, bad habits, our simply humanness...
holding and supporting each other.
We are encouraged by the love of Jesus,
to see the burdens of our sisters and brothers,
not as annoyances or impositions upon our life
but as opportunities for our love.
It is not an easy task sometimes,
but a blessing none-the-less,
and the Spirit is on our side... always.
When the ‘world’ looks at the Church,
I would hope they would see an example of God’s love.
We are blessed to be a blessing.
Blessed to offer blessings to those in our church family,
and in the world.
This burden-bearing love, happens all the time here.
I see you care for one another, pray for each other,
serve in a variety of ways on Sundays, at memorials.
When we love one another, the world will know,
that we are disciples of the Christ... people of the Way.
In 1970 the Hollies put out a song
that speaks to the bare bones of commitment to family
for the simple sake of family.
As a family of faith...
brothers and sisters together in the Christ,
we are on a journey together.
The road is long, with many of winding turns
That lead us to (who knows) where, who knows where?
But I'm strong, strong enough to carry him - yeah
He ain't heavy - he's my brother.....
Because of the call of the Spirit,
you…. are not heavy!
You are my brothers, my sisters, my dear family.
Look around… embrace our common story…
lean on one another and live as a new creation!