Alleluia! Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!
What Christ's Church looks like. How Christ's Church functions. How we care for each other. You can tell from John's Gospel that these things are important to Jesus because, in John's Gospel Jesus saves this teaching β his teaching by word and example about love β until the very end. Today we are looking back through the past 36 days of Easter, back through stories of Christ's resurrection, back through Jesus' arrest, trial and crucifixion, back through to Holy Thursday evening or better, at least for our purposes today, to Maundy Thursday evening, "Maundy" from the Latin mandatum, "to command;" the burden Jesus lays on his disciples β and on himself β as the night before his death he washes their feet. You can tell from John's Gospel that this is important to Jesus because, in the words of the steward of the feast in the earlier story of the wedding at Cana, Jesus has once again "saved the best until last."
You can tell a similar thing from the writer of 1 John too. We've been listening to him without paying much attention for the last four weeks. He began his whole letter βas well as today's
little snippet, by writing about love β about what Christ's Church looks like, how Christ's Church functions and how we in Christ's Church care for one another β and then quickly and smoothly connected that love β what Christ's Church looks like, how Christ's Church functions and how we in Christ's Church care for one another β to faith, that is, to trust in God. As if you can't have one apart from the other; as if there can be no love for the other without trust in the other; as if the relationship of trust to love is like that of the fruit to the wine; as if the love that flows from trust, the love that is nourished by trust; the love that is who we are, how we function and how we care for one another is the best wine that God has been saving to give to the world right now.
Whenever I preside at a wedding, counsel a couple whose marriage is in trouble or, for that matter, preach at a pastor's installation, I always remind the participants that while love is the necessary expression of their intimate relationship, trust is that relationship's essence. While you can romanticize, sexualize or even fantasize about love, you cannot do the same β in fact, you would not do the same β about trust. Trust cannot cling to fantasy; it can cling
to a gift; it can only cling to a Promise, which can itself only be trustworthy is the Promise is willing to do anything to keep it, even to giving his life.
You can't trust someone of whom you are afraid; you can only choose to obey, or not obey, them. God sent Jesus Christ, not to make us obey him, but to take our fear away so that we can trust God and so that from that trust β that lack of fear β we can be free to love each other without fear.
You can tell from John's Gospel that Jesus thinks this is important for us so that our fearless love and trust in one another βwhat Christ's Church looks like, how Christ's Church functions and how we in Christ's Church care for one another β can become God's best gift to a fearful, untrusting world. That's why God in Christ chose us.
That why Jesus taught us in word and example, what it means to love; to humble oneself for love; to serve for love; to risk one's life for love; even to give one's life for love.
That is not the way of the world β the proud, dominating, exploiting, risk averse, self-preserving world, yet it is the way of God and of
those whom in Christ God has chosen, whom God has saved for now as the best wine of the best fruit of the choicest Vine God has planted in the midst of the world.
Alleluia! Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia
Amandus J. Derr
Saint Peter's Church
in the City of New York