Jesus is teaching the disciples how to build a Holy Spirit Led Community of Love. It is the beginning of the Christian Church. The Gospel readings teach us that it’s defining characteristic is to be the love relationship within the community. Psalm 148 reminds us its main work is to give God glory and praise. The Acts reading reminds us it is to be Holy Spirit-Led community of Holy Spirit-baptised people. The Revelation Reading chosen sadly omits verses 7 and 8 which tell us who is excluded from the Community.
Jesus commandment to love one another is the heart of His message. The love he talks about is much more than friendly or welcoming or kind.
· Agape – self-giving love is the standard
· Extending ourselves for others
· Reaching out to the unlovable and broken people around us in the community – not waiting for them to come to us
· Working together as a church community to help those in need
· We express our love for Jesus in worship and praise
2. A Holy Spirit-Led Community
Peter was the divinely appointed leader of the Disciples. Jesus, as Holy Spirit was his leader. Acts 11.1-18 is about God teaching Peter that all animals created by God are clean. The food regulations in the Law, as added by the Pharisees and Levites, were not from God.
· The Church is to be Holy Spirit-led, not led politically by bishops, clergy or Synods – they only listen to the Spirit
· Admission to church community membership is real, life-changing and visible Holy Spirit baptism – not completing a course, dedication or water baptism
· Members need to have a church ministry that enriches their lives and helps them grow spiritually
· Jesus waited until Judas left the room - he was an opportunist & not really included in the community
· This is why many churches are dying in our time
3. Revelation Reading (21.1-8) Tells Us Who Is Excluded
The official Lectionary assigns verses 1-6 and sadly omits verses 7 and 8. A non-Holy-Spirit-led Church Committee found these verses offensive. They chose the happy part which assures believers those who are thirsty will receive the water of life – The Holy Spirit. The Committee carefully omitted the last 2 verses because they describe the terrible fate those who are not included:
· “.. the cowardly (that might be the Committee),
· the unbelieving (not Holy Spirit baptized),
· the vile,
· the sexually immoral (unholy),
· those who practice magic arts
· the idolaters
· and all liars…” (v.8)
The really challenging part (that can lead to hate crimes charges by those offended) is what comes next “…-- they will be consigned to the burning lake of sulfur. This is the second death.” (v.8)
· In Going SpiritualI explain this as unforgiven sinful behaviour leading to major spiritual pollution, spiritual death and exclusion from the Heavenly Community
· Eternal separation from God is a terrible death - like being thrown in a burning lake of sulphur
· We should focus on the good news of forgiveness and never scare people into God’s Kingdom of love
· We are to love and accept all people as wounded seekers and share the good news of forgiveness in Jesus and eternal spiritual life for Holy Spirit baptized believers
· We are to invite those around us into this community of love as seekers preparing for Holy Spirit baptism.