Sixth Sunday of Easter
13 May 2012
St. John United Church of Christ
St. Clair, MO
All You Need is Love
Based on St. John 15: 9-17
By Rev. James Semmelroth Darnell
By now most of you have heard that last week, our softball team was informed by the St. Clair Softball Church League that our team was no longer welcome in the league. Apparently three of the more fundamentalist congregations decided that they no longer wanted to play softball with our team because of my sexual orientation. Now, what exactly, anyone’s sexual orientation, let alone mine, has to do with softball is beyond me. What angers me most about this situation is not any offense to me, but that our softball team just wants to play – they aren’t making a statement on sexuality, they simply want to play as they have for over ten years.
So what does this have to do with the gospel of Jesus Christ? Our reading this morning from St. John says “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. 11I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. 12“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” Jesus tells us that we are obedient to him, that we abide in his love, when we love one another as he has loved us. The commandment is not to judge others or to marginalize those not like you, but to love one another as Christ has loved us.
Frankly, I think some of our brothers and sisters in St. Clair have forgotten this. It seems that they would rather take on the role of judging who is right and who is wrong. But nowhere does Jesus say “Love one another as long as you believe and act the same way.” By the exclusion of our team from this league love is certainly not being shown, but blatant bigotry and discrimination. But I am glad to say that others are responding with love and grace. St. Martin’s UCC in Dittmer has offered to play us in pick-up games on Thursdays. Friedens UCC in St. Charles, St. Lucas UCC in South County and Parkway UCC in Town & Country are each interested in a tournament. Ebenezer UCC in Augusta and St. Peter’s UCC in Owensville are looking into forming teams as well. Our sister congregations in the United Church of Christ are responding to this act of exclusion, by reaching out to us in Christ’s love. They are ready to stand by us.
As much as the action of the softball league provokes our anger, and appropriately so, I think this is also an opportunity for us to demonstrate Christ’s love. Jesus tells us to love one another as he has loved us, and even when we are unfaithful, even when desert Christ, he shows us love and care. Can we be bold enough to do the same? What kind of statement would it make if we were to offer water or Gatorade at the softball games we have been excluded from, as a gesture of love to those who forced us out of the league?
I think that it would show that we don’t seek to be legalistic or to return their judgment, but offer them the same openness, welcome, and love that we offer to anyone who steps inside our building.
Love is not always easy. I was privileged to officiate Zack and Samantha Harmon’s wedding yesterday. If only love could always be as wonderful as the moments of a wedding. As I told them, love opens us and makes us completely vulnerable to each other, open to the greatest joys and pains of life. It is when that love is rejected or when we are called to love people who have shown us bigotry, that it is difficult. Yet Jesus tells us that when we love in the same unconditional, sacrificial way that he does that we obey him, and abide in his love.
In the end our love makes us stronger – it frees us from hatred and fear of those we don’t understand and those we don’t know. It compels us to go out into the world with open arms rather than clenched fists. Rather than focusing on the letter of hundreds of laws, Jesus sums up his command simply into loving as he. The Beatles were right, all you need, really, is love.
+To God be the Glory. Amen.