May 22, 2022

28C Sixth Sunday of Easter 

Filled to Overflowing


Jesus said to Judas (not Iscariot), “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.

“I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, `I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.”   John 14:23-29


Why do we come to church on Sunday morning?  Well, we probably come here for the same reason we go most other places. We come with a purpose. We come to get something.  We come to hear, to see, to feel, to experience something. How many times have we heard someone give as a reason for not coming to church anymore, “I didn’t get anything out of it”?

Yes, we have expectations.   Sometimes our expectations are not met because they were too high.   However, sometimes our expectations are not met because they are too low. While we might more easily conclude that church may disappoint because our expectations are too high, I would suggest that there is probably more truth to be found in the opposite – that if we are disappointed it might very well be because our expectations are too low.  

If we want to leave worship satisfied by the experience, our expectations are too low.   If we want to leave worship filled with God’s love, again our expectations are too low.  And, I believe, that it is precisely our merely wanting to be satisfied and our simply wanting to be filled that is the problem.

Think about it – God’s love is infinite.   God’s love is unbounded.   The magnitude of God’s love is abundant beyond our wildest imagination.  If God is love, this is the only love that God can be –infinite, unbounded and abundant.  We, however, are finite and limited.   Honestly, we are rather small containers and vessels when compared to the largeness and magnitude of God’s love.  When Jesus says, “My Father and I will come and make our home within you,” that certainly should give us pause.  It must be like trying to pour the ocean into a hole we might dig in the sand. Think about filling up a cup with water. You can fill it only so far, right? Once it has been filled to the brim, what happens when you try to add more water to it?  It overflows, of course. The same is true of a sponge that, submerged in water, becomes so saturated it can no longer absorb and begins to shed what cannot swell it any further. 

Can we apply this observable truth to the human spirit?  Can we imagine someone becoming so filled up, so saturated with something that she or he can’t take in anymore? 

Absorbing God’s presence must be very much like this.  And I believe that we can only properly experience God’s homecoming with an expectation of being more than satisfied, of being filled to overflowing, of being saturated with God’s love to the point of not being able to contain it or hold it in.  

To come without this expectation, this want, this desire, means that we cannot be here with what it takes for God’s love to enter into us.  God does not force himself and his love on anyone.  He only enters when invited.  And the invitation can only be real, will only become something that God will act on, to the extent that we are open to being not just filled with love but flooded with love

For those who love, Jesus makes this promise, “My Father and I will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them”.

The love that wishes to enter in needs a spillway.  The spillway is the other person who will be touched.  Picture God’s love overflowing from the filled-up one to the nearby one who benefits from the overflow.    

There are epic moments in the life of the Spirit in which we become more keenly aware of a filling up to the point of brimming over.   Moments of life commitment are very much such moment.  In a moment of commitment, a person is choosing to be a consciously unworthy vessel of a love that intends to overflow its inadequate container, that it might spill over into the life of another or the lives of others.  This certainly lies at the heart of Christian marriage and at the heart of ordination to Christian ministry as it lies at the heart of giving birth.

We remember Jesus saying to his followers, “Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” The love that Jesus called them to display has a special quality to it: it is Jesus-like love. 

For those who knew him best, it was his love that bore fruit in their love for others. It was like water overflowing from the filled-up cup.  The love of Jesus filled them up, (and yet he kept on loving them, pouring move love into them, so His love could overflow into others).  Thereby we can fulfill his commandment: “Love one another – just as I have loved you.”

The love of Jesus is God’s love – gracefully and freely given, with no strings attached. Sometimes we think of this love as “the peace of God that passes all human understanding.” And yet in another sense, in today’s Gospel, Jesus helps us understand much of that peace-giving love. For God gave us his Son to show us what divine love looks like when expressed by a human being. 

In Jesus we see that God’s love is not so much as a feeling, or excitement, or emotion, or the longing of one person for another – but rather see it as the acts we engage with those who share humanity with us. 

It is the love that fills us and overflows from us. It is the sacrificing love of the cross, the exemplary love of the Good Samaritan, the care-giving love of the Good Shepherd, the inclusive love that reaches out to outcasts and the under-served, the forgiving love of the prodigal son’s father, the difficult love that embraces our enemies.

The prayer we attribute to St. Francis focuses on this Jesus-like love. It reminds us that love can make us instruments of God’s peace – the very active expression of God. It gives love rather than hatred. It is love that seeks faith over doubt; love that lives through hope rather than despair; love that promotes joy in the midst of sadness; love that allows us to die to self so we may be born to eternal life. 

As soon as Jesus had given his followers this new commandment – to love one another even as he had loved them – he gave them one thing more. He gave them a way to determine if they were indeed overflowing love onto others. The way was to examine the response of those within reach of the overflow. He said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” 

As we think about the quality of our lives, as we step back to see how others might view us through our actions, what will they see? Will they see in us what Jesus commanded? Will they see that we are so filled with God’s love that it overflows onto others?

Of course, this testing is not only about us individually. Does God’s love fill our congregations enough that it overflows to others? How effectively are we acting for the benefit of those in need of God’s love in action? 

How aware are we that God’s love – Jesus-like love – fills us? How well do we help it overflow onto others in the form of active care for others? How well do we measure up to the way by which everyone will know that we are Jesus’ disciples because of our carrying out his command? 

The Father and I will make our home within you, so that you may love one another Just as I have loved you.”  Are we ready, and dare I say eager, to be spillways of God’s love?

The Rev. Frank Alagna                                                                                                                                      May 22, 2022