Easter 6’20
17 May 2020
John 14.15-21
Facebook Live (St. Luke’s)
North Little Rock, Arkansas
The Rev. Carey Stone

“And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” Amen.

I still have vivid memories of the very first worship service I attended in the Episcopal Church. Little did I know that day that it would be the first of many more services that I would attend, and eventually, a call to the priesthood. Someone might be thinking, “Boy, that must have been some worship service? What was so impressive that made you want to go back?” Was it the huge choir? No there was no choir at that service, only an organist. Was it the stellar preacher? Honestly, I couldn’t tell you what they preached about that day. Was it the virtuoso organist? No, but they did manage to get us through the hymns. Was it the large crowd? I think there were only about twenty-five people. What was it that caused me to be in a rush to come back the very next Sunday? 

I can show you – the reason I came back again was found on page 324 in the Book of Common Prayer, that reads: “Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ saith: Thou shalt love the Lord they God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second it is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”  These words of Jesus were spoken out loud by the priest near the first part of the service, something, I would later learn, that Episcopalians called the “Ministry of the Word.” In a service with very few people, with no choir, with no charismatic preacher, these words of Jesus leapt off the page!  It made perfect sense to include Jesus’ main point of the Love of God, Love of Self, and Love of Others.  I wondered why I had never been in a church service where those powerful words were included as a regular part of the liturgy! If there had only been beautiful words there, I probably wouldn’t have returned for a third visit. But to my delight, I found that these beautiful words from the prayer book were backed up with action. It was the beautiful people – the church who were endeavoring to practice those words, and it showed in the way I was welcomed, accepted, and supported! It Really Is All About Love!

I’m glad to say that the welcoming, accepting, and supporting love, has continued, as it does to this day. It has been heartening to see the creative ways the people of St. Luke’s have continued to worship and serve God and their neighbors. Some have remained faithful in their virtual worship attendance. Some have reached out with supportive phone calls, cards, and the porch delivery of food, medicines, and in a few cases, home deliveries of the Book of Common Prayer. One person has been making greeting cards by hand and sending them out to members of the parish. The latest card makes use of that precious pandemic commodity – toilet paper! On the cover of the card they glued together a piece of toilet paper, with a light blue ribbon, and then added a scroll on top of it that read: “I’d Totally Share My Toilet Paper with You.”       We so appreciated the creative and thoughtful gift, that came with a bonus – It made us laugh!    It Really Is All About Love!

Others have shared sacrificial financial gifts, like a friend of St. Luke’s (they aren’t even a member) but they were moved to send us a $5,000.00 check. Then there are the faithful band of singers, musicians, and liturgists who have been leading our worship faithfully (in a group of 10 or less) since the start of the pandemic. It Really Is All About Love!

Spreading Love has not been easy for any of us, and I imagine it will only become more challenging as we move forward. People are all over the map with their responses to the health crisis. There are people who are scared stiff, afraid that they may, due to their age or underlying condition may contract the virus and die. There are people that aren’t so sure about it all, and are going out to stores without wearing a mask, or social distancing. There are those who are getting restless in their homes and are growing impatient to get out. There are those who are becoming increasingly concerned with the state of the economy – with 40million who are now unemployed. Then there are those who either because of their position as a frontline responder, or because they cannot be without a paycheck must put themselves at risk to help all of us in vital and practical ways – Doctors, Nurses, Researchers, State and Federal employees, Law enforcement officers, grocery workers, come to mind. Fred Rogers, the legendary creator and educational broadcaster once said: “When I was a boy and saw scary things in the news, my mother would say to me,” ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ These are they that point us toward love and service of our neighbors, who have chosen to be a part of the solution. It Really Is All About Love.

We need God, and each other now more than ever. We need to use some of our time drawing closer to God. I’m grateful to see how many are tuning in to our worship and prayer services, and the “At Home” series, and by spiritual reading and praying at home. Regarding our neighbors, we need to lay aside our judgment of those who are thinking and reacting differently than us and instead, to extend grace. We need to be gentle with ourselves, and gentle with our neighbors. It Really is all about Love!

My friends: Now is the time to continue in the apostles teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers. Now is the time to persevere in resisting evil, and whenever we fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord. Now is the time to proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ. Now is the time to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves. Now is the time to strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being! Now is the time!To all of these let our answer be: “I will with God’s help!”

And may all of us of St. Luke’s answer together: “We will with God’s help!”