‘Love One Another’ – 9th May 2021 – 6th Sunday of Easter

The order of service in Microsoft Word format:

21 05 09 6th Sunday of Easter Eucharist

The order of service in pdf format:

21 05 09 6th Sunday of Easter Eucharist

The livestream can be found here:

The Readings

Acts 10.44-end

While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, ‘Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’ So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days.

John 15.9-17

As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

The Sermon - Love One Another
By Joe P, St. Mary's

May I speak in the name of the father, son and Holy Spirit

There is a popular, is somewhat irreverent Internet meme which features a picture of Jesus speaking to a crowd of followers.  He is saying ‘Love one another, as I have loved you’.  And the audience, after a moment of silence, start with the questions…’But he’s a Samaritan…that one’s a Roman…a Tax Collector…He’s a foreigner…he lays with men…she’s a prostitute….you can’t mean we should love these people?’ A stone-faced Jesus is seen in the meme saying ‘Did I stammer? What part of Love one another didn’t you get?’

Those of you who know the mean will also have probably encountered some versions where Jesus’s last question to his followers is not at all suitable for Church.

‘Love one another, as I have loved you’

This lies at the centre of todays reading from the Gospel according to John.  It’s not the only time that Jesus teaches us the overwhelming importance of love.    In the Gospel according to Matthew, we read:

'Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”'

He we’re told that that we should ‘Love our neighbour as yourself’ – which is great as far as it goes.  But many of us have trouble loving ourselves – sometimes we may have problems even liking ourselves.  In today’s reading Jesus sets a high bar for how we should love each other.

We are expected to love one another with the same limitless, overwhelming love that Jesus felt for his friends and followers.

I have a number of friends – and extended family members – who’re agnostic or atheist and who have been known to ask me to sum up Christianity for them.  I give them a short answer; “Love God, love one another, and don’t be an idiot.”  (Although I have been known to use stronger words than idiot…)

Jesus’s teachings point us towards God; they are of the Jewish tradition that would be understood by all in the society in which He lived.  But His lived out love.  He healed the sick, raised the dead, fed the hungry, challenged society’s view of what people were worth.

He tells his followers that they’re not his slaves or servants, but they are his friends.  It’s worth considering what this would mean in society.  If you were recognised as a friend of the king or other senior official then you had a degree of social cachet; you would also be in that enviable position of being able to make suggestions to the King.  And in this case, the King just happens to be the Son of God.

WE have been chosen to be Jesus’s friends, and we’re told that to remain in that friendship, we are to follow His commandments, like He followed the commandments of His Father.  And being a friend of Christ can be a very serious – in some cases deadly serious - business:

In our scripture, Jesus says:

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. “

He knows that soon He will be crucified; He lays down His life so that the scriptures will be fulfilled.  What are we to make of this? How can we love to this degree?  This is a question many followers of Christ have considered.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German Lutheran Pastor, theologian and anti-Nazi activist was executed in Flossenburg concentration camp in April 1945.  He wrote:

“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”

As with many statements we encounter in theology, it’s not quite what it seems. Bonhoeffer went on to say “It may be a death like that of the first disciples who had to leave home and work to follow him, or it may be a death like Luther’s, who had to leave the monastery and go out into the world.”  Basically, the death Bonhoeffer wrote about was the death of losing our attachment to the everyday world. We start to do this at the start of our journey with Christ, not at the end of our lives.

What can we do in our lives to love people in a Christ-like manner – that is, to love in such a way that we remain in friendship with Christ?

We have to give something of ourselves up – the metaphorical or occasionally literal death that Bonhoeffer mentions.  Just as Jesus gave His life for us, to retain his friendship we need to sacrifice something of ourselves.

Like I said – loving in a Christ-like manner is a serious business.  For us in our daily lives, though, it’s relatively easy to start by remembering that love is not just a feeling, it’s a verb.  It’s something you do.

We are called upon to love lavishly, extravagantly.  This isn’t always easy, and sometimes we will find it impossible.  After all, we’re only human.  But we should try.

We should love when the recipient of our love can do us no favours.  After all, Jesus loves us in that way; we’re all sinners, broken, but Jesus loves us all the same and His grace saves us.

We need to love when we don’t necessarily feel like it.  Jesus spent time at the very end of his life explaining the importance of love to his friends and followers.  He was about to die in a humiliating and horrific manner, and yet he spent time expressing His love.

The last year has made us all question what it means to love.  Suddenly loving someone has meant staying away from them. We have worked out new ways of loving our neighbours as ourselves. We have worked out new ways of loving God.  We have often found ourselves loving – and being loved - in a sacrificial manner, where love is expressed in a way that doesn’t necessarily benefit the lover.

As we return to a world more like we had before Covid-19, it’s going to be more important than ever to continue to love all around us in a Christ-like way; our challenge is to remain friends with Jesus through expressing whatever forms of sacrificial love we can.


The Prayers
Prepared by Catherine B

The Holy Spirit filled those who heard Peter proclaiming the gospel, and so they were baptised. Let us pray for those from several different churches preparing for their baptism or confirmation on Thursday at St. Mark’s, that they might be filled with the Spirit too.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

The Apostles looked outwards from Jerusalem towards the whole world.  As our own country gradually eases out of lock-down, let us look outwards too, and pray for all those countries overwhelmed by Covid infection: India, Brazil.  Let us pray too for all living here who have friends and relatives in those countries.  We pray too for the people of Mexico following the recent bridge collapse, thinking of those who have been killed, bereaved or injured.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

The Apostles worked together to serve others.  Let us pray for those newly elected or re-elected in Thursday’s elections, and pray that they might work together to serve their community with wisdom and compassion.  We pray too for the work of Christian Aid, and for all the fund-raising initiatives being conducted locally during Christian Aid Week.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Jesus commanded his followers to love one another.  We pray for those whom we love, especially those who are struggling with sickness, isolation or to cope with day-to-day life at the moment.  In a few moments’ quiet, we bring before God those known particularly to us.  We ask for God’s healing presence upon all who need it.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Jesus overcame death, that we might have eternal life.  We pray for those who have died.  In a few moments’ quiet we remember anyone known to us whose earthly life has been completed and we see no more.  We pray for all who mourn at this time, naming in our hearts anyone known particularly to us.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Merciful Father,
Accept these prayers,
for the sake of your Son,
Our saviour, Jesus Christ,


Common Worship: Services and Prayers for the Church of England, material from which is used here is copyright © The Archbishops’ Council 2000