Transforming love

Jesus and PeterJesus shows his love for Peter by challenging him as well as forgiving him. What does that look like for us? And, as we prepare for a General Election, what does that tell us about our actions and how to use our vote?

This was a short sermon before our church Annual Meeting, where I wanted to get us thinking about what practical love looked like. Eddie Askew’s reflection on the passage from John was helpful in getting me to think about some of those things.

Transforming love; Readings: John 21:15-19; Acts 4:31-37

This is a weekend of firsts and lasts. Yesterday the champion jockey, A P McCoy rode for the last time. Today, world-record holder Paula Radcliffe runs her last London marathon. Yesterday England won their first overseas Test match in 2 ½ years! There is, however, another weekend to go before the end of the General Election is in sight!

It is also our weekend to look forwards and backwards as a church family, with our Annual Meeting happening in a short while. That’s the first one to be held on a Sunday, so we’ll see how that goes.The readings we heard are also about firsts and lasts, about endings and beginnings. Jesus takes Peter aside and talks to him. Jesus shows his love for him, shows that he loves him too much to leave him where he is. Peter denied Jesus three times on that terrible night, and now Jesus asks him three times “Do you love me?”. Of course that hurt Peter. It hurt him because it reminded him of his betrayal, of the guilt that he was probably feeling. Jesus confronts Peter’s pain and failure, and forgives him and challenges him. Jesus gives him his, Jesus’, job to do: “feed my sheep”. Jesus sets his feet on a new adventure, an adventure which will last the rest of his life, and will take his life. Jesus shows Peter his active, redeeming, transforming love. And Jesus does the same to us, and calls us on an adventure with him too.

Earlier this year we elected our churchwardens and later on today we will be electing some new PCC members. I’m very grateful to those who have served over the last 3 years, to those who are serving and to those who are standing. It takes time and commitment to stand as a PCC member, time and commitment to do the many different things that happen in the life of Emmanuel, time and commitment to serve in the wider community as many of us do. So, thank you for all that you do.

Politics is a bit of a dirty word at the moment, but it literally means ‘for the good of the city’. So, many of the things that we do are political in the best sense of that word. Not party political, but definitely political, for the good of the city, for the good of our community. These things can be and are expressions of God’s love and God’s care for the good of the city, for the good of the whole of creation. That’s what we celebrate particularly in the season of Easter, God’s redeeming, transforming love for the whole of creation. And we are challenged, not least by the reading we heard from Acts, to think about how our lives can reflect that love.

The disciples are given the Holy Spirit to help them and then practically do things, to show God’s love, to show God’s concern in their actions. We are called to do the same. That will look different because we are in a different society and will look different for each of us because we are given different gifts by God. But, we are all called to practically show God’s love.

And one of the ways that we can do that in our society, which wasn’t open to the first Christians, is by voting. By voting on Thursday 7th May in the national and local elections. By considering who to vote for, by prayerfully considering who best represents that redeeming, transforming love. And, yes, I’m aware that’s a very high bar! But, the fact that all of our candidates fall short of that, and the fact that we won’t agree with everything that they say are not excuses not to vote.

We’ve read together the Gospel Canticle which talks about ‘shining on those who dwell in darkness’. That’s part of our manifesto, showing God’s love to those who need it. The foodbank tells us that demand is increasing. Christian Aid, whom we raise a lot of money for each year, tells us that one of the things that is having the most impact already on many of the world’s poorest people is that of climate change. We’ve seen the terrible loss of life in the Mediterranean and in the Middle East. So, I’ll be voting for the party that can persuade me that they have the best solutions to those problems. I’d encourage you to think about what most concerns you, about where you want to see redeeming, transforming love at work.

But, politics is not just about a vote every few years. It is about our care and concern for each other, for how we show that redeeming, transforming, challenging love in our lives. Jesus loved Peter too much to leave him where he was. Jesus loves us too much to leave us where we are. We are called to show God’s love in our lives. And God gives us the Holy Spirit to help us do that.
Let’s pray:
Loving God,
thank you for your love for us.
Help us to know your transforming love in our lives
and help us to show your transforming love in our actions.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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