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Sermon 5th May 2024

Acts 10:44-end, John 15:9-17

The desire for certainty goes very deep, and all of todays readings look at that longing with sympathy, though the answers they give are as challenging as they are reassuring.

In the Gospel, Jesus is at last giving his disciples ‘commandments’. If the disciples have been listening to Jesus throughout the weeks and months before this, they must have some inkling already about how Jesus interprets God’s commandments to his people. Underlying the great commandments given by God to Moses is the imperative that his people should show by their lives what their God is like. This commandment Jesus has fulfilled utterly. Through all his life he has kept the commandment to love God, be loved by God and to show God’s love, and that is the commandment that he now passes on to his disciples.

If the commandment given to Moses have proved difficult to interpret and fulfil, then Jesus’ retelling of them has proved even harder. How do we know if we have fulfilled this great command to love one another?

The example that Jesus gives, of his own willingness to die for his friends, is not a comforting one. Is that, then, to be the measure of love?

Well, the Gospel suggests, it may need to be sometimes. But the verses that directly follow the giving of this commandment suggest that there are other interim measures too.

One is the insistent changing of roles that is so characteristic of Jesus’ teaching. ‘I have called you friends’, he says, ‘because I have made known to you everything that I heard from my Father’.

The sharing characterizes Father and Son and is extended to us. We are not simply issued with instructions that we must follow without needing to understand them.

Instead we are invited to God’s table, to eat and discuss and share in his great plan for the world.

So one mark of our ‘love’ for one another and God will presumably be our willingness to extend this invitation to others.

‘Come and join us at God’s table, come and help us to work out with God what to do next’. If God makes friends, not servants, so should Christians.

The second measure of our success at ‘loving’ that these verses suggest is ‘bearing fruit’. Bringing others to share in the life and love of God will make us more loving.

Anyone who has had any experience in Christian evangelism, whether in word or deed or both, would agree with that. It is deeply challenging and enlarging to see the word of God at work in the lives of others, and to see that before us and our feeble attempt at love got anywhere near the situation, God’s love was already at work.

It is wonderful to be able to share examples of our own lives of where this has happened…….

I meet many people who offer their love and care to others, unselfishly and generously. Taking round meals to those who are ill, visiting the lonely or bereaved. Offering their skills in sewing, reflexology and dog walking – each time we do this we are spreading God’s love to our neighbours and friends. Although we may not recognise this as evangelism – it is. We may not speak God’s name but we do it because of the love we have for others – we love because God loves.

There may come a time when people ask you why you do it – this may be the opportunity to gently bring God into the conversation – not in a self-righteous pious way but in natural way, perhaps giving an example of the your experience of the love you have found in God – that deep, unconditional acceptance you find in his presence – our personal experiences will be unique to each of us but no less profound. And, like me, you may be surprised and encouraged by the response you get.


We read in Acts the experience of Peter and his hearers as they watch Cornelious and his household respond to the love of God. They hear these strangers praising God long before they have gone through all the proper forms, and they realise that their own love for the Gentiles has been much smaller than God’s. If they were looking for certainty about the next step in relation to the Gentiles, then they were given it abundantly.

As a reminder – gentiles were not originally the chosen people, they were uncircumcised and often seen as the unclean members of Roman society in the eyes of the Jewish people. God was breaking down all the barriers, all the rules, as they understood them, by showing them how to love as He loves.

They see the Holy Spirit poured out with unmistakable power – and notice that that power is proved not just by the use of tongues, but by the praise of God. Of course, the certainty experienced by these witnesses is not easily transmitted to those who weren’t present, as you will discover if you read the next chapter of Acts or Paul’s letter to the Galatians.

Todays readings imply that certainty comes through sharing our faith, praising God and loving one another. And that, even in our small ways of being with one another, neighbours, friends and those we don’t yet know, we can grow in faith knowing that God is at work before we get there.

We might not be called on to die for one another, but by sacrificing ourselves daily, surrendering ourselves daily with acts of kindness and love, we

are actually furthering the kingdom and spreading God’s love.

Each one of these activities makes the others more and more possible and natural and brings us closer and closer to the life of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.


Let us pray, Father, help us to live, act and work in the knowledge of your love, that by showing your love for others we may be known as your disciples. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

Rev’d Kia Pakenham / 5th May 2024

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