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The Rev. Meredith Holt Crigler | Trinity Episcopal Church, Baytown

A Selection of Sermons:


Apr 25, 2021

From John 10:10b-11:  'I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep."'

From 1 John 3:16-24: “We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us— and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.”

At the core of our Christian faith is love. God is love. Our virtue is love. And it is through love that we may have life and have it abundantly. 

God is love. (1 John 4:8). God’s nature (Trinity) and attributes are love. “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13) God in the person of Jesus Christ offers himself and lays down his life, of his own accord, for the sheep— all the flock, even those not yet in the fold. Jesus death — yes— and life was exemplified by humility and sacrifice. As Presiding Bishop Michael Curry reminds us again and again, “If it’s not about love, it’s not about God.”


Our virtue is love. Because we are created in the image and likeness of God who is love, we are created for love and to be love. As we understand it, as Christians our core virtue — our guiding moral compass, what Socrates or Aristotle might call our disposition, and what we call our way is love. When we say we, as the Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement, we live, and follow, and practice the way of love we are speaking about our christian moral life, our Christian ethics. And when we say as we heard in our reading from 1 John “let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action” we are talking about the importance of Christian ethics and a way of life that is lived out actively in our world.

Briefest of brief introduction to ethics and ethical thought. 

3 main schools of thoughts: 

  • Deontological ethics, or duty ethics
    • Ask the question of: is it right? 
    • Am I living according to the laws and duties obligations set forth? 
    • The ten commandments are a prime example of deontological or duty ethics. 
    • The challenge of duty ethics though is that if we focus only on ourself and our own duties  and only these particular duties and let everyone else do the same, when played out in society our respect for the autonomy and liberty of the other combined with our own tendencies to find loopholes or reframe said duties to our own interest often results in a system that much like what played out throughout the Torah and into the book of Judges spirals in its sin until such point and this is a direct quote from the end of the book of Judges: “ everyone was doing what was right in their own eyes.”  
    • And in many ways, the worldly society and particular culture in which we live was founded on this deontological ethical framework and in many ways I imagine you join me in seeing how it too has spiraled in sin and you too can see how here and now there are many who are “doing what is right in their own eyes.”
  • Teleological Ethics, or ethics that is concerned with the telos, the end, the consequence of the action. 
    • It asks the question: wil the end be good?
    • And this is the ethical branch that says the ends can justify the means. 
    • And when the person or entity or society gets to define for themselves what it good and what would be a good end then out of this can come atrocities such as genocide. 
    • Not all teleological ethics are bad, for example, calls for conservation of our earth, our island home, and the right use of resources now in order for our great, great grandchildren and beyond to have a better end also comes out of this school of ethics. 
    • Likewise a focus on eternity in adoration and praise with God is also a form of theological ethics.
  • Virtue Ethics
    • While both of the others do absolutely contribute to our Christian moral life, this final school of ethical thought is far and beyond the strongest in Anglican/ Episcopal Ethical thinking
    • Good disciplines have the potential of becoming good habits and good habits are  the foundation of virtues that transform the world (Virtue Ethics 101).
    • And to be clear, we understand this guiding virtue to be love. 
    • The challenge is that others also follow virtue ethics, but put a different virtue as the compass and guiding way. And we see this conflict of virtues play out in our world and in our society. 
    • For example, for many Americans, their guiding virtue is not love but liberty. As Patriot Patrick Henry was known to have said: “Give me freedom, or give me death.” And let me be clear, freedoms are indeed important and I do appreciate and love the land in which we live and I am part of a family who has given their lives to protecting that. 
    • I also want to name that when liberty is your highest virtue, the propensity for individual and systemic sin is incalculable. Throughout our scriptures from Adam and Eve to Cain and Abel and through every generation, we see what we sinners do with our liberty. We kill our brother Abel, We enslave our brother Jacob, We rape our sister Dinah. Liberty and sin are dangerous combination. And while as Martin Luther says, we have our freedom in Christ, as Episcopalians as Anglicans we ask, what do we use that liberty for: love
    • For us, in our understanding of the Christian way of life, the virtue, the compass, the guiding principle above all others is love. The way is love. Because God is love. Because Jesus shows us the way of love. 

And is through love that we may have life and have it abundantly. 

What does love look like in truth and action? It looks like sacrifice. It looks like laying down our lives and liberty for the sake of the flourishing of another. 

Concrete example? This is why we where masks. Because the science shows that our masks helps protect another. This is why we get vaccinated. Because the science shows that a population who is vaccinated and reaches herd immunity can protect the vulnerable who are not. Laying down our personal comfort for the sake of the life of another is love. In our understanding of following Jesus, the highest guiding good is not liberty, but love. I hear all the time about and sometimes from people who keep demanding to put their individual rights first. And I will admit, that is very American, but it is not Christian.

Liberty is in service of love. Our God freely laid down his life for the sake of the world. We are called for the sake of using our freedom in Christ for the sake of loving our neighbor. And when we use our freedom for the sake of our own self and selfish desires that is the definition of sin. 

Beloved, we follow a God who is the Good Shepherd, who lays down his life for the sheep. We follow a God of love. And so let us love not only in word and speech but in truth and action. Let us own and name our Christian ethic in every walk of our life. Let love be the way.