Reflections by Mother Leslie

Beloved People of St. Martin’s,

When I was a kid going to Methodist Church camp in Oklahoma, we were taught what was then a brand-new song by a priest names Peter Scholtes, one that has now become a classic. It went like this:

We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord;
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord;
And we pray that all unity will one day be restored.
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love,
yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand;
We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand;
And together we’ll spread the news that God is in our land.

And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love,
yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

We Will work with each other, we will work side by side;
We will work with each other, we will work side by side;
And we’ll guard each man’s dignity and save each man’s pride.

And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love,
yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

All praise to the Father, from whom all things come;
And all praise to Christ Jesus, His only Son.
And all praise to the Spirit who makes us one.

And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love,
yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

 

That song came to mind as I was reading our lectionary readings for this coming Sunday. In our gospel, one of the verses that most stays with me each time I read it is this one:

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”—John 13:34-35

The passage we read from John’s gospel this week that contains this commandment occurs just after Judas has gone from companionship to betrayal, and has departed to turn Jesus over to arrest and eventual execution. The echoes of Judas’s footsteps haven’t even silenced, and yet Jesus gives us the greatest commandment: to love one another. We know it’s really not new. Here is the kernel and root of the Christian message—and if you don’t believe me, consider the fact that the command “love one another” appears 14 times in the New Testament.

The most famous commandments are the Ten Commandments. As Jesus pointed out in Matthew 22.39, Mark 12.31, and Luke 10.27, these ten commandments can be summarized into just two: Love God completely, and love each other. Loving each other complements our love for God.

Here is John’s version of that teaching, set in a different context—  and John makes it one of the last commands Jesus will relate before his arrest and crucifixion.

Again, “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

How do we define “one another?” Does this mean we must love

Only our families and friends?

Only our fellow members of this parish?

Of this diocese?

Of the Episcopal Church?

Only other Christians?

Only other Americans?

Only those who think like us?

Only those who look like us?

Only humans?

Only those who are blameless?

Only those who seem to be trying to improve themselves?

Even those who are our enemies, or wish us ill?

Even those who annoy us or frustrate us?

Even those who have wronged us?

 

Maybe—just maybe—it means all of the above.

It sounds hard. That’s why practice is the key to this kind of love. What if we committed to loving each other—no exceptions? It might be the start of a revolution.

And the world would know we are Christians by our love.

 

In Christ,

Leslie+