Updated: Jun 13
We have reached the sixth Sunday of Easter, meaning we are 42 days into the counting of the 50 – to Pentecost, the fiftieth day.
We have another week with the risen Lord. We still have time to spend in his physical presence, time learning from him, before he ascends to Heaven. We have more time to learn, until he leaves us next Saturday. The hope is he leaves us prepared to welcome him back into this world as ourselves.
Today’s lessons tell us the next step of this preparedness, when Peter encouraged believers to remember, “In your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord.”
We make Christ holy through our hearts, by love and acceptance. And, from that, Peter said we “do not fear what they fear, [we] are not intimidated” by threats of persecution. We enter a holy relationship with the Lord through love, at which point fear disappears.
We read how John recalled Jesus saying, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Love is the key to living up to our “bargain” with the LORD, to being more than a disciple. Love is the key to becoming an Apostle.
Now John remembered teachings that Jesus gave during the Passover Seder evening, where the ritual calls for drinking as much wine as one can, all while discussing holy matters. One learns from the father (or each family head) until passing out drunk and tired.
You will notice that none of the other Gospels include these statements by Jesus. Matthew and Mark were probably two sheets to the wind by that time, so we can excuse them for not remembering what John recalled.
Keeping that dulled state of alertness in mind, it makes more sense when Jesus said, “In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you will also live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you,” that it was confusing to his drunken disciples.
“Huh?” I imagine some of the disciples must have said.
If you recall the Gospel reading last week, Jesus told the disciples he was going to his Father’s place to prepare a home for them. Thomas and Philip struggled to comprehend that statement. So, you imagine how easy it was for them to follow this.
John Lennon made more sense when he wrote, “I am he as you are he as you are me, and we are all together” … “coo coo coo choo.”
Having the benefit of two thousand years of Christianity, and having others before us explain the meaning of words to us, we become more sober, if not brighter than were the disciples. We are not drunk on wine. Our heads are clear, and we are well rested.
As adult Christians who study Scripture, who hear the Scriptures read to them in church and who hear sermons preached about those Scriptures, time and time again, we can more easily grasp what Jesus said that Passover evening.
For those newcomers and young adults here among us, let me say that Jesus was referring to what the Church calls the Trinity.
“I am in my Father” means GOD the FATHER.
“And you in me” means the HOLY SPIRIT.
“And I in you” means the JESUS the SON.
We all know that, so that is not the topic of discussion today. As much as we need to understand how we connect those three points, resulting in the perfection of us being filled with the Holy Spirit, I just wanted to remind everyone of that meaning.
Remember, this is the sixth week of seven, so we need to begin realizing how we actually have to do something to make this “training season” (Easter) special.
What the key focus then turns back to is love. “If you love Jesus, you will keep his commandments.”
This is where we lose focus and become like Thomas and Philip. “Uh, which commandments? Not the ‘sell everything you have, give to the poor, and follow me’ commandment, right?”
We hear such a common word as “love” and we become like Thomas, saying, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going with 'love,' so how can we know if we are correctly loving you?” We become like Philip and say, “Lord, show us what you mean by love and that will be enough for us.”
This brings to mind a psychologist named Robert Sternberg. I learned about his theory in school. Sternberg came up with a view on love that can be looked up on Wikipedia, under “Triangular Theory of Love.”
On a triangle there are three points, all of which represent different levels or aspects of LOVE.
At the top point is INTIMACY, which is a form of love that Sternberg called “Liking.”
At the base of the triangle, on the left point is INFATUATION, or Passion.
At the base, on the right point is EMPTY LOVE, or Commitment.
Now in this theory of Sternberg’s there is no question that the three points are identified as three recognized states of LOVE. However, because “Liking,” “Passion,” and “Commitment” are so different, we can see how by Jesus simply saying, “If you love me,” this can be confusing.
Sternberg theorized that we often tie two of the points together, and we often tend to build relationships of merit from only two points, more than hitting the “trifecta” by connecting all three dots. Relationships built from only one aspect of love struggle to be lasting. Many relationships fail to make that “Trinity” connection, where all three points make contact, igniting what Sternberg saw as “seven different kinds of love experiences.”
For all three points to reflect a LOVE relationship, Sternberg called that Consummate Love.
When Jesus said to his disciples, “Love me,” he wanted more than just to be “BFF’s.” He wanted total love to be the result.
As Christians, since Jesus is no longer physically with us, that makes a relationship harder to “consummate.” We may only “love” Jesus from one point. According to what Jesus said – “Love me” – we can meet the basic requirement by only having “Empty Love.”
Now, let me explain what Sternberg meant by “Empty Love.”
He defined it as being, “Characterized by commitment without intimacy or passion.” A stronger love may deteriorate into empty love. In an arranged marriage, the spouses’ relationship may begin as empty love and develop into another form, indicating “how empty love need not be the terminal state of a long-term relationship … [but] the beginning rather than the end.”
As life-long Christians, it is not uncommon to realize how we truthfully can say, “I love Jesus,” but we say it knowing the words are without passion or intimacy.
We are committed to Christ. We are in a relationship of love with Jesus … but it is Empty Love.
Sternberg called a two-pointed love, of Liking and Commitment, “COMPANIONATE LOVE.” We are committed friends of Jesus … which is exactly the same relationship each of the disciples had with Jesus.
One-pointed Empty Love and two-pointed Companionate Love are much better than not knowing Christ at all, or not having any relationship with him in any manner of love.
With Empty Love and Companionate Love there is the potential … the promise for more.
That is what the Easter season of weeks is about.
As children, born into baptism and a marriage with Christ, that arrangement needs to grow into a close and personal relationship, more than one that has been arranged.
We need to change a one-pointed and/or two-pointed love into a three-dimensional – Consummate Love.
That requires the Holy Spirit, which is (as Jesus said) attracted by love.
Sternberg said that Consummate Love represents the “perfect couple.” It is a relationship full of delight, one which is longer lasting and more fulfilling. However, he cautioned that “maintaining consummate love may be harder than achieving it.” He warned, “Without expression even the greatest of loves can die.”
This, of course was focusing on sexual relationships between human beings. A marriage bonded by the Holy Spirit taps into an eternal source of love; but the warning of Sternberg still applies. We must express love to maintain our marriage with Christ.
When we see a triangle icon representing LOVE, where three points connect through three sides, we can also see the triangle icon of the Trinity.
It has been said that a triangle is the strongest shape, as each side supports the other two. We like that strength symbolized in the Trinity.
At the top point is the Father.
At the right side base point is the Son, who is Jesus.
At the left side base is the Holy Spirit, who is this mysterious entity that confuses many Christians.
My brother-in-law, an Episcopalian on paper, has admitted he has deep reservations about belief in this. He believes in God. He believes in Jesus as the Son of God. But, in a third being with the Father and the Son, he struggles to grasp that.
This confusion, I believe, is assisted by focusing on that imagery of a triangle.
There are only two entities in play: the Father – God, who rules from the Spiritual realm; and the Son – Jesus the man, who connected to God in the Physical realm.
The point where the Spiritual joins with the Physical is then where the Holy Spirit resides. It is when God’s Spiritual essence links with the Son’s physical presence, making (and borrowing from the movie Farris Beuller’s Day Off) …
Jesus “One Righteous Dude.”
The symbol for that is not a triangle, but a cross.
One plus One equals Three. It is new math at work.
We only see two, but the intersection where both are joined as a third.
That center point is then representative of where the heart lies. Thus, love is the key to making this union, as the heart is where love resides.
Empty Love is Commitment, which is more of a mental state than it is heart-centered. We are committed to being Christian in mind, even if not in actions.
Companionate Love is again more of a mental state, where we like the idea of Jesus, and we think we are special because Jesus forgives us for all the sins we do, and we think it is the right thing to commit to Jesus …
But we still have not fully opened up our hearts and welcomed Jesus to come in.
Jesus comes in through the Holy Spirit.
Then, once welcomed in, the Holy Spirit becomes God in Us. Then, we each become the Son, through the Mind of Christ. God comes into us because we love Jesus so much. Because we can allow a Consummate Love for Jesus to take hold, we can become like Jesus. We can become a glory to the Father, through the Holy Spirit, as the Son reincarnated.
Jesus said, “Because I live, you also will live.” Together we live, each of us with Christ.
Jesus said, “On that day,” – when we each open our hearts and love Jesus, so we can receive the Spirit – “you will know that Jesus is in his Father.” Your mind will expand to see the world through the eyes of God, through the mind of Christ, in the heart of you.
You will know that we are in Jesus. We will look like us to our friends, as outwardly nothing appears changed; but, inwardly we know we have changed into Jesus. We are no longer wandering lost, easily distracted by the bells and whistles of the material realm. The Holy Spirit becomes our focus, our source to boundless love.
You will know that Jesus is in you, because you will be holy. You will feel the joy of Christ in your heart, and be overwhelmed by the presence of God with your soul. You will know Jesus on an intimate level. You will know the passion of Jesus. Your commitment to Jesus will be cemented forever.
Receive the Spirit by learning the lesson of God’s CONSUMMATE LOVE.