Following the Way of Love

A Sermon for World Mission Sunday 2019

Given the state of the world today, there has rarely been a more important time to remind ourselves that as Christians we are a global community and we are called by God to engage with all of God’s people from around the whole world, to globally engage in the Jesus Movement.  

When we follow Jesus in a cross-cultural and global context, we remind ourselves that our faith is one where we strive to see one another as sisters and brothers in Christ, as children of God; no matter our skin color, our nationality, or our faith belief.  

Biblically, our mandate in following Christ in the Jesus Movement of The Episcopal Church comes from God and can be seen throughout the whole of scripture. We engage in the Jesus movement globally because God created humankind in God’s image; in the image of God, God created them; male and female God created them. God blessed them and God saw everything He had made and indeed, “It was very good”.

We engage globally because… 

  • we are our brother’s keepers
  • God has told us, what is good: and what does the Lord require of us?
    ...to do justice, 
    ...to love kindness,
    ...and to walk humbly with our God?
  • we are called by God to love God and to love our neighbor, and Jesus was clear who that neighbor is.

As Christians, we are called to reach out across borders, across walls, across divides and to always put family first, and our family is the whole of humanity. There are no geographical borders in God’s world, there is only love, and love knows no boundaries. We are called to relate to those in the world around us, especially the poor, the needy, and the disenfranchised, not just because we are called to compassion, but because those in need are just as much our children, our sisters, our brothers, our parents, as our own flesh and blood. 

The foundation of our following Jesus is love. We are being called to love God and to love one another, to be in relationship with God and with one another. We all need to know that we are loved by Jesus, and beloved of God. All understandings of mission engagement, all mission activities, should grow out of this foundation. When love is the foundation of our mission activities then we will all be transformed. We can take our pick on what it means to be followers of Christ, but loving God and loving one another, desiring to be in relationships with those whom we do not yet know, should be at the center of that thinking.  

When we enter into a meaningful relationship with another, then we see the God in the other, and we are all mutually transformed into what God has called us to be. We live into our full potential as children of God. In the book “Les Miserables,” Victor Hugo writes, “To love another person is to see the face of God.” Never forget that the Jesus movement is first and foremost about the transformative power of love. This is a transformation that calms the soul and enriches the spirit. A transformation that shows us that we are not forgotten, that we are loved, that we are precious in God’s sight, that we are all children of God and created in God’s image.  

There is a story of a young seminarian who asked her priest for advice before she was ordained. She was expecting some deep theological response to her question. His reply was, “Just love the people”. Love the people because whether they are your neighbor next door or across the world, they are part of your family, part of our family, all children of God. And right now, we need to be in relationship with neighbors near and far for our own good and for the good of the whole family of God. Following Jesus is not complicated, although it may not always be easy.  

Following Jesus can mean many things, from helping in soup kitchens, advocating for the disenfranchised, supporting migrants, working with children, the elderly, or the marginalized of society.  Whether we think that one aspect of following Jesus is more important than another is very subjective, but perhaps the most important thing for us to remember as a community is that we do not forget anyone; the widow, the orphan, the prisoner, the rich, the poor, the disenfranchised, the homeless and the hungry. To quote from the wisdom of the native people of Hawaii and New Zealand and adapted by Walt Disney, the word Ohana in essence means family, and “being family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten” (from Lilo and Stitch).

It is important to care for the elderly next-door neighbor, to care for the poor in our neighborhood. It is equally important to look beyond ourselves, to look beyond our own cultural and geographic context. To care for those who are in desperate economic situations, those living in war zones, those who are victims of famine, victims of oppression, victims of violence, victims of injustice, and the homeless and migrants of the world. As a community, as The Episcopal Church, it is important for us to engage in the Jesus movement with all whom we are able. If there is any doubt on how, as Episcopalians, we are called to engage with our sisters and brothers, we can always return to our baptismal vows.  

Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons loving your neighbor as yourself?
Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being? 
Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ? 

And the people say, 
“I will with God’s help.” 

Amen