From a Sermon by Miranda Hassett - St. Dunstan's Episcopal Church - Madison, Wisconsin
Another part of what we do is that we say some things together. We say some things that remind us of who we are, and what we believe, and how we try to live, as God’s people. It’s called the Baptismal Covenant. A covenant is kind of like a promise. It has five questions in it that all start “Will you?” They ask if we will keep being faithful to our church family, if we’ll turn back to God when we go wrong, if we’ll share God’s good news in our lives, if we’ll love other people and try to help them, and if we’ll work to build a better world. And what we say when we answer all those questions is, I WILL, WITH GOD’S HELP! Because those are all important and also hard; so we say, Yes, we will do it, but we need your help, God.
Today I want to talk a little bit about the fourth question. Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
Who’s your neighbor? … Jesus means, anybody whose life crosses paths with your life. Friends, family, strangers, enemies, all are our neighbors. Even people who live around the world from us are our neighbors in God’s eyes. So we’re talking about, how we treat other people.
At your school, do they talk about the Golden Rule? What’s the Golden Rule? … Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Treat other people the way you want to be treated. Do your parents or teachers sometimes ask you, “How would you feel if somebody did that to you?” Like if you don’t feel like sharing, or you get upset and hit somebody. You have to think about how it feels when somebody doesn’t share with you, or when somebody gets mad and hits you.
The Golden Rule is a good way to think about how to treat people, because it helps us think about how things feel for somebody else. But Jesus says something different here, in today’s Gospel story. He says something more. He says, Love each other the way I love you. Love each other the way Jesus loves you. The way God loves you.
Let’s try out an example to explain this… What do you like to eat for breakfast?… Okay. So, if you’re in charge of breakfast, if you get to choose, you’ll have waffles. Now, what if you had a guest and you were making breakfast for them too? And you made them waffles, because it’s your favorite? You are trying to be kind and loving. You are making them the thing that you really like. You are loving your neighbor as yourself.
But what if your guest doesn’t like waffles? It’s just not their favorite. Maybe it even tastes bad to them. Or maybe they’re even allergic to it, (or they’re vegetarian). Then even you were trying to be kind, the breakfast you made for them isn’t meeting their needs. So what could you do differently? …
Yeah! If you really wanted to make your guest happy, make them feel welcome and loved, you would ask them what they like best for breakfast, and then, if you can, that’s what you would make for them.
Jesus says, Love each other the way I love you. Jesus didn’t treat everybody the same. He looked into people and saw who they were and what they needed, and that’s how he responded to them. That’s the kind of love Jesus and God show us, the kind of love that sees that our neighbors are sometimes different from us. What they need and want and hope for might be different too.
We had a little story about that earlier today, in the story about Peter the apostle. Peter and Midamos had a way of following Jesus, that included keeping the practices of Judaism. And they thought that was the right way for everybody who follows Jesus. But God showed Peter that he was wrong. God showed Peter that Gentiles, people who didn’t follow Jewish practices, were called to follow Jesus and become Christians, too.
For Peter, to love those new Christians the way he loved himself, would be to say, Here are the rules for being a Christian. Instead, God helped Peter to love these new Christians the way God loved them, so he was able to just say, Welcome to God’s family! I am glad you’re here!
Our Baptismal Covenant asks us to love our neighbors as ourselves. But let’s remember that that’s just the beginning, and that, with God’s help, we can try to love our neighbors with God’s love, which is bigger and broader and brighter than our love.
I’m going to ask the question now, and I want to hear a nice loud answer: I will, with God’s help!
Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself? …