Love is his meaning

Easter 6

Acts 10:44-48 – PSALM 98 – 1 John 5:1-6- John 15:9-17

The Very Rev’d Bertrand Oliver, Dean and Rector


Alleluia, Christ is Risen! Christ is risen indeed, alleluia.

Two weeks ago, the Dean of Coventry was with us here in Montreal, to renew a friendship made between our two cathedrals 70 years ago. In 1953, the then Provost (or Dean) of Coventry came to Montreal and gave our cathedral the Cross which you can see here right behind me in the pulpit.

This Cross is made of nails which linked the beams of the medieval Coventry cathedral, and which were recovered from the remains of that building after it was heavily bombed and burnt down during the second world war, in 1940. Crosses such as this one were both a symbol of the resurrection to come, as well as a potent sign of the redemptive and renewing power of God even in the midst of the greatest catastrophe.

In Coventry itself, a new cathedral was built next to the ruins, symbolizing the journey from death to resurrection, from conflict to peace. A large cross made of the charred remains of two roof beams was erected in the ruins of the old cathedral, and on the wall right behind it were inscribed the words: ‘Father Forgive’.

Almost the words of Jesus on the cross, but not quite – not ‘forgive them’, because at that moment in time in the madness of world war two, as today, what was and is needed is forgiveness for acts of violence that deface the face of the earth, that destroy the other for the sake of our own egos, our own security, our own prosperity, our own greed. That disturb the peace of God.

Father, forgive.

Because it is not only others that need to be forgiven, but we too. We are included in this need for forgiveness because, when we look deep in our own heart, we know that we have a part, have been complicit or have benefitted from the woes of the world and the state of our planet.

This prophetic statement out of its ruins became the springboard for the development of a ministry of reconciliation by Coventry Cathedral, creating connections internationally by distributing crosses to some 250 cathedrals and churches including in Germany, inviting us all to think about the ways in which we too can become agents of God’s reconciliation even when we are also caught up with what caused conflict, distrust, pain and loss in the first place.
Father, forgive.

This part of downtown has been much in the news in the past week, with the developments of the student camp installed on the McGill campus, campaigning for a cease-fire in Gaza and an end to the genocide of a people in plain sight of the world.
Protesters here and around the world are pushing for a solution to a conflict which was vividly re-ignited on 7 October last year, and has been ongoing for generations, since the creation of the current state of Israel.

Though peaceful in Montreal, we have seen violent confrontations and arrests taking place, often streamed live on our media outlets – highlighting ever increasing polarisation of opinions in a situation where history, politics, economic interests and religion intersect into an explosive mix which could create conflagration in the region as well as around the world.
Will there ever be peace as hoped for by the Psalmist in Psalm 122:

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
‘May they prosper who love you.
Peace be within your walls,
and security within your towers.’
For the sake of my relatives and friends
I will say, ‘Peace be within you.’
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your good.

Father Forgive

During this Easter season, many of our readings have focused on the ways in which we are called to live out our lives: in the light of the example that Jesus came and set before us, in the shadow of the death which he suffered to redeem all that is wrong in the world, and in the light of his resurrection which gives us hope – hope that love prevails always.
Love is the key to it all, and it is the leitmotiv in this season – not romantic love as we have narrowed down the meaning of the world – an intense love between two people that will bond them for life.

The invitation to divine love is one in which we take a moment to stop, put aside differences, look at everything and everyone around us with the eyes of God and say – God’s creation is wonderful.
Having acknowledged this, we are invited to become co-creators with God of its continuing future.

Divine love does not imply that we need to like everyone or everything that we see, but it implies that we treat all with respect and care and awe, seeking to understand, and giving thanks for God’s creative spirit in making so many diverse people and such a complex planet.

A problem with sacred Scriptures is that we have a tendency to read them as if they vindicate us against the rest of the world. We always identify on the side of the good. The bad are the others.

In the First letter of John this morning, we hear: ‘And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith’. We know from history that this is the kind of easily misread sentiment that has driven Christians to support unspeakable violence against nations and peoples, provide a religious rationale to colonialism and the eradication of cultures such as those of our first nations here in Canada, and has even fuelled some of the major wars with a belief that ‘God is with us’.

But God is never on the side of those who promote violence and death, those who seek to subjugate others or profit from them, or work to extract wealth wherever they go at the expense of the poor and marginalised and our fragile planet.
As Martin Luther King Jr once quoted: ‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’

What is the victory of which John speaks? What does it mean to conquer the world in Christian terms? What is the good news that we are called to proclaim?

In the past week, the primates representing 32 provinces of the Anglican Communion met in Rome and were able to meet the Pope for an hour-long meeting, during which he responded to questions from those gathered. It was the second time since October that the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury had met in Rome to discuss Christian Unity.

During this meeting, the Pope said: ‘Only a love that becomes gratuitous service, only the love that Jesus taught and embodies, will bring separated Christians to one another. Only that love, which does not appeal to the past in order to remain aloof or to point a finger, only that love which in God’s name puts our brothers and sisters before the iron clad defence of our own religious structures, only that love will unite us.’

What is true for Christians is also true for all people of faith. We know that there is enough to unite us to work for the peace of the world, for the recognition of the humanity of all on this planet and for a just sharing of resources if only we could really love one another.

Today as we consider the state of the world, and the best ways in which reconciliation might be brough to bear, we are called to be Resurrection people, to keep the hope alive that after death there is resurrection, and that love is the way.
In Coventry, ministry of reconciliation has meant that after the war, close ties were knitted with other cathedrals and churches of many denominations in Germany, renewing friendships and transcending old conflicts.

Father Forgive

when we focus our love inwardly on our own hurts, needs and desires, rather than on others who yearn for what we have. And when we do not reach out to witness to and be your love for the world
Amen

BDO

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