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Fifth Sunday of Easter May 14, 1995

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Easter V May 14, 1995

Texts: Acts 13:44-52 Psalm 145 Revelations 21: 1-5 John 13: 31-35.

When the betrayer walks out to do his worst, when Jesus has to look squarely at death, when he knows that his life will now be poured out, he speaks of glory. The Son of Man will be glorified, God will be glorified in him, and God will glorify him in Godself: five times John emphasizes the word “glorify.” And perhaps it is so necessary to repeat, because John teaches that when Jesus is lifted up on the cross he is glorified, and who would ever associate the two?

But it is the wonder of the love of God that put Jesus there upon that cross for you and me. It is the shining glory of God to see the very worst that humans could do, and have God place the very best act of victory into it, showing that evil is undone, bested by the goodness and the love of God. Thus it is plain to see, that the cruel instrument of death has been transfigured into the symbol of the greatest love the world has ever known.

Thus it is very fitting when we ring God’s praises, the way the psalm did this morning. And that we pray: God give us the love for what God commands, and fix our hearts where true joy is found. Make us understand that the cross is stands squarely in the center of love, and that such love is the mark of Christianity, and any version of hostility that tries to go under that name betrays the very heart of the one who died to manifest the love of God.


Not all who call themselves Christians are really so. The devil has a good number of people using that name to try to undo it. “Not everyone speaking about heaven is going there,” to use the words of an old Negro spiritual. The mark of a Christian is not a pin or a necklace with a cross on it, or the fact that one carries a Bible. The real mark of a Christian is love for one another. It is being newly begotten of this God whose heart is full of love and compassion. In the words of our psalm: “The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.” We sing that glorious characterization of God every Sunday in Lent.

And it is this Father-God who begets the loving and gentle people of God. And he multiplies these gentle and loving people, so that a holy city full of them descends from God out of heaven, like the new Jerusalem, adorned like a bride bedecked for the bridegroom. A city has often been compared to a woman, and the suburbs, the villages nestled around it (in the scriptures) are called the daughters. Thus the holy city descends from the sky, and the train of the wedding gown is all the tender and gentle people by God’s love begotten, come that the violent ones of our city might die, and that these people of love rise in their place.

One time Nora and I, Ashley and perhaps Joshua as a baby came to Oakland for a vacation. Perhaps it was only Ashley as a baby. And we came to a friend here, who had been my intern in Coney Island. He gave us his apartment, gave us his car, gave it all so very selflessly. We did not feel we could afford a vacation, but that was some vacation! I remember going to a restaurant for breakfast, and getting pancakes that were so large they spilled over the plate. Fruit was all around them, and the coffee was as much as you could drink. And I thought: in this city there is quality of life. Everything is made with a touch of charm and intelligence. And there was a golden sparkle in that street. And now we live near-by, and I can’t remember where that restaurant was, where that street.


But one thing I know. The holy Jerusalem can descend into a city, even such a city as Oakland. It can be inside of this earthly city, and the gentle and loving people of God can sweep into Oakland’s people with that swirling sweep of the brides wedding gown. The new Jerusalem can be in Oakland, and Oakland can be inside the new Jerusalem, with all her daughters: the suburbs nestled round. And the God of Love shall be in the midst of her, making God’s home with us. And there shall be no more death in the streets, no more violence, no more crime, no more prejudice, the killing; pain, grief, and crying will be no more, because God will wipe every tear from their eyes. Because the great heart of God is broken to see the sorry state this people have come to.

And there are signs: just yesterday I was surprised to see a cartoon called the X-Men (as Joshua noted, even though there are many women in it too) and the plot was not one of violence, but of the mutants and superheroes struggling to get away from unbelief. One was really trying to convert everyone to God. And when the end came, cynical comments were rebuffed, and the most unbelieving character was in a church on his knees, reading the verses of psalms. I said to myself: “Now, when will they stick a pin into this balloon?” But they didn’t. Lo and behold, the X-Men were really praying, and the cartoon made no bones about it.

That is something new in our culture. It is as new as when for the first time, a fellow of Christian convictions was not presented as a fanatic in Chariots of Fire, when he refused to run an Olympic race, because it was the Sabbath.


Seldom do we speak of a whole city getting replaced by a new inside, becoming opened, and having the heavenly city descend internally into it. But mostly we speak of people getting inner renewal. People getting a new heart within them. Becoming renewed by the changing of their minds. Taking the same attitude as Christ, who humbled himself, taking on the form of a servant, emptying himself, to become full of concern for others. Becoming obedient to God unto death, even the death of the cross.

And that will be glory, glory for you and glory for me. To let that same attitude descend out of heaven to fill our hearts. An attitude that has filled mothers, mothers whom we celebrate on this day. Mothers are rightly honored because they have represented unconditional love and thus witnessed to God, who is dwelling amongst us in, with, and under them. God who has begotten the strength of these women, who have often far surpassed men in their ability to love the little folk, I mean the children in the practical way, which fills their needs. So we toast the maturity of women, which has made them mothers who reflect the image of God so clearly and strongly in our midst.

And we thank God for calling new pastors. Lance will be graduating this afternoon from our seminary on the hill. And the image of God also reflects clearly and powerfully through a pastor sent to bring the good tidings of the Gospel. But what makes it a joy, Lance, is that you find the saints of God in a congregation, also reflecting the face of God your way. And that face of God is more beautiful and more full of love for you than is even bearable in our poor mortal frame. Our hearts begin overflowing like the proverbial cup, starting our eyes -overflowing with tears just to think of it. And of course a pastor is a sinner and a saint like all the rest of us. But in the gospel of Christ we become more and more alive to God and more and more dead to sin. In the end the victory is with Christ, and sin just wont make us come alive any more. Our hearts just aren’t in it. No our hearts then become fixed on where the true joy is found, and we begin to love what God commands.

So you Lance, like DeDe Maiers, being ordained today in Walnut Creek, are going to be proclaiming the wonderful Gospel, which is so powerful, it can change even my sinful heart, and yours as well. It can take away our wretched love for sinning, and give us a heart that shares God’s love to those in need. And yes, it goes through the cross. But count it all joy. Because for us the cross is not the end. All the suffering merely becomes changed into a rich new quality of love in a fresh new existence called into being by God.

And that will be glory. Glory for you and glory for me. You too will begin to bear the marks of a Christian. They will be the marks of love far surpassing any suffering, which is also vanquished, because it all just adds to the music of your witness. Blessings on you Lance, and Godspeed your proclamation of the glorious Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.


Written by peterkrey

July 27, 2006 at 12:44 am

Posted in Selected Sermons

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