If you had to define a Christian to someone, what words would you use? (Invite congregation to help) When Bill and I first started dating, my father-in-law had a very specific idea of what a Christian was based on his experiences as a Jewish man. And I must say his views were not flattering. Yet they were not exactly wrong either. The Christians he described could be summed up in a few words hypocritical, judgmental, and holier than thou.
I am sure all of us can adequately say we have come across these individuals, as well. It leaves the wider world confused about who we are as a people of faith, what we stand for, and what values are important to us. I was very uncomfortable with this being the only experience of Christians he and Bill had. So we discussed my faith, my beliefs, and the mission I believed that I was called to in life. And I changed the view of my father-in-law through word and action. Not all of us are judgmental, not all of us are hypocritical with our faiths, and not all of us are holier than thou. Being Christian should be a way of life, a descriptor of how we interact in the world. The term that should best describe the Christian in the world should be love.
In that conversation, I had to really tackle the question: “What is the mission of Christ?” I figured that I should be able to keep my answer short and direct. Yet most Christians I talked to this week hemmed and hawed over this question themselves. Most people couldn’t give me one simple answer. One they truly believed and lived. In my understanding of the scriptures, Christ’s mission to the world was love. Our mission to the world is love. What good is our faith if we don’t attempt to live this mission? How can we truly feel the work of Christ in our lives if we don’t allow it to change how we interact with one another?
Now I am sure there would be others to argue with me that I am over simplifying it. But really I am not. When we start defining Christ’s love then it gets more complicated. But Jesus lived his message of love and we see it in our scriptures. The apostles attempted to teach others the message, the mission, teaching them how to live into the type of love that binds people together. They in essence taught what it meant to be a Christian in a polytheistic world that was dangerous and hateful. Their message is still being preached by Christians today and is one that we all could use reminders of from time to time, Richard Attenborough writes, “There is LIGHT in this world. A healing spirit more powerful than any darkness we may encounter. We sometimes lose sight of this force when there is suffering, and too much pain. Then suddenly, the spirit will emerge through the lives of ordinary people who hear a call and answer in extraordinary ways”. Christ is still asking people to act out of love and to see other people not as other or completely different but rather as children of God who seek the same safety and care for their families that we do, individuals in God who need a helping hand and a caring heart.
Peter taught that in response to hate we should love. In response to violence we should have our actions reflect God’s love, as Jesus’ did with the crucifixion. In response to a world that does not understand, we should act with patience and care. The early Christians understood that to practice their faith there was the danger of persecution from those who feared them, and those who did not understand them. I think in our modern world, we have lost some sense of risking everything to love others openly.
We should be enthusiasts for the message, for the well-being of humanity, for goodness. So what does it look like when we are enthusiastic? (Invite Congregation to share)I recognize an enthusiastic person as someone who is committed, passionate, and eager. In the faith, this shows itself in what we do and in our projects in the world. Christ calls us to an obedience to love. We need to live into his love. We need to openly care for one another even when we disagree with the types of lives these people live.
So what does this all look like? To me we already do some of this. We take care of the people who are hungry in Bridgeport. We reach out to families at the holidays and provide for their needs there. And now we join with Alison Witherbee, to love those in need here in Easton. We reach out in Christianly love, as Christ would have, and do what we can to help each person overcome their struggles and fears in the world.
We each are called, or experience the inspiration of the spirit, the advocate, leading us to something more in our lives. It is up to us to determine how we live into that inspiration, that love. You will know it is the work of the spirit that is influencing you when the actions lead to a more loving world and more loving and respectful relationships. Remember the words of Jesus to the Apostles from our scriptures for this morning, when he said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments”. If we love Jesus then it is our duty to contemplate and determine what his commandments mean to not only us but to others in the world. It is our duty to contemplate how the Spirit is influencing our lives and how that changes how we interact with one another and the larger world even from this time of isolation. So this morning I leave you with the question: what is the spirit asking of you this week? Meditate upon this and then find a way to live more fully into the love of Christ allowing it to mold our lives into something different.
 Richard Attenborough, 21st century.
 John 14: 15, NRSV.
(based on Psalm 66:8-20 and John 14:15-21)