Lectionary Thoughts Easter 6
1 John 5:1-6
Acts offers a wonderful opportunity to note that some who speak the gospel aren’t baptized. They may not be Christians, but they have the fire of truth. Consequently, perhaps there are places in the culture that do not engage in “God Talk” that reveal, witness, and represent the faith of Jesus Christ. Such a sermon might lead us to remind people some of the core aspects of our faith: do not fear death; have courage; trust in the dream.
The Psalm is about awe. I would connect the emotive content of praise, which unites the soul, with the sense of awe that we are living creatures. Metaphors that highlight being alive – “flow” – could be useful. Perhaps I would flesh out some nature stories.
There are two places I would explore from the letter from John. The first is the sentence:
”And his commandments are not burdensome, 4for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. 5Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”
I would explore what it means that commandments are not burdensome – compared to what? Don’t commandments require some sort of check on self-control? I might use this as an entryway into the problem of self-control, and why it is a virtue: that self-control is not burdensome. There is a New Yorker article about a famous marshmallow experiment. Perhaps faith is a distraction from that which would kill us. And this distraction allows us to find what saves.
The second part of the letter I would want to examine is “water and blood.” This is fairly opaque and deserves a bit of attention. I have in my mind the phrase “blood, sweat and tears.” Water and blood have some relation to “truth.” Perhaps this illuminates the violence that is at the root of all civiliazation, and how Christ’s death reveals it. The truth, in this case, is that we are motivated by desire, and that we desire what other people desire. Perhaps we are invited to continually reflect upon who’s desire is what roots our own: what Jesus desires? (wholeness, liberation, freedom, love, joy), or the cycle of desire that makes us anxious? Perhaps credit cards measure how out of control our desire is.
I admit, there is a mesmerizing, cultic quality to the Gospel reading. The words “abide” and “my love” and “commandment” make it seem much like a chant almost designed to rescribe our neural pathways. Perhaps in order to love one another we have to be able to listen to the music differently. Music, in this way, becomes the key metaphor. We are called, perhaps, to be in harmony.
I might discuss how “loving one another” is like learning to play games together. Another option: the James Alison route and use the word “like” in place of love. “I am giving you these commands that you might like one another.” I think that the constituitive element of love that is most interesting is actually “liking.” In my own parish, one of the vestrymembers said before I was made rector, “we don’t need someone who loves us. We need someone who likes us.”