Elizabeth’s sermon preached on May 15, 2022

Posted by on Sun, May 15, 2022 in Easter, Sermons

The Fifth Sunday of Easter

May 15, 2022

“Discernment”

Hello and Good morning. I am so happy you could join us today, both in person and virtually.

For those who do not yet know me, name is Elizabeth Holland. For several years I had been feeling a “call”, to something, but it wasn’t until I was at St. Matthew Episcopal Church in Tacoma, about four years ago, that I realized it was a call to ministry, specifically to priesthood. Fast forward a few more years, and after going through the discernment process, meeting with the COM (commission on Ministry), and Bishop Rickel, I was offered the opportunity to become an intern at a church, and the Holy Spirit led me here, to St. Michaels and All Angels. I am so excited to be with you all, sharing this journey and walking the road ahead together, even on these rainy mornings.

The path that has brought us all together this morning has been, for me, a journey of love and faith. These past few months together have been incredible, and I look forward to where we go from here.

The readings today emphasize discipleship. Jesus tells us, that people will know we are disciples by our love for one another, and Peter shows us how by sharing the Good News with others, even when he is confronted with it by his own peers.

At the Last Supper, Jesus commands us to “love one another.” God’s love has no limits, and we are called into something greater than knowing and receiving his love; we are asked to embody the love of Christ, in our words, actions, and deeds, the very act of being a disciple.

In addition to love one another, we are told do love “as I have loved you”. As I have loved you. Throughout Jesus’ ministry, he has given us examples of how to love one another, people of different faiths and backgrounds, so when he says this at the Last Supper, his disciples have already seen examples of how Jesus loves others.   

The type of love Jesus is speaking of is Agape love. This means caring for others, having compassion, forgiving, being generous, and doing this for strangers and friends alike. It is reaching out to those of different faiths, backgrounds, careers, and being there, even when it is not easy. We are asked to do something that takes strength, commitment, and sometimes requires us to ask God for help.

The last line of the gospel is “everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Jesus is asking us to love others with our actions, with our daily tasks, with our words, and with how we treat others.

But what does it mean to be a disciple in today’s world?

To be a disciple is to embody the love that Jesus has for us and share it with everyone we meet in our day lives and activities, and to receive it from others as well. This type of love means that all participants can be transformed and enriched.

Over the years, I have realized that just by being me, a faithful believer in the teachings of Jesus, that love can be present in all of my actions.

It is in the bonds of friendship, in compassion, in those we care for, it is in the laughter that builds up inside and bursts forth spilling onto others, it is a smile you share with a friend or a stranger, and so much more.

This type of love is not always easy. Sometimes our judgements can overwhelm and push out the benevolent or goodwill kind of actions of agape love that we should be having for others. It’s in those moments that we need to rely on God more than ever, because we are all children of God.

There are times in our lives when others do not understand why we interact with, show empathy, or care for others. This might be people with different values, beliefs, political views, career choices, and anything else that is different from you. Just as we experience this judgement from others, the apostles received it as well.

Peter returns to Judea, after meeting with some Gentiles and gaining a newer understanding of God’s love. Peter is met with disbelief and disapproval from his peers regarding his actions. He easily could have become upset or criticized his fellow Jews, but he does not. He stays steadfast and strong in the power of the vision he experienced, with deeper understanding of God’s gifts given to all, “us” and “them”.

Peter shares the vision from heaven and that the Spirit showed him that there is no us and them, and that God makes no distinction in God’s love for us all.

There are moments in our lives where we are a rock for others to lean on, and times when we ourselves need to lean on others. Like Peter’s steadfastness made him a rock, we each have our own unique gifts, which we use to spread God’s love.

I am a professional ASL (American Sign Language) interpreter, and I love that Jesus nicknames Peter ‘the Rock’! The sign for “rock” is two closed fists, with your dominant fist tapping the non-dominant fist, like this. It is interesting that Peter’s name sign is the same as rock, but it is a “P” that taps the fist, like this. I would like you all to hold out your hand in a fist. Can you feel the strength of that? The muscles working together, the little zing you feel radiating up your arm…   That strength is in each and every one of us, even if we aren’t called Rock, that is God radiating power through the unique gifts God gives us.

The spreading of Christs love can seem intimidating if we try to do it just as the apostles Peter or John did. But as we look for examples around us, we can see people like the late Desmond Tutu and Helen Keller, who showed us that the strengths of faith and heart can lead to a deeper understanding of God’s love. And so, by leaning into God’s incarnate Word, we can find our strength to spread Christ’s love using our own unique gifts.

Amen.

© 2022 Elizabeth Holland. All rights reserved. Posted with permission.