29 May 2011
Sixth Sunday of Easter
Easter 6A (RCL)
1 Peter 3:13-22
It’s interesting to think that most of the older folks in our congregations are orphans. We tend to think of orphans as children, but, technically, if your parents have died, you’re an orphan. Of course, Jesus (according to John) delivers these words at his last meal with his friends, who will soon be bereft of him. Losing parents in the order of things (at a good age), I don’t suppose we feel abandoned exactly. A friend of mine observed when her last parent died, that there was now no one between her and death; she was next in line. Maybe that’s the final step of growing up.
Jesus promises his friends they won’t be orphans, they won’t be without the help and guidance that parents can give. Instead, God will send the Advocate, the Encourager, to dwell with them. And just as God, the Father dwells in Jesus, so they both will dwell in the community of disciples. Divine co-inherence. The same relationship that exists between the three persons of the Trinity, so close that it can only be called a Unity, will exist between us and the divine. By loving one another, we love and inhere in God.
Paul says something similar in the Areopagus: In him we live, and move, and have our being. Augustine speaks of sin as disordered love, concupiscence or cupidity; that is, the love of a thing or person only for the enjoyment it (or he or she) can bring to the lover. Correctly ordered love loves the beloved for God; loves God through the beloved, or loves the beloved as a path to God. As kids, I suppose we love our parents for our enjoyment of them: they provide for us, they protect us, they guide us (if we are lucky enough to have good parents). As we grow older and become adults, we love them for themselves; we come to see them as human, fallible, ordinary people, whom nevertheless we love. As we grow older still, we come to love them for God, as a gift to us from God. As they enter their senescence, we feel the same tenderness (and impatience) toward them that we have felt toward our own children.
Loving someone or thing for God, means learning to see them from the divine perspective, seeing them as God sees them, and loving them as God loves them. Perhaps the hardest person to love for God is oneself. We have a very difficult time seeing ourselves from the divine perspective. We either think too much or too little of ourselves; we either think we are God’s gift to the world, or not worthy of love. We have to come to ourselves as God’s gift to ourselves, and then enjoy ourselves as God would enjoy us.
When we can see the divine coinherence in the community, we will never be bereft of God; when we can love all things and all people “for God” see them from the divine perspective, and love them and enjoy them the way God does, all things will be ours. As the collect says; “that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises.”