Sermon by The Rev. Kathy McAdams
St John’s Episcopal Church, Franklin, MA
July 7, 2019
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
Today's collect connects several important concepts: It states that the way we keep God’s commandments is by loving God and loving our neighbor. It suggests that being “devoted to [God] with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection”, are parallel with each other, and perhaps equivalent to loving God and neighbor. From this pairing, we might conclude that loving my neighbor, loving someone whom God loves is, indeed, the same as loving God, or at least that it is an integral part of loving God.
But just when we think we have the theme for today figured out, then we turn to the Scripture readings and they’re about healing - about curing the sick in God’s name and becoming laborers in God’s harvest. They are about evangelizing…spreading the Good News of God’s Kingdom. It seems clear that for Jesus, healing people is part of proclaiming the Gospel. But why are these particular readings assigned for today, and paired with this particular collect? This pairing would seem to suggest that loving God and neighbor have something to do with healing and proclaiming the Good News. And rightly so! Let’s unpack that a bit.
Loving God, “being devoted to God with our whole heart”, is a very active kind of love. This does not imply simply admiration from afar, but active involvement and engagement. This is the type of love that gets us up out of our seats, and makes us want to work for God, to sacrifice for God, to ask what God wants of us above anything we might want for ourselves. This type of love makes us willing to follow wherever God leads, even if it’s not what we had in mind.
Loving our neighbor, “being united to one another with pure affection”, also calls for the same type of action. This is not simply an oath to do no harm, or to stay out of other peoples’ business, but it is a mandate to be proactive, to insert ourselves in peoples' business, and most of all to be an agent of God’s healing love for others. God requires our hands and feet and voices to work in God’s name, to accompany people in their pain, to bear witness to our hope, and to offer healing. In so doing, we are by our actions, proclaiming that the Kingdom of God has come near. We are affirming that God offers something better than what we know here and now. We are affirming that together, and with God, we can be something better, and can have a better world, if we work for it.
This proclamation of God’s Good News, through word and deed, is dear to me. Because I don't believe the church is here to keep God's love a secret. There must be a purpose to our gathering here every Sunday - not just to feel good, to give us strength to face the week, but to benefit those who aren't here. The Church is not a private club; it's a community organization, for the benefit of this community and of the world. We gather here each week (yes, to be strengthened), but not just for our own purposes, but for God's purposes. We gather here to be strengthened to go out into the world and share God's love, to share the Good News that God loves the world so much that he was willing to die for us, and that he rose from the dead, and that he is still with us, loving us, comforting us, guiding us, forgiving us, picking us up, and encouraging us. Who wouldn't want to know that? Who wouldn't want you to share that with them?
The Psalmist bears witness, “Weeping may spend the night, but joy comes in the morning.” This is the hope that comes from God, from knowing that God has pulled us out of the deepest pit of despair, and that God will do it again and again, and that God will do it for others, as well. This is the Good News that each of us has to share, and are called to share, in love, with our neighbors. Amen.