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Acts 11.1-18John 13.31-35

Jn 13:34: 

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.

I wonder if you remember where you were just one year ago, on 19 May 2018? That date might not ring any bells – now, there’s a clue – but something happened on that day to make it memorable for a huge number of people.  1.9 billion people in fact all across the globe tuned in to their TVs or other devices and settled down to watch the wedding of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. One quarter of the human race, all focused on two people tying the knot. 

If you were one of those watching, then I am sure you will have your favourite memories – the pageantry, the glorious setting, the wedding outfits, the celebrity spotting, the music, and in the middle of it all something that just managed not quite to steal the show from the bride and groom, but only just, the passionate, uplifting, awe-inspiring sermon by Bishop Michael Curry. His theme was the power of love, and it was powerfully preached.Powerful, but not original. There was nothing new in the content of Bishop Michael’s words, and I am sure he meant it that way.He was not trying to be original, or new or clever, rather he was reminding people of the words of Jesus Christ, Bishop Michael was recounting the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He was putting Christ at the centre, as any Bishop and indeed any Christian should.And in doing so he was inviting the about to be weds, and the 600 people in the chapel and the 1.9 billion people watching to do the same.

Bishop Michael was also making a connection which is easy to overlook. He said: 

‘But the love of which we speak is not only for couples getting married or just for interpersonal relationships. Jesus of Nazareth taught us that the way of love is the way to a real relationship with the God who created all of us, and the way to a true relationship with each other as children of that one God, as brothers and sisters in God’s human family.’

The way the word ‘love’ is used most commonly is precisely in the first category of couples getting married and interpersonal relationships: people ‘fall in love’, it is about feelings, it just happens. But Jesus teaches that this is not the whole story. Jesus commands his followers to love one another, and it is very hard to obey a command to feel something. For instance if anyone has ever said to you ‘Just relax’, you know how infuriating it can be.So love is a feeling and it is so much more. Bishop Michael made the bold connection between the love of a couple and the love that motivated some old slaves in the southern states before the American civil war. He quoted one of their spirituals:

There is a balm in Gilead

To make the wounded whole

There is a balm in Gilead

To heal the sin-sick soul

If you cannot preach like Peter

And you cannot pray like Paul

You can tell the love of Jesus

How he died to save us all.

Telling the love of Jesus is not just about using words, it means living out the love of Jesus in obedience to him, seeking the well being of the other person, working for justice, acting in ways that are unselfish and self sacrificial. If you feel love for another person, then that mostly comes easily. But even if you don’t feel anything in particular, you can still obey Jesus’ command, he does not ask for the impossible. What he says is ‘I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another’

Just as I have loved you. I can love, not in my own strength; I can love because I am loved by Jesus, as are you. Obeying his commandment begins not with any action, but with an awareness of God’s great love in Jesus. So, it starts with prayer, and it starts with encountering Jesus in scripture, in sacrament and in community.In these ways, we who follow Jesus come to know the power of love of which Bishop Michael spoke one year ago. Of all the wonderful things to remember from that wedding day, that is surely the greatest.