I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
Judas has left the building - just before Jesus turns to his disciples and says these words.
It is the evening of the last supper. It is the night before he is betrayed.
He washes their feet; says, do this. He breaks bread and pours out wine; says, do this.
And now he says, as I have loved you love one another.
I have been glorified, he says, and I will be glorified again. It has begun: the train of events that led from their last meal together to his words on the cross, "It is finished," as at last it is his body broken and his blood outpoured that are given. At last those precious gifts are shared and how he loves us is truly known.
And now he says, now at this moment in our gospels, as I have loved you love one another.
Wash the feet, break the bread, share the wine. Give over your lives. Stand fast when your companions, all those around you, flee for the hills.
This is not a love as the world knows love. This is not how people conduct themselves. Look around you, at a small group or a large. Is the faculty bickering, fighting over who is really in charge? Is a leader putting himself forward as persecuted, grudging, inviting you to grudge, to persecute, to get your own?
They - the world, when you love as Christ loved - will look at you, you will look at each other, differently.
And how is this even possible? In Christ - in the context of the Holy Spirit that he will send you. As we seek to be transformed into his likeness.
People go to church…
… to pray
… to get connected
- to God
- to other people
… as a little solace,
- a little laughter,
- a human touch in a lonely week.
People go to church for…
We are not doing this alone - this, life; this trying to follow Jesus.
We are there for others
- help along the way
in sorrow, grief
We are there
to be transformed into Christ likeness
not to ‘convert’ anybody
but to change ourselves
That kind of conversion - ongoing growth in faith and development as a person - we can get behind. We can encourage each other.
What we are trying to do
“just tryin’ to be a good Christian” - or a good human
is hard and we could use
- a little help
- a little company
- a little guidance
… and that is where faith formation comes in.
Intentional faith development is our work together, to learn about and grow in faith. We the church offer opportunities for people of all ages and places in life, to study and learn…
… standard sounding things like Bible, church history,
the meaning of mission, techniques and practices of prayer;
and through them less obvious things like
compassion, hope, community, listening, and
what we can do together to express in our lives,
in how we live, what we believe.
Simple ways we have taken through our lives: individual private prayer and Bible reading, studying the Bible together and discussing it and praying together, weekly Eucharist, annual retreats silent or guided, these are models and ways we grow, together, in faith.
Sharing faith is showing faith.
Showing faith is growing faith.
Living as if it is real - living as we do because it is real - gets us closer to Jesus, gets us farther on the way.
That is the kind of conversion we seek.
Some basic pointers:
Love one another
As I have loved you
Love your neighbor
Love creation - and take care of it, don’t wreck it!
and seek out ways you can learn, and teach, the patterns and pathways of faith,
and grow and develop as Christians,
as people who take responsibility, individually and together, for our own growth and development - in faith, in life, in understanding, in charity, in love —
Conversion is taking responsibility for an area of our own growth and development.
What does it means when we do this individually and together? How do we take responsibility for our own growth and development?
Everything is done differently in the light of Christ's love. Our giving becomes giving in joy, giving of the gifts he has shared with us.
Our stewardship of the earth is caring for what we have received in Christ.
Our kindness to the stranger is welcoming her as we welcome Christ.
Our worship is in his presence. As we pass the bread and share the cup we remember: he is showing his love for us in these gifts, and as we share them and take them in, we remember his words:
This is my body. This is my blood.
We become his people, his body in the world, and he becomes, even more, our God.