Summary: Sermon for the 6th Sunday of Easter
6th Sunday of Easter, May 25, 2003 "Series B"
Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, through your free gift of grace, which your Son, Jesus the Christ, revealed to us, you have redeemed us from sin and death, and have made us children of your eternal kingdom. Through our baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection, you have promised to love us and accept as your own, without condition. Still, we are confronted with your commandments, your will for our lives. Help us to be obedient to your will and live according to your law of love. And above all, fill us with your Spirit, so that we might reflect the joy of living in relationship with you. We ask this in Christ’s holy name. Amen.
I remember a time when I was in the ninth grade, just beginning my high school education, when I encountered one of those teachers that most of my classmates and I determined, had to have graduated from Satan’s own university. She taught English, which we felt was a dumb course to be teaching in high school, since we all spoke the same language, and understood each other perfectly.
But being able to speak and communicate with each other was not enough for this lady. She taught this class like it was biology. She had us dissecting sentences as if they were a worm or a frog on the table of the science lab. It wasn’t enough to realize that you needed a noun and a verb to make a complete sentence. It wasn’t enough to know the difference between an adverb and an adjective. No, we had to learn the difference between the indicative and the imperative, and understand syntax.
Well, after struggling through that course from Hades University, I hoped that I would never have to struggle with that nonsense again. And my hope almost came true. I didn’t have to think about that grammar stuff throughout the rest of my high school classes, or in college. And by that time, I had forgotten all about that class.
And then came seminary, and with it, courses that made me wish that I had paid more attention in that goofy course in English I had to take in the ninth grade. In particular, were the two courses in hermeneutics that were required. Hermeneutics is a fancy word that means, quite simply, the art of interpreting Scripture. And for this course, syntax, and the ability to understand the imperative and indicative of sentence structure was a must.
And from my courses in hermeneutics, I learned that in Scripture and theology, the imperative to action grows out of the indicative. Now, for those who have enjoyed these courses in grammar as much as I have, let me put it this way. We have a rule in our VFW golf league, which states: "Remember that we are members of, and represent the VFW while on the course. Do not use loud our abusive language."
The imperative in this rule is to remember - to remember that we are members of the VFW. The indicative in this rule is to be who we are - to honor those who have fought for our country in the way we act and speak on the golf course. The call to act in a specific manner stems from the realization of who we are.
This dynamic of the imperative to action growing out of the indicative is the kind of language we find in our Gospel lesson for this morning. Jesus says, "As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love."
Here, Christ’s imperative for us, his call to action, is to abide in his love by keeping his commandments. But this call to keep his commandments grows out of an indicative. The indicative is that we are loved by God. That is who we are, people who are loved by God and loved by Jesus. So Christ tells us, be who you are.
I think it is important that we grasp the significance of this text clearly. It would be so easy for us to turn the meaning of these verses upside down, and interpret the message to read backwards, as if Jesus said, "If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love." Or even worse, if we read these words as if they said, "God will love us, if we keep God’s commandments." But that is not what Jesus is saying. He is saying "You are loved by God, so act like a loved person of God."