Sermons That Work

Think About Filling…, Easter 5 (C) – 2007

May 06, 2007

Think about filling up a cup with water. You can fill it only so far, right? Once it has been filled to the brim, what happens when you try to add more water to it? It overflows, of course. The same is true of a sponge that, submerged in water, becomes so saturated it can no long absorb and begins to shed what cannot swell it further.

Can we apply this scientific truth to the human spirit? Can we imagine someone becoming so filled up, so saturated with something, that she or he can’t take in any more? Like a filled-up cup that can only overflow onto others, beginning to fill them?

God’s love is like that, isn’t it? Picture God’s love overflowing from the filled-up one to the nearby one who benefits from the overflow. In today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus saying to his followers, “Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” The love that our Lord called them to display has a special definition: Jesus-like love.

For those who knew him best, it was his love that produced their love for others. It was like water overflowing from the filled-up glass. Jesus’ love filled them up, and yet he kept on loving them, pouring move love into them, so Jesus’ love could overflow onto others.

In the same way, Jesus’ love fills us up so we can let the continuing love that God sends to us overflow onto others. Thereby we can fulfill his commandment: “Love one another – just as I have loved you.”

Jesus’ love is God’s love – gracefully and freely given, with no strings attached. Sometimes we think of this love as “the peace of God that passes all human understanding.” And yet in another sense, in today’s Gospel, Jesus helps us understand much of that peace-giving love. For God gave us Jesus to show us what divine love looks like in human form.

God gave us Jesus, who is love, as God is love, so we could see it – see it not so much as a feeling, or excitement, or emotion, or the longing of one person for another – but rather love that is known by the life and teachings of one who shares the same humanity with each of us. God’s love is in fact Jesus, the person: love in action; love in life.

It is the love that fills us and overflows from us. It is the sacrificing love of the cross, the exemplary love of the Good Samaritan, the care-giving love of the Good Shepherd, the inclusive love that reaches out to outcasts and the under-served, the difficult love that embraces our enemies, the forgiving love of the prodigal son’s father.

The prayer we attribute to St. Francis focuses on this Jesus-like love. It reminds us that love can make us instruments of God’s peace – the very active expression of God. It gives love rather than hatred. It is love that seeks faith over doubt; love that lives through hope rather than despair; love that promotes joy in the midst of sadness; love that allows us to die to self so we may be born to eternal life.

As soon as Jesus had given his followers this new commandment – to love one another even as he had loved them – he gave them one thing more. He gave them a test to determine if they were indeed overflowing love onto others. The test was to examine the response of those within reach of the overflow. He said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Many of us know this from the words of the popular hymn “They will know we are Christians by our love.”

As we think about the quality of our lives, as we step back to see how others might view us through our actions, what will they see? Will they see in us what Jesus commanded? Will they see that we are so filled with God’s love that it overflows onto others?

Of course, this testing is not only about us individually. Does God’s love fill our congregations enough that it overflows to others? How effectively are we acting for the benefit of those in need of God’s love in action?

How aware are we that God’s love – Jesus-like love – fills us? How well do we help it overflow onto others in the form of active care for others? How well do we measure up to the test by which everyone will know that we are Jesus’ disciples because of our carrying out his command?

“Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”

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Christopher Sikkema


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