Diocese of Hong Kong IslandDiocese of Hong Kong Island   Hong Kong Sheng Kung HuiHong Kong Sheng Kung Hui   St. John's Cathedral, Hong KongSt. John's Cathedral, Hong Kong

 

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God’s Glory, God’s Love
15-May-2022
Preacher: Will Newman

 

Sermon at St Stephen’s Stanley, May 15th 2022 


The message I draw from today’s three bible readings is God’s Glory and God’s Love.


Our gospel reading from St John takes us back to the night of the Last Supper. Jesus is in the Upper Room with his 12 disciples. No, 11, because Judas has just gone out. We know, and Jesus knows, what he has gone to do. The die is cast. The traitor has gone to do his dirty work. Jesus will be handed over to those earthly rulers who have the power to order his death. It seems to be the time of gathering clouds of darkness. And yet for St John this is the time of glory, when Jesus the Son of Man and Son of God is glorified. All his life’s work has been leading up to Now.


‘Little children, I am with you only a little longer’, says Jesus. He knows he has only a short time left to say what is most urgent, most important, most essential for the disciples to remember. They will remember these final words of instruction and encouragement. What is it that is absolutely vital, that must be communicated before it’s too late?


Love one another.

A New Commandment, love each other.


According to ancient tradition, St John was the last of the 12 disciples to die; he was the last direct link with Jesus. One of John’s disciples, the Christians who were with the old man, recorded that John kept encouraging them to love one another. When asked why he repeated this so often, John replied simply, ‘It is what the Lord commanded. If it is all you do, it is enough.’


Jesus’ death on the cross is the time of glory. God’s glory is revealed on the cross, and that glory is love. It is the love that gave himself for us, love undefeated, that loves to the end and beyond, love that never gives up on us, and on sinful humanity.


‘Just as I have loved you, so you should love one another’, says Jesus. Our human love is intended to be a reflection of that divine love. ‘By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love another.’ How do we Christians measure up?


The Anglican Church in Australia has just held its General Synod, the Church parliament, in the past week. The Synod was bitterly divided. In a vote, the bishops narrowly refused to support a motion against same-sex marriage, a motion brought by the ultra-conservative diocese of Sydney. A friend of mine who was there was in tears after a divisive debate that brought out the worst in people. How is it that Christians allow ourselves to be divided and fight against each other in this way? Where is our love for one another?


Coming closer to home, how do we do ourselves, here in St Stephen’s, at work and at home? Do we find love from those around us? Last night 27 of us enjoyed a parish supper, our first since some time last year. It was an evening when friendships were renewed and new friendships made, when we showed our love for each other in conversation and laughter, giving something of ourselves and receiving grace from each other, and it was very good. Sometimes we need to go deeper. At our parish retreat last November we came up with the slogan, ‘Look out for the strong.’ Those who appear to be strong may in fact be deeply wounded or troubled. Sometimes the strong are as much in need of a kind word or touch, as those we know are in trouble. And even when we’re not in trouble, we all still appreciate a gesture of support and friendship. I hope and trust that each one of us can find that comfort, that love, when we need it. Can we become a community known by our love for one another? I know we can.


Our first reading this morning from Acts of the Apostles tells of the clash between Peter and many of the other Jewish believers. They heard that Peter had accepted Gentiles as believers in Christ, and started eating meals with them, which meant eating foods considered unclean by religious Jews. They were horrified. Why would he do that? But Peter had come to a vision of a world where the barriers between Jews and Gentiles, and all our man-made barriers between people, were broken down by the love of God, revealed in Christ and brought into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. And as they listened, the others accepted Peter’s vision, and received it with open hearts. They came to understand that God’s glory was shown not in keeping ourselves separate from others or outsiders, not by jealously guarding God’s love, keeping it for ourselves and others like us, but by opening God’s love to all people, and drawing them into the circle of love.


We come to our second reading from the Book of Revelation, the Revelation to St John. Was this the same John who wrote the gospel, the last of the twelve disciples? Maybe it was. After many visions of conflict, and scenes of terror and destruction, comes peace; and we see John’s vision of a new heaven and a new earth, brought together in a new marriage with a heavenly bride. It is a glorious vision of a world where destructive conflicts are resolved, and all our pain and grief are no more. The glory of God is revealed in the love that brings healing and restores our right relations with each other, wiping away every tear from our eyes.


‘To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life,’ says the one on the throne in John’s vision.

That life-giving water is the light of love.


‘Love one another. It is what the Lord commanded. If it is all you do, it is enough.’ So let’s do it!