Weekly Seeds: Glorify God
Sunday, May 15, 2022
Fifth Sunday of Easter | Year C
Glorious God, you call us into faithful community. Help us to follow you in the way of love for one another. Amen.
31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32 If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33 Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
All readings for this Sunday:
1. What does love look like?
2. In what tangible ways do we love our neighbor?
3. Where do we need more love of neighbor?
4. How is God glorified by our love of neighbor?
5. How does love of neighbor transform communities and the world?
By Cheryl Lindsay
During the Easter season, the lectionary takes us back to explore the passages found before the Passion. We hear the words that Jesus shares with those first disciples. I imagine in the days and weeks following the resurrection, they reviewed all those revelations. They revisited his teaching and confidences from the other side of those monumental events in order to make sense of what had been so mysterious. The disciples probably never stopped reflecting on these words of Jesus throughout their ministry. That was probably the point.
After all, Jesus knew what lay before him. Having extensive experience with the disciples, Jesus also understood what they would need to know before and after the events. This week’s passage is situated within the Farewell Discourse in the Gospel according to John. Much of this material is unique to John, but perhaps, most importantly, the framing of it is particularly Johannine. This section of the gospel account marks a shift in Jesus’ ministry. It also notes a transition in his relationship to the disciples.
Farewells don’t come easily. A farewell is a wish of well-being that occurs at parting. It is an opportunity to say a formal goodbye or to honor someone who is moving on because their time in a particular place or assignment has come to an end. Farewells indicate departure, an ending, a goodbye.
It’s hard to say goodbye. It’s hard to acknowledge the end of something, especially when it’s been good, when deep connections and meaningful relationships have been formed. It’s not easy to imagine the newness that comes from ending. We can often focus on the void we anticipate will enter our lives as we realize that the faces we’ve grown accustomed to seeing and the voices we recognize in only a few syllables or phrases will no longer be a regular part of our days.
Sometimes, we react to these changes by avoidance, pretending that things will be the same. We may do our best to delay the final moment when we just have no choice but to say goodbye. Or we may even use different phrases, like see you later or see you soon or until we meet again. They take the sting off the harshness of departure.
According to John, Jesus begins his farewell with acts of servitude and hospitality. Prior to the passage, chapter 13 includes the washing of the feet of the disciples and communion. It also includes the departure of the one disciple who was outside their community even when he was in it. Judas leaves before Jesus but even that action is connected as a pivotal progression to Jesus’ passion. Yet, Judas was included into those acts that also demonstrated what Jesus would come to say in the words of our text this week.
The material contained in John 13–17 is unique to this Gospel. The underlying perspective of the farewell discourse is different from the first half of John’s Gospel, which narrates Jesus’ ministry to the Jews, with his followers playing only a minor role as disciples of Rabbi Jesus. The farewell discourse, on the other hand, presents Jesus’ mission to the world, based on his cross-death and carried out through his followers in the power of the Spirit. The underlying assumption is that Jesus has been exalted; thus, he will answer prayer offered in his name, send his Spirit and direct the mission of his followers, and take his disciples into the loving and unified Father-Son relationship. The disciples have risen from lowly helpers to partners in ministry.Andreas J. Köstenberger
Supper is over. Jesus has broken bread with his disciples. He has offered bread and wine, body and blood. He has washed their feet, an act of humility, servitude and love. It’s almost time for him to go. It’s almost time to move on to another place in his ministry. It’s time to fulfill the purpose for which he was born, to demonstrate the reason that he came, and to finish the plan established and ordained by God for his life.
Jesus knew what he needed to do. He was prepared and resolute. He was confident and committed to the path before Him. Yet, clearly, he was concerned about his disciples and wanted one last opportunity to spend time with them. Even for Jesus, it was hard to say goodbye.
As I think about that night, it occurs to me that in all the words we hear Jesus utter from the cross, we do not hear him complain that most of his disciples did not follow him there. He chided the disciples who went to the garden with him and kept falling asleep during prayer. He complains of thirst and even lashes out at with feelings of abandonment. But he says nothing about the disciples who went into hiding instead of journeying with him to Calvary. He had called each one of them by name to follow him, to drop everything and everyone and dedicate their lives to walking with him, to going where he went and doing what he did. Yet, at this seminal moment in the history of humanity and of his life on earth, the message to the disciples isn’t about attending his death; it’s about living their lives.
Life is the center of the Christian narrative. In his words of farewell, Jesus does not focus on death–his or anyone else’s. Rather, he paints a picture of life in the kindom, participation in the realm of God, and restoration of holy creation. Jesus’ promise of abundant life is rooted in this vision, saturated with love, and vested with eternity. That is how the Holy One is glorified–through lives lived in the kindom, facilitated by the cross, but not defined and limited by it. The glory of the cross comes not from a gruesome and horrific death, but the diminution of its power and the transformation of its reality. Jesus claims victory in the face of obvious defeat. Overcoming the grave and the bounds of death to claim new life, Jesus forges a new path to be followed.
The way of that path is love:
The most important question raised by Jesus’ “glorification,” understood as his departure from the world, is that of the disciples’ responsibility in his absence. This he now states, in the simplest possible terms: “A new command51 I give you, that you love each other, just as I loved you, that you too love each other” (v. 34). This “new command” could be viewed as the Johannine equivalent of “the new covenant” instituted similarly at a last meal according to Luke and Paul (Lk 22:20; 1 Cor 11:25). All our literary witnesses, in fact (see Mk 14:24; Mt 26:28), agree that something decisive occurred at Jesus’ last meal with his disciples, something that determined how they would live, but the other sources connect that something to the church’s observance of the Lord’s Supper, while John’s Gospel connects it instead with the everyday life of Jesus’ disciples during his absence, particularly with their obligation to love and serve one another. What makes the command “new”? Is it a new command replacing one or more older commands? Or a new command in addition to commands already familiar?Ramsey J. Michaels
Throughout the biblical corpus, we are reminded that the Sovereign One is the God of the new. God makes all things new…eventually even a new heaven and a new earth. Our lives and the history of humanity demonstrate how much newness God brings to life. But, this command to love one another does not seem new. The Book of the Law is permeated with admonitions that codify what it is to be in loving community and right relationship with both God and neighbor. What is new about this?
Even the sacrificial love Jesus exemplifies isn’t entirely new. We have the prophets who spoke truth to power and David who risked his life for the people charged to his care. What makes this charge to love “new”?
It’s Jesus. In another instance, Jesus defines the greatest commandment, in part, as loving your neighbor as yourself. Here, Jesus says love as Jesus has loved you. That brings a different standard. Love is often framed as an emotion or as actions that we undertake. While both hold truth, they are limited understandings of love when compared with the glorious love of Jesus.
God is love. Jesus is the living, breathing, walking, talking embodiment of love. When Jesus invites his disciples to love as he has loved them, he has invited them into a journey of bringing love to life. That is how God is glorified, not in our compassionate and affectionate feelings toward one another or acts of charity and good will. The Holy One may be pleased by them, but glory requires more. Nor is Jesus beckoning us to our own death on a cross, a life filled only with sacrifice and pain. No, suffering does not glorify God. Life, and life to the full, does that.
Life that journeys with strangers and friends glorifies God. Life that empathizes with the suffering of others and commits to healing and restoration glorifies God. Life that challenges the systems that counter the way, reign, and will of the Creator glorifies God. Life that is defined and rooted in love glorifies God.
We, who are created in the image of God, all genders are created in that image, glorify God when we reflect that love through the fullness and wholeness of our lives.
Reflection from Voices of People of African Descent:
The 33rd General Synod adopted a Resolution to Recognize the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024). As part of its implementation, Sermon and Weekly Seeds offers Reflection from Voices of People of African Descent related to the season or overall theme for additional consideration in sermon preparation and for individual and congregational study.
The garden is very quiet to-night,
The dusk has gone with the Evening Star,
And out on the bay a lone ship light
Makes a silver pathway over the bar
Where the sea sings low.
I follow the light with an earnest eye,
Creeping along to the thick far-away,
Until it fell in the depths of the deep, dark sky
With the haunting dream of the dusk of day
And its lovely glow.
Long nights, long nights and the whisperings of new ones,
Flame the line of the pathway down to the sea
With the halo of new dreams and the hallow of old ones,
And they bring magic light to my love reverie
And a lover’s regret.
Tender sorrow for loss of a soft murmured word,
Tender measure of doubt in a faint, aching heart,
Tender listening for wind-songs in the tree heights heard
When you and I were of the dusks a part,
Are with me yet.
I pray for faith to the noble spirit of Space,
I sound the cosmic depths for the measure of glory
Which will bring to this earth the imperishable race
Of whom Beauty dreamed in the soul-toned story
The Prophets told.
Silence and love and deep wonder of stars
Dust-silver the heavens from west to east,
From south to north, and in a maze of bars
Invisible I wander far from the feast
As night grows old.
Half blind is my vision I know to the truth,
My ears are half deaf to the voice of the tear
That touches the silences as Autumn’s ruth
Steals thru the dusks of each returning year
A goodly friend.
The Autumn, then Winter and wintertime’s grief!
But the weight of the snow is the glistening gift
Which loving brings to the rose and its leaf,
For the days of the roses glow in the drift
And never end.
The moon has come. Wan and pallid is she.
The spell of half memories, the touch of half tears,
And the wounds of worn passions she brings to me
With all the tremor of the far-off years
And their mad wrong.
Yet the garden is very quiet to-night,
The dusk has long gone with the Evening Star,
And out on the bay the moon’s wan light
Lays a silver pathway beyond the bar,
Dear heart, pale and long.
— W. E. B. DuBois
For further reflection:
“Showing off is the fool’s idea of glory.” ― Bruce Lee
“I always wondered why the makers leave housekeeping and cooking out of their tales. Isn’t it what all the great wars and battles are fought for — so that at day’s end a family may eat together in a peaceful house?” ― Ursula K. Le Guin, Voices
“True glory consists in doing what deserves to be written, in writing what deserves to be read, and in so living as to make the world happier and better for our living in it.” ― Pliny the Elder
A preaching commentary on this text (with works cited) is at https://www.ucc.org/what-we-believe/worship/sermon-seeds/.
The Rev. Dr. Cheryl A. Lindsay, Minister for Worship and Theology (firstname.lastname@example.org), also serves a local church pastor and worship scholar-practitioner with a particular interest in the proclamation of the word in gathered communities. You’re invited to share your reflections on this text in the comments below this post on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SermonSeeds.
About Weekly Seeds
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Weekly Seeds is a service of Local Church Ministries of the United Church of Christ. Bible texts are from the New Revised Standard Version, © 1989 Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.