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Saint John's Day; Feast of Saint John (tr)

Welcome to Saint John's Day! Every year on or about this time we celebrate our patron saint as we kick off the program year. You will see in various places around the church this attractive neon green card listing the major events we have scheduled for this year. I encourage you to take this home, put it on your refrigerator, put one in your car or office, or just have available wherever it's handy, and use it as a reminder of the events and activities scheduled here at Saint John's. And since these are special activities, or activities we don't want you to miss, I also encourage you to invite a friend to any and all of these.

So today we celebrate Saint John. His Feast Day is December 27, and we transfer it to early September so we have a focal point for the beginning of the program year. It gives us a reason to celebrate as we kick things off. But while this is our tradition, it should not be the only, or even primary, reason we celebrate Saint John the Apostle and Evangelist. We remember and celebrate our patron saint because his was a message of love.

Tradition says Saint John is the person who wrote the 4th Gospel and the three letters bearing his name. Some traditions also claim he was the author of Revelation, but there is some debate about that. If you see or hear things along those lines, don't worry about it. The more important thing to remember is that he was probably most certainly the Beloved Disciple in the Fourth Gospel, he most likely wrote four of the New Testament works bearing his name, and he focused on love.

In the gospel and those three letters, John uses the word “love” 72 times; that is almost half as much as all other gospels and letters in the New Testament combined. For John, love is the hallmark of discipleship and the foundation of everything. It is where God started and how we continue.

What has come into being was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that those who believe in him may not perish.

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

Simon, son of John, do you love me?

Simon, son of John, do you love me?

Simon, son of John, do you love me?

This is the message that we have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.

If a person says they love God whom they can't see, yet hates those people whom they can see, they are a liar.

And on and on and on.

The message is clear: love must be at the heart of all we do. In John's view of discipleship there is no place for petty arguments or grandiose power struggles. Things people have done and continue to do in the name of Christianity over the centuries have been based more in terror and hate than in assurance and love. As bearers of the banner of John and in the name of Christ, we must be forceful and vocal in decrying acts of hatred that are wrapped up and disguised as love.

This include everything from standing up to misconduct in the Church to calling out those who would punish people for being poor and/or homeless.

The problem with love, though, is it isn't flashy. It's not attention-grabbing. It's not a conspiracy theory designed to get people riled up. It's not used to attack people because you didn't get what you wanted.

Instead, love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love is sacrificial and gives the strength to lay down one's life for another.

As an example of this, a group of 4 to 8-year olds were asked, “What is love?” Here is what they said:

When my grandmother got arthritis and couldn't bend over to paint her toenails, my grandpa did it for her, even when his hands got arthritis.

Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.

If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate.

Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well.

When someone loves you, they say your name different.

We aren't always like this. There are times when love is not in us.

We went to Martin's yesterday and as I was pulling into a parking space, there was another car who pulled in from the opposite direction who wanted to pull through to park so they were facing out. We sat there in a stare down, with me signaling her to back up because she had half her van in both spots. She finally put it in park, got out and went into the store. I found another spot, but not before making a comment about puncturing her tires.

That, my friends, is not love.

In a world full of insurrections and hate, in a world full of spiteful, angry people, in a world where people are more concerned with themselves than with the greater good, in a world where greed is seen as a virtue, Saint John gives us a different message. Those kids give us a different message.

As Christians and as people who proclaim Saint John as our patron, we must strive to live in love. That isn't always easy, but remember that it is the easy road that leads to destruction. Love is the narrow, difficult path Christ calls us to travel.

Here's the paradox: Love isn't a war cry leading us to conquer those around us; but in pursuing love, love will conquer all.

 Today is Saint John's Day. Let us celebrate our Patron Saint. Let us welcome those who have come to share this day with us. Let us eat and be merry.

 But above all, let us strive to live in love.


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