Worship Service for the 6th Sunday of Easter

Hi everyone,

Welcome to worship for this 6th Sunday of Easter, landing on May 5, 2024!

The worship bulletin for this service can be found here. You may use it to follow along with the service as it contains all the words of the liturgy as well as the full sermon, or you can just follow with the words on your screen. The sermon is also included on this page below the video.

Also to enhance your online worship experience, you are welcome to have a candle in your space, lit at the beginning of the service and then extinguished near the end after the sending hymn. You are also welcome to participate in communion by having something small to eat and drink ready to be consumed. Further instruction will be given at the appropriate time.

May God’s love shine in your lives and rule your hearts, this day and always!

May your Spirit, O God, be poured out upon us this day, filling us with the knowledge of your love and grace, through the embodiment of your Word, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

There is this trend going around on TikTok and other social media platforms right now where a woman is asked if they find themselves alone in the woods for whatever reason, would they rather run into a random man… or a bear.  On the flip side, men are also asked which they’d prefer for their female spouse or daughter or whatever female they care about.  And it seemed like more often than not, regardless of who was asked, the answer was the bear.

And I get it, because truth be told, I’d probably choose a bear as well.   Not just for my wife or daughter, but even for myself.  I mean, bears, on the most part, are pretty predictable and can be dealt with if you took proper precautions and were smart about it.  But a man?  A man can be completely unpredictable and more dangerous than a wild animal.  Bears really will only hurt humans if they’re protecting themselves or if they’re angry or maybe even hungry.  But people can hurt other people simply because they want to.  And that’s scary.

As you would imagine, this trend brought out a flurry of reactions, mostly from men.  Men who jumped at the chance to defend all of menkind in saying that men wouldn’t be as dangerous as bears and are kinder than bears and are able to be reasoned with more than bears would be.  And that brought out a bunch of counter-reactions from the women and some sympathetic men, which brought out counter-counter reactions, and the cycle of gaslighting, hurt, and even hate continued on and on between the two or more sides to this simple question. 

I’ll admit, this was a hard pill for me to swallow.  It hits hard as a father to our 10-year-old daughter, as a husband to my wife, and as part of a long line of women in my family.  It made me lament the kind of world that we’ve fostered, the type of environment that we’re leaving behind, the attitudes and perceptions that we’ve perpetrated over the years in society.  It makes me sad.

But I know, most men often mean well, but we can’t deny that there are men out there that purposely hurt others.  Most men don’t want to act maliciously or sadistically, but we need to recognise that there are men who do.  Quite often men wish to treat others with respect and consideration, but the kind of evil that would make the general populace prefer the company of a bear over that of a random man continues to run rampant around the world.

And we are baffled with how these evil people could live with themselves, how they could be so blind to the hurt and pain they cause, how they could have so much hate for those around them.  So yeah, it makes me sad that even though these types may be far and few in between, it’s enough for us to continue to live in fear and worry.  It’s enough for us to know to be cautious.  It’s enough to perhaps hate them back.

This makes Jesus’ words in today’s gospel lesson all the more difficult to hear and even attempt to follow.  Love each other?  Are you serious?  How can we do that when there is so much evil, so much to be afraid of, so much hate and divide over anything that any of us could ever imagine?  The world just gives us too much reason to hate, and not enough to love.  But Jesus is clear, he asks us to love each other, without much regard as to how impossible that is in reality.

I mean, dangerous men aside, people in general can be so hard to love.  We know that people can have a great tendency for evil.  We know that people can have an aptitude to do wrong in the eyes of the law and basic common sense.  We know that people can be so different, so opposing, so not us that we can’t help but to distrust, point fingers, and choose that bear all day long.

And even in that whole bear question, there is so much reason to be angry.  Angry at the truth it points to.  Angry at the lies it uncovers.  Angry that someone could be on the other side of our argument and viewpoint and disagree with us.

Because really, how dare they?

How dare they hold such outlandish opinions?  How dare they think in such a way that we don’t like?  How dare they be born in such a place, time, and culture that would give us so much reason to disagree, to be different, to dislike each other so much?

Well, putting it that way, it doesn’t make much sense, does it?  Maybe it never did.  I mean all the reasons that we have to pit them against us, they aren’t exactly rational, are they?  Sure, they might be emotional, but can they be intellectually justified?  Should how one votes cause us to hate them?  Can one’s preference in sports team sway our relationship?  Would a variance on what one believes to be right or wrong in terms of what is more dangerous between a man and a bear actually determine whether or not you could love them?

I’m not talking about a romantic love by any means, I’m pretty sure Jesus didn’t either.  Nor are we talking a “phileo” love, which is a love between close friends.  But rather, the love that I’m talking about and the love that Jesus is asking of us is an “agape” love, which is a respect for the other, a recognition of our shared humanity, a regard of this other human who is also a child of God.  This agape love, sometimes referred to as a universal love, is the love that God shows us, that God empowers us with, and is what God just is.  Agape love is what we are called to.

This doesn’t mean that we should go trouncing into the woods with a strange person or even a bear for that matter, but it does mean that while we can still hold our own opinions and viewpoints, those who don’t agree with us don’t have to be hated on, pigeon-holed as an enemy, or even seen as beneath us.  Disagreements don’t need to separate us.  Difference in opinions shouldn’t define us as worthy of love or not, whether it be from us, or from God.

Rather, we can see each other as worthy of love because we are all graciously recreated by God to be worthy of love.  God, who is love, formed us with this love, by the power of this love, and as a product of this love.  It is what we are called to do, what we are meant to be, who we even are at the core of our very being.  This agape love, I believe, is the whole point of all that we are, all that we do, and all that we’ll ever be.

And I know just saying these words won’t make it easy.  In fact, it might make it harder as the world seems to have hijacked the word love and made it into a selfish emotion.  The world tells us that we should get love when we want it, that we deserve love because we’re entitled to it, that we are defined by love because we’ve earned it.  Those are lies.  The agape love that we’re given, the love that we’re called to recognise, the love that we’re empowered to show, comes not from want, entitlement, or earning, but it comes from the understanding and realisation that it is through grace that we are loved, and through this love we are saved and brought into the welcome and belonging in God’s kingdom.

Then when we see how much we are agape loved, then perhaps we can learn to show it to others.  We can begin to regard others with this respect that we are given.  We might be able to set aside all those reasons to hate, and make room for and uphold all the reasons to love.  Which, first and foremost, is because God has always deemed us worthy to be loved.

So you see, our God that is agape love has brought us together as the one body of Christ, connected and supporting, abiding and caring, lifted up and reflecting on the world this love.  In that while we all have our faults and sins, they will never disqualify us from our position and identity as God’s people, not us, not them, not anyone in all of history.  For God’s grace wills it, fulfills it, and makes it so.  In, around, and through us, now and always.

In this season of Easter, the season of resurrection and belonging, may we continually see the love that has been graciously given to us, that we might in turn know how to give it to others.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.