St. Stephen's Episcopal Church
Friday, September 04, 2015
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When we recognize that Christianity is meant to be a Way of Life, not a system of religious beliefs, we look to the example of Jesus for clues and inspiration about this Way. Christianity is at its best when its adherents bind themselves to the religion of Jesus, rather than to a religion about Jesus. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you,” Jesus said. Christians are people who sense that they are called to live the life of Jesus; and Christians often find, with St. Paul, that “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives within me.” This is a profound and powerful mystery that is available to everyone.
Jesus said he came not to be served but to serve. And the experience of many Christians is that we feel unusually whole, complete and fulfilled in life, when we are serving and caring for others. It is times like these when we feel especially joyful and at peace. We might say that it is at times like these that we feel most united to Christ.
One of the greatest mysteries and most joyful experiences of the Christian life is the sense of “encounter” we have when we give ourselves in service to others. Jesus spoke about this mystery in a well-known parable from the 25th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel. He said, in effect, that when we care for people in need, we are caring for Jesus himself. In other words, we encounter the Holy in serving and caring for one another, and Christians have often insisted that the experience of God is most poignant, most tangible, and most complete in our care and love for each other.
Many of us sense that this is why Jesus linked love of God and love of neighbor in his summary of the Law. And it is not hard to understand that when we are out of sorts with each other, we are in a sense out of sorts with God. “If you are bringing your gift to the altar,” Jesus said, “and there you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift at the altar and go. First, be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.” And the First Letter of John says it bluntly. “He who does not love his brother or sister whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (4:20b)