John 13: 33-35
5th Sunday after Epiphany
Love is such an elusive word. Love is one of those words everyone is pretty certain they know
what it means, but try to define it and you struggle to put into words what you intuitively know.
Even though we might have a hard time defining love we know it when we experience it. Think
about your experiences of love, more specifically, from your own life what do you feel you can
say about what love is and isn’t?
Jesus’ counsel to his disciples and to us is based on his experience of love: “This is my
commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” It’s very specific isn’t it? Love
one another, as I have loved you. John the gospel writer doesn’t leave us guessing—he invites
us to use Jesus’ life as a model of what true love looks like. For the Christian, the disciple of
Jesus, love begins with learning. As Rev. Paul Walfall, a Black United Church Minister from
Alberta recently wrote, “The disciple learns from the words, actions, and attitude of the teacher,
and puts what has been learned into practice in their own life. There is an intentionality in this
process. It is not passive. The disciple intentionally learns and follows the teaching of the one
they follow. As disciples of Jesus we are called to continue the work of Jesus and to continue to
proclaim the wonder and the expansive and extravagant love of God. To proclaim means in
both speech and action.”
1 Rev. Walfall expands on this to talk about what it means to be an antiracist disciple of Jesus.
As Rev. Walfall points out Jesus was no fence sitter. Love compelled him to stand with those in
whom the image of God had been diminished by unjust people and systems. Where does the
white anti-racist disciple of Jesus begin. Rev. Walfall gives us some practical advice for everyday
The anti-racist disciple of Jesus recognizes privilege, recognizes the advantage of skin colour, not
for the sake of guilt but for the sake of wanting those advantages for everyone. The anti-racist
disciple speaks up, doesn’t let racism slip by for the sake of politeness. The anti-racist disciple
seeks not only to welcome people of diverse backgrounds into white spaces but invites the
contributions of Black, Indigenous and people of colour to transform those spaces. To not only
1 Walfall, Rev. Paul, Becoming an Anti-Racist Disciple, https://united-church.ca/sites/default/files/2021-
welcome people with the expectation that they will conform to the way things are done but to
invite people to contribute all of who they are, that the image of God will be reflected in who we
are as a church.
Discipleship is not easy, anti-racist discipleship is not easy. To love as Jesus loved means taking
risks and getting it wrong sometimes. To love as Jesus loved also means applying that love not
just to others but to ourselves as well. To love as Jesus loved means not getting caught up in
perfectionistic brow beating. It means forgiving yourself for the inevitable mistakes. Rev.
Walfall says more…
Forgiveness frees the anti-racist disciple to keep going in humility. It’s what allows us to persist,
to keep going, to keep learning, to keep loving. The anti-racist disciple is in it for the long haul.
They are not focused on being done with anti-racist work, on checking off boxes and getting
back to life as normal…
To love as Jesus loves is to be committed to the anti-racist journey not as a destination but as a
way of living more fully into the image of God in which we are created. For Black, Indigenous,
People of Colour it’s about holding fast to that image, claiming that image in the face of so much
that would deny it. For white people it’s about creating environments and spaces where that
image of God in all it’s diversity is allowed to exist, to thrive and to transform us…
This love, this divine extravagance, intentional acts that proclaim the divine image in all people
will proclaim more loudly than any words, that we are disciples of Jesus, the true church in our
time and place. May it be so.
I would invite you if you like to type into the chat or the Facebook comments what stood out for
you from Rev. Walfall’s comments, was there something in there that was meant for you?
Rev. Joe Gaspar