Sermon: Love One Another (John 15:20-26)

A little over three years ago Sonia and I first walked into this parish. We were tired and broken, and we needed a new church home, but more than that we needed to be loved. Everyone welcomed us warmly. Victor took us out for coffee that week and we sat with him, just across the road in the shopping centre, and we told him our story. He listened attentively and, at the end of it all, he said to us, “I hope this will be a place of healing for you.” I will never forget the impact of those words. Nor will I forward the reality of that healing coming through being loved by this church family.

I don’t have to look far at all to see a group of Christians fulfilling Christ’s command from our Gospel reading today, “love one another as I have loved you.” I have seen and experienced the love of God from you. I have sought to love you in return.

A lot has changed in those three years. For us personally, but also for this church. This church has had 15 baptisms and 4 confirmations and receptions in the last year alone. That’s an amazing statistic! New people are coming all the time, and I am confident they are also experiencing a similar loving embrace that Sonia and I found when we came here, and they are also invited to join in loving others as well. Similarly, a natural part of life, and so a natural part of the church, is loss as well. People move away and others die. Loving one another is just as important when people leave as it is for when they arrive. The love shown to Barbara after John’s recent death is an important recent example of this. Also, when someone trains someone else in a ministry, and then eventually hands it over, there can be a sense of loss, but also an important acknowledgement that the time has come to pass the baton on to another. Celebrating the ministry that has been given, and the passing on of the baton to another, is a part of a loving church community as well. 

At the end of last year, we had a change in Vicar. We were sad to say goodbye to Victor and his family, yet hasn’t it also been wonderful to be a part of Grace’s growth as she’s grown from “nervously learning” to “confidently leading”? In many ways, Grace’s journey is symbolic of today’s passage. All of us are on a journey of growth, as individuals and as a church family. A journey that is loving from beginning to end. All of us are invited to respond to God’s invitation to serve as “friends” and, in doing so, to bear fruit for the kingdom. That service can be small or large, seen or unseen, officially recognized or spontaneous. That service necessarily flows from loving one another, which involves a laying down of one’s life for others. We see that in Grace’s ministry and we see the fruit of this in this church as well.

We also see it in the way permission is given in this church for all of us to “fail safely.”

What do I mean by that? Well, when we teach a child to ride a bike, for example, they are going to fall off their bike as they learn. That failure is inevitable. But, in order for them to “fail safely” we get them to wear a helmet. We teach the child that failure is going to happen but what is important is the growth, the learning, and the persistence required to get back on the bike, have another go, and eventually ride confidently on their own.

The same can be seen in this church. One of the visible examples is the way people are taught the various liturgical roles that are performed in the Eucharist, in particular. Young and old, male and female, it is an important symbol of who we are as a church that this learning takes place in the liturgy. There may be lessons and guidance that take place before and after but the student is allowed to learn their liturgical role by actually doing it, often with Sandra or someone else quietly given guidance alongside them. It is very important that we, as a church, have an environment where we can all “fail safely,” particularly for those who are learning. Whether it’s the timing and placement of the various elements of the liturgy, or giving time and space for someone learning English to read Scripture in front of us all, loving one another can be seen in the way that when someone stumbles, forgets a line, or makes some other mistake, we give gracious permission for them to get back on the bike, have another go, and eventually ride confidently on their own.

We all share our gifts because of Christ’s call for us to love one another and we love one another as we share our gifts. We give from the gifts that God has given us, and we grow into those gifts as we continue to give them back to one another in love. We do all of this as an act of love for God and for one another. Today, I want to invite you to go on bearing the fruit of love. There are no limits to love for God and for one another. Keep serving each other in love. Keep graciously providing space for each other to “fail safely.” Keep loving God and loving each other with the love shown to us in Christ our Lord. For this is our calling together.

The Lord be with you.


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