• Steven Marsh

Jesus Christ is the Beginning and the End: a Reflection on Acts 11:1-8, Psalm 148, Revelation 21:1-6

Correct me if I’m wrong. It is my perception that Christians spend an inordinate amount of time debating who is orthodox in their faith and who is revisionist. We will serve in God’s mission more effectively if we demonstrate the love of Christ to everyone, not debate who is in and who is out. Gary D. Jones, Rector of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia writes, “After all, Jesus did not say, “They will know you are my disciples if you believe the right things.”[1]

It’s all about Jesus. On this Fifth Sunday of Easter, Jesus says in the Gospel of John, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”[2] The Psalmist boldly declares, “Young men and women alike, old and young together! Let them praise the name of the Lord.”[3] And the writer of Revelation states, “…he [God] will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”[4] All three texts give us life altering words which show that Jesus is the beginning of love, praise, and joy as well as the end of hate, complaint, and tears.

In the winter of 1968-1969, Brennan Manning lived in a cave in the mountains of the Zaragosa Desert in Spain. He saw no one. He never heard the sound of a human voice. Each Sunday morning a brother from the village of Farlete dropped off food, drinking water, and kerosene at a designated spot. I’ll never forget a conversation I had with Brennan many years ago when he said to me, “On the night of December 13, during what began as a long and lonely hour of prayer, I heard in faith Jesus Christ say, ‘For love of you I left my Father’s side. I came to you who ran from me, fled me, who did not want to hear my name. For love of you I was covered with spit, punched, beaten, and affixed to the wood of the cross.’”[5]

For the love of humanity…you…and me, Jesus left his Father’s side. Now on the Fifth Sunday of Easter, we are 28 days past the resurrection, looking forward to Pentecost. Humans yearn to be in relationship with God. Manning writes, “The deepest desire of our hearts is for union with God…We are made for God, and nothing less will really satisfy us.”[6]

The lesson is obvious. The experience of Easter is to be extended to all. Sara Lisherness, Director of Compassion, Peace and Justice for the Presbyterian Church (USA) writes, “There is no doubt, we live in difficult times. While our society and church have come a long way, the killings of people of color by police, racially-motivated fatal shootings at a South Carolina church and racially-charged rhetoric in the midst of presidential campaign rallies, remind us of how far we have to go to address racism.”[7]

The new commandment to love one another as Jesus loved is the rule of life as we participate in the unfolding of the kingdom of God. Through a redeemed and renewed people, others will see the reality of Christ’s redemption. Listen to the words of Chicago Bears Hall-of-Fame Middle Linebacker Mike Singletary:

The first thing in my life by far and the reason I do everything is my love for Jesus Christ. Number two is my family—being there for them and making sure I’m not missing time that I can’t get back. Number three is my work, speaking to corporations about teamwork, leadership, and cultural diversity and trying to help people come together. I don’t care where I’m at or what I’m doing, the thing I want to do now in my life is make a difference and serve with a capital S. Serve in my home. Serve in my relationship with my wife. And serve my fellow man…. For me, it’s a matter of “What am I doing to make a difference? What am I doing except making money?” There are a lot of people out there who are hurting.[8]

As Christians, followers of Jesus Christ, we must give evidence that the gospel works; that life is better when lived in and through Jesus Christ.

We give evidence that the gospel works in real life by loving as Jesus loved. Love is respecting, encouraging, and committing to another. Jesus came into the world to save it, not condemn it. Every time we attempt to exclude someone from participation in God’s redemptive work, we must remember Peter being told not to call anything or anyone God made “unclean.”

Now is the time to love God and others. Love as Jesus loved. No one is to be excluded from the community of God’s love and care.

[1]Gary D. Jones in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 2(Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009), 472.

[2]John 13:35

[3]Psalm 148:12-13

[4]Revelation 21:4

[5]Personal conversation with Brennan in 1992.

[6]Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1994, 2002), 42.

[7]From a recent email Sara sent highlighting work in her office, April 22, 2016.

[8]Rick Morrissey, “For Singletary, Religion Goes Far Beyond Words,” Chicago Tribune (14 November 1999), sec.3, p.13.

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