Beginning and Ending with Love

By Rev Elizabeth Raine

Opening Prayer (adapted from Spill the Beans Iss.34)

Trinitarian God, we come in love and hope,
in the promise of the everlasting peace of Christ,
in the love and glory of the Creator,
in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.
Your children gather this day,
our eyes may not see you or each other,
but we rejoice in your presence,
knowing that you are with us
and that we are part of a larger community.
May we trust in your promise to be with us always,
and let this guide the journey of our lives, towards the promised future.
We trust the knowledge that we are never orphaned, never abandoned,
but held close to you as beloved children.
Help us, each day, to follow your commandments,
to live as you have told us, to be better, to do better,
and to work for a better world.
May we live in courage and in boldness,
confident that we follow the way that leads to you.
We give thanks for your love, for life breathed through you.
May we show the power of love, as you have
to all whom we meet, to all your creation.
May we rejoice in the knowledge that knowing you
means knowing love, today and every day. Amen.

Reading: John 14:15-21

15 ”If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

18 ”I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

Reflecting on the Word: “Love in the Gospel of John”

The Gospel of John is very fond of love. It is used is its two forms (agape [communal or friend kind of love] and philos [a more familial or close relationship type of love) in the Greek) fifty-seven times. We might fairly say that the author of this gospel sees love as an extremely important issue. This fits with the verse early in the gospel in chapter 3, where John declares that “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (3:16).

Our passage today begins and ends with love, beginning with the idea we should love Jesus, and ending with the idea that Jesus will love us. We begin with Jesus declaring that if his disciples love him, they will keep his commandments. This raises an interesting question, as there is really only one commandment in John, and that is the famous: “A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (13.34-35). John also states it again in chapter 15: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12).

It is hard to argue that John is not interested in love – love of God, love of Jesus, love of neighbour, love of one’s faith community.

What does this mean for the church? A faith community is not just a collection of people who share common beliefs or goals, they are also people filled with the spirit: “and I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.” (John 14:16). As a community of faith, we should show love, love that is reinforced by the presence of the holy spirit, who teaches us and calls us to remember who we are as Jesus’ followers. Like the disciples, we are not orphans, but are guided by the presence of God through the Advocate.

Conversely, if a community is not governed by love through the work of the holy spirit in their midst, there will be no peace of the kind that Jesus gives. And if a community is not marked by love and the peace of Jesus, the inference is that the holy spirit is not at work there, and not much is going to grow there.

In John’s Gospel, the promise of the spirit is our assurance that we will always know that God is with us and in us, always available to us as we face the current challenges and struggles of living through a pandemic and its consequences.

Reflecting on the passage

John’s guidance for growing faith and discipleship is as profound as it is simple. The question he urges us to ask ourselves at the beginning and end of each day is: “In what ways will I show love today? In what ways did I show love today?” Reflecting upon these questions helps us to set goals and to reflect where we might have done better.

Prayer for ourselves and others (adapted from Spill the Beans, Iss.34)

Ever loving God,
in the long years since the world has seen Jesus,
we come together in prayer
in the hope and assurance of that you are always with us.
We pray for ourselves,
that we might be filled with your Holy Spirit,
that we will be agents for love,
in a world that sometimes seems too broken to fix,
that we will be confident in your commandment
to love one another as Jesus loves us.
We pray for our church,
as it continues to change,
to evolve, to seek out the best way to follow you,
that it will be a conduit for your promise to the world,
that it will work for your purpose,
not its own concerns of bricks and mortar, arbitrary numbers,
or the dreams of past glories.
We pray for all those on the margins of
our societies, our communities, and our interests.
We pray for those who are cast aside by a world
obsessed by monetary wealth,
the eternal goal of so-called growth,
while those with the most continue to gain,
and those with the least continue to lose.
We pray for our world,
broken by fighting, by greed, pandemic disease,
and by disregard for the environment.
We pray for all your children who have been ravaged by war,
who have lost friends and family to the novel corona virus;
for families torn apart, lives lost, dreams shattered and liberty denied,
and for the economic hardships many are experiencing
We pray they will know your love, and your peace.
In your love, in your spirit,
in your life, we pray these things. Amen.

Liturgy of the empty cup and plate

This Sunday, as a church, we would have normally gathered to celebrate communion. At this time, we are unable to do that, so this liturgy has been written to help you reflect on communion and its place in your worshipping life.

To assist you in this worship, I suggest you have before you an empty glass or wine glass and an empty plate on a cloth, and any or all of the following symbols that might help you worship and pray:

A candle (lit at the beginning) placed nearby on your cloth.

A symbol of prayer. This may be a cross, a stone, or anything else that represents prayer for you.

Invitation

It is God who provides this place and this time.
Provision is made for us all to be part of God’s story.
In this time, we rededicate ourselves and our surroundings
for God’s good purposes.

Though we/I cannot come to your table
to receive the bread and wine,
we/I know that you still meet us/me here;
you embrace us in our brokenness,
you pour out your love upon us/me,
name us/me as your disciples,
and claim us/me for an eternity.
And we/I can still remember, as you commanded.

We/I lament that we/I will not share
the bread and wine today.
We/I lament that we/I cannot grasp
a hand in fellowship today.
We/I lament the suspending of this sacrament.
We/I can remember that the Lord is with us/me.
We/I can remember to lift up our/my hearts.
We/I can remember to give thanks to the Lord our God.

Blessing and praise still belongs to you,
God of promise and of covenant.

Through your living Word
you created all things,
the majesty of the heavens
and the glory of the earth.
In your wisdom and goodness
you have made all people
in your image and likeness.

We/I remember the story
that on the night of his betrayal
your Son Jesus took the bread
and took the wine, blessed them
and shared them with his closest friends,
saying: “Remember me.”

Come now, Holy Spirit;
bless us/me here today.
Pour out the Holy Spirit on this empty plate and this empty cup,
that they may be for us/me – even in their emptiness
– the body and blood of Christ,
so that we/I may take his life into our lives,
and be taken ourselves to be blessed, broken and given for the world.

THE LORD’S PRAYER

This earth is not our earth.
This is God’s earth.
This time is not my time.
This is God’s time.
This table is not my table.
This is God’s table.

God’s earth, God’s time, God’s table…
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.
Amen.

Blessing

We shall not seek God among the dead.
We shall be bearers of hope among the living.
We shall carry the stories of our hurts and losses
so that we may tell stories of healing and resurrection,
knowing that the scattered community of God
is placed in the world,
for the sake of the world. Amen.

Photo of Rev Elizabeth Raine

Written by Rev Elizabeth Raine

Elizabeth is minister at Tuggeranong Uniting, beginning her ministry here in December 2018. 

Over the years, she has had a number of diverse and interesting placements, such as a school chaplaincy, a tenancy worker with UnitingCare, a congregational minister, a lecturer at UTC, a Presbytery minister, and as an Intentional Interim minister. 

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