In
the beginning, there was God. God was love. God’s life of love within God’s very self was expansive and interdependent among the different parts of God. Each part of God was dependent on the love of the other parts, resulting in an even greater love. That
greater love was so big that it could not be contained, and so God’s love spilled over outside Godself. And creation was born; a result of the excessive love of God spilling over outside Godself.

And
we have a creation that models that interdependence. Today we celebrate creation care Sunday to honor that creation. Creation mirrors some of that interdependent dance of the Godhead. Bees receive nectar from flowers and pollinate flowers in return. Beavers
build dams on rivers as shelters, which create ponds in otherwise fast-moving streams. That allows fish to dwell there who otherwise couldn’t. In return, some of those fish provide a supply of food for the beavers.

Over
and over again the environment shows signs of mutual interdependence, the entire creation dancing a delicate dance together. On creation care Sunday we celebrate the gift of this dance that mirrors the dance of the Godhead itself, one of interdependence and
mutuality, even as we acknowledge that we have not cared for it well, and have destroyed the precious balances that keep the dance in motion.

There
is a relationship between the Godhead and this creation. In the Christian story of salvation history, we believe that God’s love spilled over outside of itself and established creation, but because it was outside of God’s own self it was not pure. Creation
is a fallen place. The dance is not sustainable outside of God’s own self. That isn’t to say nature isn’t pure, but that humankind can’t sustain the dance in a pure way outside of the Godhead because we are not God.

God’s
solution to this was to do what God always does: to spill love over some more. God spilled over an intricate part of God’s self, Jesus, the second person of the Trinity. Because the dance was broken; because there was a missing step throwing the dance out
of step; God’s own self was willing to do the the extra work to restore the dance, even at a cost to God’s own self. So we have the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, which we celebrate this and every season of Easter. At a cost to God’s
self, the first step was taken in restoring the world; in bringing the love back to a full free flowing dance between creator and created. God reached outside Godself, breaking down even the barrier of death to love, because love is the point, the source,
and the reason, for everything.

But
the story doesn’t end there. At Pentecost, we will celebrate the indwelling of the Holy Spirit; the birthday of the ecclesia; the Church. The Church is a vital part of the restored dance between the Creator and the Created. In this dance between the lover
and the beloved, between God and humanity, the Creator has charged the Church with the task of making that love tangibly known in the world.

And
so today, we the Church have stories that reflect that charge in our texts. We have the story of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch. Phillip was teaching a gentile, a sexual minority from a distant land– someone not allowed in the synagogue, someone not allowed
to be a part of the early Jesus movement, someone very different from Phillip. And Phillip reaches out to share the good news of love, different as the Ethiopian is from himself. Love breaks down barriers and reaches outside itself. Love wins.

And
we have the story of Jesus abiding in the church, with us as the branches. With us, the church, not as individuals but as one body, called to bear fruit; called to abide in the love that is the source of life and light so that the branches might grow. All
of this sets up the rest of this chapter in John where Jesus relays the one greatest commandment: to love one another. That’s the whole gist of the thing, you see. The vine bears the branches that support a love that feeds the whole world. And that is what
the Church is for. To bear the fruit that allows love to win: not only for you or for me but for what is yet to be in this world.

In
the last few weeks, I am grateful for the conversations that have begun, although I am sorry I wasn’t clearer with you a few weeks ago in how I described the changing world around us. I certainly was not asking us to change our core customs of strong liturgy
and music. We have beautiful liturgy and music. Music and liturgy in the church is not an end to itself, but signs that point to something else, to help us find our way on the journey. We are blessed with transformative signposts at St. Paul’s.

Love
one another as I have loved you. That’s what it’s all about. Rabbi Hillel said long ago: “The rest is commentary.”

In
our baptismal promises we commit that we will be a part of a Church that is not just about us but is a part of God’s interdependent plan of love for the whole world. Baptism, our own faith and discipleship, is about everybody. All creation. All humanity.
Everything and everyone. God loves us and makes love known in and through the Church. We love each other, and we are called to do that so well that it spills over into the rest of the world, as we spread our branches on the vine of God’s love for us. And
when the rest of the world sees and feels the love we extend, the world can’t help but want to be changed by it too, just like Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. Love wins. I don’t mean a simple change in belief. I mean a transformation of heart that engenders
compassion, and empathy, and kindness, and care for the other. Love. Love that results in changed behavior.

But
I understand after listening to you these few weeks that we can’t do that if we don’t feel loved and cared for by one another here. Our love can’t spill over if it feels lacking here; if we don’t feel interdependent here. I can do better at that. I think
we all can. We are in this together. Penny and I talked a lot this week about how St. Paul’s can work on caring for each other better.

I
know the church is imperfect at loving each other. I know I am too. But that’s part of what this journey is about for me– part of living into my baptism and being Church– is learning to let go of brokenness and loving each other even when its not perfect.
And that, perhaps more than when it is all going well– is what makes the heart swell and allows love to win: when we can look at each other with all of our warts and honestly say, “I’m glad to be here, and I’m glad you are too.”

I
am glad to be with you here at St. Paul’s, church. And I’m glad you are too. We have a lot happening for us. We have a big heart. Let’s exercise it until it bursts over and changes the whole world.

The Rev. Canon Jeff Martinhauk
Easter 5B, April 29, 2018
St. Paul’s Cathedral, San Diego
Acts 8:26-40, John 15:1-8


Sources
Consulted:
Feasting
on the Word, Year B, Vol. 2.
Ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor. Louisville, Kentucky: John Knox Press, 2010.

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